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Wednesday, January 10, 2007

So you wanna work at Google?

Think you have what it takes to get a job at the world's hottest tech company?

Here's the do's and don'ts List for Your Interview at Google.

article from fortune


1. Go to Stanford, Harvard, or MIT. though Google has relaxed its GPA standards of late - and now considers candidates with less than a 3.7 average - be prepared to discuss any B's you may have earned.

2. Stress how well you get along with others. Unlike some companies that tolerate lone wolves, Google (Charts) wants team players who'll gladly work cheek by jowl with their teammates.

3. Talk about your many diverse interests ("I fly-fish! And love chess! And breed water buffalo!") Narrow interests or skills are a big time turnoff at Google.

4. Be prepared to get up at a whiteboard and write software code during your interview. Brush up on "bit twiddling," by the way. Really.


1. Joke about the whole Don't Be Evil thing. Googlers take their goodness very seriously.

2. Go on and on in your interview about the doctoral project that you didn't bother building or trying to commercialize. Google likes doers, not thinkers

3. Talk about money. they'll think you're just trying to get rich. Even though you probably are, it's something you're not supposed to discuss out loud

4. Mention the competition. in its eyes, everything at Google is sui generis Other than programming languages, if it wasn't invented at Google, it's not worth discussing.
Google Wins Forbes Top 100 Companies to Work For

Spend A Day Inside Googleplex

great Fortune article

Google is No. 1: Search and enjoy
The people are brilliant. The perks are epic.
But can Google's founders build a culture that doesn't depend on the stock price?

By Adam Lashinsky, Fortune senior writer

Mountain View, Calif. -- At Google it always comes back to the food.

For human resources director Stacy Sullivan, it's the Irish oatmeal with fresh berries at the Plymouth Rock Café, located in building 1550 near the "people operations" group. "I sometimes dream about it," she says. "Seriously." As a seven-year veteran of the company, engineer Jen Fitzpatrick has developed a more sophisticated palate, preferring the raw bar at the Basque-themed Café Pintxo, a tapas joint in building 47. Her mother is thrilled she's eating well at work: "She came in for lunch once and thanked the chef," says Fitzpatrick. Joshua Bloch, an expert on the Java software language, swears by the roast quail at haute eatery Café Seven, professing it to be the best meal on campus. "It's uniformly excellent," he raves.

I found that to be a gross distortion of the facts. The roasted black bass with parsley pesto and bread crumbs had a delicate flavor, superior mouth feel, and a light yet satisfying finish that seemed to me unmatched among the 11 free gourmet cafeterias Google runs at its Mountain View, Calif., headquarters.

Top 5 of Fortune's Top 100 Employers List
1. Google
2. Genentech
3. Wegmans Food Markets
4. Container Store
5. Whole Foods Market

Even the vast buffet that is the tech company's campus, however, cannot obscure the obstacles the company is facing. Says co-founder Sergey Brin: "I mean, the cafés have always been pretty healthy, but the snacks are not, and the efforts to fix that have been remarkably challenging." Though company lore has it that Brin and co-founder Larry Page believe no worker should be more than 150 feet from a food source, clearly not all food is equal. "A lot of people like their M&Ms. But the easy access is actually what's bad for them," he says.

Life inside Google
Of course, when it comes to America's new Best Company to Work For, the food is, well, just the appetizer. At Google you can do your laundry; drop off your dry cleaning; get an oil change, then have your car washed; work out in the gym; attend subsidized exercise classes; get a massage; study Mandarin, Japanese, Spanish, and French; and ask a personal concierge to arrange dinner reservations. Naturally you can get haircuts onsite. Want to buy a hybrid car? The company will give you $5,000 toward that environmentally friendly end. Care to refer a friend to work at Google? Google would like that too, and it'll give you a $2,000 reward. Just have a new baby? Congratulations! Your employer will reimburse you for up to $500 in takeout food to ease your first four weeks at home. Looking to make new friends? Attend a weekly TGIF party, where there's usually a band playing. Five onsite doctors are available to give you a checkup, free of charge.

Many Silicon Valley companies provide shuttle-bus transportation from area train stations. Google operates free, Wi-Fi-enabled coaches from five Bay Area locations. Lactation rooms are common in corporate America; Google provides breast pumps so that nursing moms don't have to haul the equipment to work. Work is such a cozy place that it's sometimes difficult for Google employees to leave the office, which is precisely how the company justifies the expenses, none of which it breaks out of its administrative costs.

