[Background: Formerly a lead product manager at Trilogy.]
THE FIRST DAY, THE FIRST WEEK
“What do you normally do when you start a new job? You waste time filling out paperwork. My first morning at Google, I put my name and address on one form online, and it went everywhere it needed to go–electronically. That’s how this place works. I went to a staff meeting that afternoon and got assigned to figure out how Google could launch Enterprise [applications for corporations] in Europe. I was told to come back with the answer at the end of the week. It was like, ‘Hey, New Guy, you don’t know anything about our business yet, and you don’t have any international experience, but here are some people who can help you. Go figure it out.’ We launched in Europe a few months later.”
“When I think about how I want to grow the Enterprise business and make it a multibillion-dollar business, that’s a huge audacious goal. In an ordinary organization this size, maybe reality would set in–‘Okay, maybe I can’t really do that.’ But I just have to look back at some of the other successes at Google, at the growth curve of the ads business, at the user-growth curve of Gmail. The track record helps people think even bigger thoughts. Can you really grow a business exponentially year over year? Well, generally speaking, no, but here are two examples over the last five years, so why can’t I?
The normal constraints that are put on people either by themselves or the environment or managers or colleagues seem not to exist here. It’s almost ‘suspend disbelief for a minute.’ It is amazing what people can do when you tell them to ignore the normal constraints that they are usually bound by.”
GOOGLE MINI: FROM NAPKIN TO RUNAWAY SUCCESS
“Not long after I started, we launched Google Mini, which was a small-to-medium-business version of our search product. It was the classic kind of startup entrepreneurial thing. My boss and I were having lunch one day in Charlie’s Cafe, the big one on the main campus, and we were talking about how we needed to accelerate this business. We honed in on the midmarket. Literally on the back of a napkin, as cliché as that sounds, we started drawing up plans.
We had a new product manager on our team, Rajen Sheth. We said, ‘Here, go run with this idea, and see if you can make this happen.’ Again, classic. We gave him like three months.
There was no approval process. We didn’t ask Eric and Larry and Sergey if we should this. There was no six weeks doing a formal business plan. There was an idea on a napkin and the two engineers he worked with. And three months later, we launched a brand-new product, which has been a runaway success. I might be somewhat biased, but our view is that this product has changed the ‘enterprise search space.’ We were the first ones to bring this technology to small and medium business. Now you have Microsoft squarely aimed at that market, and Oracle is doing the same thing.”
SLOWING DOWN SPEEDS UP INNOVATION
“It’s a very collaborative, consensus-building type of environment. That’s important, but very candidly, it’s sometimes frustrating, because things potentially take a little longer. And that may be surprising because Google moves so fast.
Any given decision may take, I don’t know, we’re an engineering company so I should give a number, 30% longer. But in aggregate, it speeds up innovation. The more diverse the set of people you get contributing to a solution, the better the solution. It’s The Wisdom Of Crowds effect. At any given time, in any given meeting, it’s just as likely that the engineering lead will be asking questions and pointing out problems with the sales model as it is that the sales leads will ask the engineers, ‘Why did you do it this way?'”
COMPETING WITH STARTUPS
“Our business depends on attracting the best and the brightest people to bring their innovative ideas to Google. We are competing with the five-person startup. So we need to create the environment that says, ‘Good or better then that startup.'”
ON THE GOOGLE BUS
“The shuttle is insanely practical. I get an extra two to three hours of productive time every day. People do email, read a book, listen to music. It eliminates the most stressful part of the day. You can look at it as an outrageous perk, or you can look at it as recognition that the human capital of a technology company–its people–is the key asset, and here’s how I can make my employees happier.”
HIRING SMARTER THAN YOU
“Douglas Merrill, our CIO, often quips, ‘Anybody you hire has got to be smarter than the last person you hired.’ So the longer you’ve been here, the more you represent one of the dumbest people in the company. It’s sort of a joke, but in some ways it’s true. In my opinion, it’s harder to get a job at Google today than it was four years ago. It’s usually the other way around as a company gets bigger.”