failing like never before


A Postmortem of Temporary Success

I submitted my previous post, Why Working at Google Is Not My Dream Job (Anymore), to HackerNews and it hit the front page! Within the first hour of its submission my post reached the front page, and then quickly peaked at number ten. It floated between the number ten and twelve spots for another three hours, but after six hours it had dropped to the second page. By the time I got home from work, it had fallen to the fourth or fifth page and had accumulated 196 points and 166 comments. You can tell I am a little bit excited about all this. I think in one day I had the same number of views that I have had in the last three years. Here's a link to the HN comments.

Have a look at this traffic graph of my site from today:

traffic graph

Some other quick notes.

  • I probably should have picked a different title. It served well to grab the attention of readers on HN, but it doesn't serve as well to summarize the contents of the post.
  • Lots of people had similar experiences with Google and other large companies. This is not surprising.
  • Lots of people had quite the opposite experience interviewing at Google. This is also not surprising.
  • There were some pretty rude/crass comments made. This should be expected with the internet.
  • At peak bandwidth, my server was struggling a little bit. Pages were definitely loading a little slower.
  • My comments section needs work. It is not escaping quotes properly
  • Someone took the opportunity to explore other posts and comment on a six year old post.



Why Working at Google Is Not My Dream Job (Anymore)

I had to sign several NDAs with Google and I am honestly too lazy to check what I can and cannot disclose. In light of that, I'll keep this vague and hopefully avoid getting sued (fingers-crossed).

I still remember being in high school and reading about how amazing it was to work at Google. About how amazing their free cafeterias were, their company gyms, massage chairs, and on-site laundry machines. Not to mention the brightly colored walls and hip decorations, which were a stark contrast to Intel where I interned. Conan O’Brien once compared Intel's offices to a parking garage, and complimented them on their excellent design choice to match the grey trim with the grey walls. When I was in university, and I learned more about the ground breaking projects Google had, the brilliant people they employed, and the amazing resources they provided their engineers, I knew that Google was a company I wanted to work for. What computer science undergraduate didn't dream of working at Google? To work at the same company with brilliant minds like Guido van Rossum, Leonard Kleinrock, and Ken Thompson? But in college, after two phone interviews I was rejected from a summer internship, and turned down for a full time position after another three phone interviews.

But not too long ago I interviewed with Google again. The entire experience, from first e-mail to final phone call stretched from the end of November to the beginning of April. I passed the phone interviews and the on-site interviews, all of which were arduous but not unmanageable.

After finding out I passed the interviews, and Google finished doing my background check, I spent the next two months on an emotional roller-coaster. I spoke to a couple hiring mangers, exchanged many confused and angry emails with friends and colleagues at Google, and had numerous phone calls with my recruiter, whose tone ranged from apologetic to congratulatory. At various times, I was not entirely sure if I was fully rejected, or if the only thing standing between me and a formal job offer was some paper work. Many phone calls with the recruiter (who was very kind and helpful) were required for clarification, but did little to assuage my annoyance as she was not allowed to explain any of the inner workings of the hiring process. As the weeks dragged on I received job offers from two other companies, so I gave the Google recruiter a deadline and the inscrutable bureaucracy missed it with all the grace of a three-legged elephant.

I am not overly found of interviews. They can be difficult and uncomfortable and require me taking time off from my current job, and getting my chain jerked around does nothing to help improve the situation. I was contacted by another Google recruiter two months back, who asked me if I was interested in the exciting new job opportunity she had (I wasn't, my current job is more interesting). The caveat was that I would have to do some more interviews. I was surprised to discover that although working at Google has been my dream job for many years, I turned down this opportunity with no difficulty whatsoever. The time and the trouble involved just didn't seem worth it anymore. While I still believe Google is doing great things, there are also other companies in the industry doing groundbreaking work, many of whom can reach a decision over an applicant in three months or less.

The problem is not the fault of the excellent people that Google employs, but rather the creaking, rambling structure of their hiring process. Why is the whole process so obfuscated? Why are they doing background checks and calling references before they are even close to being ready to make an offer? Why is some arbitrary committee rejecting a candidate at the eleventh hour after everything else has been approved? Why does the rain fall from up-above? How many licks does it take to get to the center of a tootsie pop?

These are questions that us non-Googlers (non-ooglers? nono-oglers?) may never know the answer to. But we can take solace in the fact that the Silicon Valley is a big place with many wonderful opportunities. And hey, I hear Facebook is hiring :)

(EDIT: see hackernews discussion)


My Bag

Below, is a list of all the items that I kept in my Timbuk2 messenger bag at all times.

  • hemp shoulder bag (for groceries)
  • ear plugs
  • ear buds
  • zip-lock bags
  • hand sanitizer
  • deodorant
  • sunblock
  • e-book reader
  • sunglasses
  • reading glasses
  • bike light
  • business cards
  • band-aids
  • tissues
  • pens and pencils
  • notebook
  • cell phone charger (for outlet and car)
  • USB memory stick
  • loose change
  • toothbrush

Basically anywhere I went, I took that bag with me, carrying all the aforementioned contents. It was essentially my purse, and with it, I was ready for any situation the world could throw at me. I never had to worry about packing for a trip or being an hour away from home and wishing I had my cell phone charger. Earlier this year, when I was given short notice that I had to fly to LA, all I needed to pack was a change of clothes. When I decided to go to the beach on a whim, I already had sun-screen ready to go. But because of the sheer amount of crap that I carried I found I could not carry the bag for an extended amount of time without my should hurting. This should not be any great surprise.

So in light of that, I've changed to a more minimalist carry along, eschewing everything except for my reading glasses and whatever essentials I know I will need. For example, now when I go to work I only carry my reading glasses, gym clothes, and laptop.

Of course, now I am completely unprepared for my everyday trials. Last Sunday I was in San Francisco, when a pebble in my shoe caused a cut on my heel and I was forced to duck into a drug store to buy some band-aids, a situation that could have been avoided if I had had my messenger bag stocked with band-aids with me (or if I had just taken the pebble out earlier). I foresee many more such instances should I continue in my minimalist carry-along lifestyle.

Clearly, the only solution is to work out more until my shoulder doesn't get as tired as quickly.