Even people who don't work here like to loiter: The company has become a stop on the world lecture circuit, attracting the likes of Mikhail Gorbachev, Margaret Thatcher, and Nobel laureate Muhammad Yunus. "You've got to ask yourself why these people are coming here," says 24-year-old engineer Neha Narula. "I think they come here to be energized by the people at Google."

The people at Google, it should be stated, almost universally see themselves as the most interesting people on the planet. Googlers tend to be happy-go-lucky on the outside, but Type A at their core. Ask one what he or she is doing, and it's never "selling ads" or "writing code." No, they're on a quest "to organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful." That's from the actual mission statement, by the way, which employees can and do cite with cloying frequency.

The perks of being a Googler
It's easy for Google's people to be energized, though, when their company is so stinking rich that it continues to ooze cash even while lavishing benefits on its staff. Just eight years out of the garage, Google will surpass $10 billion in sales for 2006. Its operating margins are a stunning 35%, and it ended the third quarter with $10.4 billion in cash. Its stock has soared from $85 a little over two years ago to a recent $483. All of which raises the question: Is Google's culture the cause of its success or merely a result? Put another way: Is Google a great place to work because its stock is at $483, or is its stock at $483 because it's a great place to work?

I'm sitting on a heated toilet in my pajamas. I'm in engineering building 40 at Google on "pajama day," and directly in front of me, attached to the inside door of the toilet stall, is a one-page flier, printed on plain white paper, titled "Testing on the Toilet, Episode 21." The document, which is designed to prod the brains of engineers who test software code, explores such subjects as "lode coverage" and reminds engineers that even biobreaks need not interrupt their work.

Presuming that ones's stay here isn't sufficient to process that lesson, the sheet provides a link to two internal Web sites, http://tott/ (for Testing on the Toilet) and http://botw/ (Bug of the Week). Not being a software engineer, I understand little of what I'm reading. Yet it reminds me of the first two sentences of the now famous founders' letter Page and Brin distributed to prospective Google shareholders before the company's 2004 IPO: "Google is not a conventional company. We do not intend to become one." Mission accomplished.

In its earliest days Google was more or less a postdoctoral extension of the Stanford computer science department, from which Page, Brin, and a goodly number of their pals sprang. To this day, they jam employees into shared offices and cubicles and would do so even if Google had more space - because Page, a student of "office flow," likes the idea of recreating that university environment in which he and Brin wrote the first Google search engine.

The two hired a chef early on because it beat heating up ramen noodles.

It wasn't hard for Google's founders to break the rules of a traditional company - they had never worked fulltime at one. Stacy Sullivan, Google's first human resources executive, recalls that the founders came to her on her second day on the job, in late 1999, and suggested that the company convert a conference room into a childcare center. Google employees had a sum total of two children at the time. Though Sullivan eventually convinced them that, because of zoning issues, the conference room was not a proper child-care facility, "they looked at me and said, 'Why not?' "

Google's employment roster is now pushing 10,000, and the company has burgeoning offices in Bangalore, New York City, and Irvine, Calif., among many other cities, but the campus still feels like the brainiest university imaginable - one, however, in which every kid can afford a sports car (though geeky hybrids are cooler here than hot rods). Another similarity to college: New Googlers (Nooglers, in Google parlance) tend to put on the "Google 15" when confronted with all the free food. Here the shabbily dressed engineers always will be the big men (and, yes, women) on campus. Other cliques include the invariably fashion-forward young women and men who work in online-advertising sales; the IBM-ThinkPad toting Stanford MBAs; and the quants - math nerds who toil at making the company's keyword advertising system ever more eerily efficient. Hours are long - typical for Silicon Valley - and it's not unusual for engineers to be seen in the hallways at 3 a.m. debating some esoteric algorithmic conundrum. "Hardcore geeks are here because there's no place they'd rather be," says Dennis Hwang, a Google Webmaster who doubles as the artist who draws all the fancifully dressed-up versions of Google's home-page logo, called Doodles.

