failing like never before


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 Google Interview

Its been a while now, but here it is anyways...

About six or seven weeks ago, I scored a phone interview (technically two) with Google's IT department for a summer internship. Nobody was more surprised then I was that Google actually found my resume somewhat impressive enough to warrent a phone interview, especially considering my less-then-stellar GPA and the enormous number of super-intelligent applicants Google recieves every day. The two interviews were each forty-five minutes long, and the interviewers (both intelligent IT guys,  and not technically incompetent manager types) took pretty much all of the alloted time.

These days, almost every CS guy dreams of working for Google and so I've heard a few things about their interviews before, which I would like to mention before I get into my interview. A few years ago when I was an intern at Intel, they had a lady come in to tell all the high school interns about how to be successful in scoring future jobs. She spent a lot of time teaching us how to walk properly, shake hands, sit in a proper manner, dress, and answer generic interview questions. She told us that Google interviewers like to ask broad open ended questions like "how would you sell ice to an eskimo" and "why are manhole covers round," and promptly put us to answering similar questions. A few months later, I went to a Google Tech Talk at my University, where a Google software engineer was asked by someone in the audience if Google did in fact like to ask interview questions like "why are manhole covers round." The Google rep resonded with the following:

"In my time at Google I have interviewed several software engineers and I have never asked a question like that before. Google is not in the business of making manhole covers. If we did make manhole covers, we might ask those kinds of questions."

I think occassionally, a Google interviewer might throw in a brain teaser if they just want to burn some time, but apparently they don't do it too often.

Anyways, going on to my interview... I was interviewing for an IT position, so unlike the software developer positions where they barrage you with an endless stream of algorithim and programming questions (Why is quicksort log(n)? Whats the best sorting algorithim to use in this scenario? What data structure would you use for this? etc.) there was almost no programming invovled in my interview. And since the recruiter and HR person told me pretty much nothing about what I should expect, I went into the interview pretty much cold.