Teamwork is the norm, especially for big projects. Keith Coleman, a 26-year-old product manager who works on Gmail, oversees a ten-person secret project whose team members have taken over heir own conference room. They've given up their big space to be crammed into this room to get things done," says Coleman. The hideaway happens to be where Gmail's chat function was created. Lounge music is usually playing, engineers wander in and out, and there's no formal daily meeting, though the team tends to congregate between five and seven in the evening. "If I could capture anything that's great about Google," says Coleman, "it's that room."

Elsewhere on campus, Google has been methodically picking off experts in whatever field it desires and adding them to its collection of employees. Much has been made, for example, of the fact that Google now employs Vint Cerf, the "father" of the Internet, and Larry Brilliant, who helped eradicate smallpox and now runs Google's fledgling philanthropic arm. But the bench strength runs even deeper, including nonemployee advisors. One day Coleman, the Gmail product manager, noticed his former professor, Terry Winograd, a renowned Stanford researcher of human-computer-interaction design, roaming the hallways. Now Winograd, a Google consultant when he's not teaching at Stanford, sits in on Coleman's product bull sessions.

When they join Google, all the engineers receive a copy of Essential Java, written by former Sun engineer Joshua Bloch (the above-mentioned fan of roast quail). He joined Google in 2004 as chief Java architect. Engineers at Google swear by Python, a software-writing language. So last year the company hired Guido van Rossum, Python's author. Van Rossum brags on his personal Web page, "I knew Google's services to be awesome; to work there is even better. But best is that I get to spend half my time on Python, no strings attached!"

Working in the Googleplex
Van Rossum is a special case, but all Google engineers are famously required to devote 20% of their time to pursuing projects they dream up that will help the company. The projects actually have a realistic chance of being adopted too. Google News, Gmail, and the Google Finance site all sprouted from 20% time. Nontech ideas Googlers dream up have a shot at adoption as well. The Google shuttle bus exists today because Carrie Spivak, who used to work on the company's book-search product, got sick of driving to work, scouted out a bus company, then plotted out the routes a shuttle might take. She brought the idea to senior management only after she'd done all the research. Any other company Google's size would form a cross-divisional transportation feasibility committee to study the issue. Google just did it.

That's not to say that anything goes at Google, where even the smallest issues are open to academic-style debate. On pajama day, in the all-organic No Name CafÃ, I spot Sheryl Sandberg, the company's all-business vice president for online sales operations. Like perhaps a tenth of the employees I see, she looks as if she has just rolled out of bed (she's in turquoise flannel PJs with bears riding space rockets). But nearby is a coterie of engineers wearing tuxedos: In the spirit of debate, they're protesting pajama day.

Google has a name for its gazillionaires: "economic volunteers." The term refers to the several hundred employees who received gonzo option grants in the company's pre-IPO days. Just as Microsoft did for years, Google initially paid below-market salaries because everyone believed, correctly, that the stock's upside was so large. Lately, Google has begun paying salaries that are competitive with the rest of the tech industry. Experienced engineers can expect to make as much as $130,000 a year and receive 800 options and 400 shares of restricted stock when they join. New MBAs can expect between $80,000 and $120,000 and typically receive smaller option grants.

Though Google almost always wins talent wars with the likes of Microsoft and Yahoo, its twin HR demons are startups and retirement. Take the case of Niniane Wang, a 27-year-old engineer who received a million-dollar founders' award for her work on a program that searches computer desktops. She says she loves Google, puts all headhunter calls on "auto-reject," and isn't thinking about leaving ... but if she did leave, it would be to start her own company.

Wayne Rosing, an early vice president for engineering, has left to pursue his love of astronomy. Paul Buchheit, the celebrated engineer who dreamed up Gmail, "retired" recently. (He's 30.) Evan Williams, the highly regarded founder of Blogger, a Google acquisition, has left to launch another startup.

To stave off the inevitable trickle for the exits, Google is bringing in HR pros like Laszlo Bock, an ex--GE executive who joined the company earlier this year as vice president for people operations. Though the current corporate attrition rate is around 5% - and a more closely watched internal measure of employees whom Google truly regrets losing hovers around 22% - Bock's group is particularly concerned about mass vesting. At the end of 2002, Google had nearly 700 employees. All those employees - if they're still around - are now fully vested on their initial stock-option grants. Many of them received a generous batch of stock options in the spring of 2003, which will fully vest this spring, making them a flight risk. Already there are people who are coasting: Around campus they're said to be "resting and vesting."

The solution? Google is considering starting a sabbatical program and thinking of new career opportunities within the company for the restless. It has also institutionalized a bevy of compensation incentives, including restricted stock that immediately has value to new employees, founders' awards that can run into millions of dollars, and special bonuses. And it is about to unveil a new facet to its options program: Going forward, employees who've been around long enough to vest will be able to sell out-of-the-money options on the open market. Though no other company has tried such a system, Google says it is confident the Securities and Exchange Commission won't have an issue with it.

Another danger is harder to address: growth. It's easy to feel like an outlaw band that's changing the world when you have 100 employees. It's incredibly difficult when you have 10,000 or 100,000. Many Silicon Valley types, after all, don't like working for big companies because geeking out and trying new things becomes a hassle. Sergey Brin identifies with the concern. "Before, if I wanted to change a few lines of code and push it to the site, I'd just do it," he says. "The users would be the testers. We can't do that today."

In that respect, Google's in the same boat as any big tech company. But unlike, say, Microsoft or eBay, it does have some protection from the demands of the outside world. In a move seen as controversial when they unveiled it before the IPO in 2004, the founders retained voting control of the company, meaning that as long as Brin and Page are in charge, they get to decide whether the upkeep on the lap pool and climbing wall is worth the expense.

The one thing the founders can't control is how long Google stays on top. The Valley is littered with former "it" companies that slid into obscurity or devolved into middle-aged mediocrity. Which is why Google's founders have sought out a role model for building their culture, and it's not a tech company or an ad giant. It's Genentech, the biotech company that is No. 2 on the Fortune Best Companies to work for list (and was No. 1 last year). Genentech has seen drugs succeed wildly and fail miserably, has had years when its stock soared and years when it sank. But through all its ups and downs over 30 years, the company has remained a scientist's paradise and a place where people love to work.

The year Google went public, CEO Eric Schmidt welcomed Genentech's CEO, Art Levinson, to Google's board. Levinson likens his introduction to Google's management troika to his first meeting, in 1979, with Genentech's founders, who promised him he'd "save the world" by joining Genentech. "It's very similar to the message I heard from Larry, Sergey, and Eric," he says. "They see themselves as poised to do something radically different from what has ever been done anywhere else." In other words (except for that curing-cancer part), just like Genentech.

So back to that $483 question: Is Google's culture great because its stock is doing well, or is its stock doing well because its culture is great? The answer, of course, is that you can't answer the question when Google's stock is at $483. Like Genentech or any other company that's been through the wringer without losing the loyalty of its staff, you can gauge the impact the stock price has on the culture only once the stock takes a dive - or stalls for an uncomfortably long time (see Microsoft, 2001--06).

There are, however, encouraging signs, says Jeffrey Pfeffer, an organizational- behavior professor at Stanford. Pfeffer recalls lunching with Page several years ago, and even at that point the cofounder was serious about creating a corporate culture at Google. "They have been extremely thoughtful about this," he says. Pfeffer, who has done research on the money that companies save in the form of productivity gained by providing benefits that let employees focus on work, says Google's perks fit his research thesis to a tee.

Art Levinson, for his part, sees a parallel to Genentech that goes far beyond any perks. "What draws people to both companies is the environment, one where they have an ability to pursue things largely on their own terms," he says. Of course, there is one more reason Levinson is a Google acolyte: "Here I am, a guy who can afford a good meal, and every time I go to a Google board meeting, I don't leave until ten o'clock at night because I get a free dinner there."

At Google it really does always come back to the food.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Google to Increase Self Promotion in First Quarter 2007.

original article from Wall Street Journal with comments from Peak Positions.

Google Inc. may finally have learned how to promote itself without compromising its core keyword search principles. Like its own legions of online advertisers, Google plans on increasing marketing of its many new products throughout the homepage of in early 2007.

The Mountain View, Calif., company shook up the advertising world -- and made a very good living -- by selling subtle text Pay Per Click advertisements designed to give advertisers leads without compromising organic and natural keyword search results.

Unlike floundering search rivals such as Yahoo Inc. and IAC/InteractiveCorp.'s unit, Google does not use blatant banner ads or buy network television spots seeking to increase brand awareness and site traffic. Google has maintained a famously simple homepage, displaying a simple set of links to search services, including keyword search results for the Web, images, video, news and maps.

The minimalist marketing strategy has provoked some whistles of disapproval from investors (typical ... many on the street still fail to understand after nearly 7 years the market share power and user loyalty gains made by serving relevant keyword search results to searchers worldwide) and some industry watchers are concerned that many of Google's newer products -- Finance, Real Estate, Answers -- have been floundering because people don't know enought about them. The street has one primary concern that is to aid Google in maintaining its torrid growth rate and nothing else.

Yet, slowly but surely, Google has been finding its own true-to-character techniques for pitching its expanding array of wares. Recently, it appears to be using its own immensely popular search site to invite users to try another product, typically in a way that is couched more as a helpful hint than a salesman's pitch.

"They're starting to promote many of their other products" that were created or acquired during the last couple of years, says LeeAnn Prescott, an analyst at Hitwise.

The slow change underscores the tension between Google's simpler past as a search engine -- epitomized by the clean homepage that won over millions of users -- and its more complicated, portal-like future. The crisp look can't be shed without peril, but a menu of services requires a little clutter.

"Nobody's going to find these new tools unless they do something to promote them," Ms. Prescott says.

Recently, Google has run sizable promotions for its browser-toolbar download in a box at the top right corner of its homepage. It has also recently encouraged homepage visitors to download the latest version of the nonprofit Mozilla Foundation's Firefox Web browser, a growing rival to Microsoft Corp.'s Internet Explorer browser that uses Google as its default search engine.

Google has long promoted the toolbar, and other products, on its homepage. But the recent plugs have been closer in style to banner ads -- being at the top and employing graphics -- than the low-key one-liners under the search box that Google has used before. Heralding the new year, for instance, Google last week ran a tongue in cheek, self promoting plug that said, "Get disorganized in 2007. Use Google Desktop to find your files."

Both the toolbar and the relationship with Firefox aid Google's search-query market share because they make using Google more convenient -- no visit to is necessary -- and can cement user loyalty.

More pitches of this sort can be expected, but Google may be unwilling to use the power of its sleek homepage much more aggressively.

"We are committed to the clean, uncluttered user interface of the Google homepage. From time to time we promote products on the Google homepage in order to help people continue to find and access information that's important to them," a Google spokeswoman said.

This assurance from Google to keep the homepage design clean is definitely Great news to keyword searchers. Google's simple homepage interface of and their deep search databases is exactly what has made Google the dominant search player and an internet icon throughout the world.

Google understands that internet users want to search by keyword and Google has not attempted to become all things to all users like: Yahoo, MSN, Ask and other non-committed search comptetitors, that are profit-driven, advertisising focused, and quite often deliver cluttered search results pages that are hard to use and many times too bulky.

Google declines to say how effective these product plugs on the homepage have been to date, but did day that Google constantly makes "adjustments" to pages to help users find information and to test new designs and user interfaces.

But it appears that even small changes on the can have a big impact. No doubt, with billions of users using the homepage daily it only makes logical sense that even subtle design changes to the Internet's most popular homepage will create huge impacts on traffic flow.

According to research from Hitwise, traffic to Google's Blog Search service more than doubled over a two-week period in October after Google put a simple link to the service on its Google News homepage. About 60% of its blog search traffic has come directly from Google News since then, compared with 1% before the change, Hitwise says.

"What they're doing is very subtle," Ms. Prescott says. And it's "effective, clearly, but it's almost like they do it kind of late," pointing out that Google Blog Search was sitting around for a long time before the company began to push it.

Hitwise has tracked how Google's past in-house promotions have led to surges in use of its services. It noted a jump last winter for Book Search, to the fifth-most-used Google service from the ninth, after Google ran a simple message at the bottom of some search-results pages reading: "Try your search again on Google Book Search."

Google has been more liberal lately in its use of the search-results pages as a marketing tool, and in a number of different ways.

Indeed, Google's own search-results pages could be the company's best marketing tool.

"The most effective way to promote a new product is just by showing it to [users] when it's relevant to what they're looking for," said Google Vice President Marissa Mayer in April.

"In terms of driving traffic ... that technique actually yields the most users," compared with links on the homepage or other types of marketing, she said, adding that it is "the best way for us to build up a meaningful awareness of the product."

Look for many, new subtle changes to the homepage design as the powerful wall street investment crowd with little understanding of the internet continues to try and persuade the Google management team to focus more on monetizing keyword search results and sacrifice Google's core mission and commitment to date of delivering relevant results to keyword searchers worldwide.