picking on google

April 7, 2008 at 10:28 pm | Posted in Professional Development | Leave a comment

I know, if there’s anyone who can stand up for themselves, it’s Google, right? I mean, these are the guys poised to take-on Microsoft. While I’m not sure I am going to defend them, per se, I do find some recent commentary on their hiring practices pretty interesting.

For a long time, folks have taken an issue with Google’s hiring practices (here is a representative example), but it has flared up again recently with the firing of some 300 employees from recently acquired DoubleClick. Some people seem to think it didn’t have anything to do with redundancies (like here), but rather it was because the DoubleClick folks that were let go didn’t pass Google’s intense hiring standards.

I don’t know either way for sure, but suppose that was the case. Suppose they did let them go because they didn’t pass the hiring tests. Is that really so wrong? This started a very long email thread at work, and most everyone chimed in with something like “Well, I guess I would never get hired at Google” — all said with a bit of condescension. My response is actually a little different.

No, you probably would not get hired at Google. And that’s OK. You don’t work for Google, you work for us, and we need you to be mostly the way you are. If you’re not a freaky-smart straight A student, that’s more than acceptable here because our corporate culture is different. Not better. Not worse. Just different.

I wrote an earlier post that talks about figuring out who you are, and then building around those core attributes and beliefs. Google needs to be Google. It made them very, very successful, so why wouldn’t they continue the practices that got them there? You don’t need to work there and they don’t need to hire you. Welcome to life in a free economy.

This certainly doesn’t mean Google can’t improve and learn something from others, but nor does it mean that they are mean, stupid, and evil for doing what they know works. There’s an old saying in coaching: “Dance with who brung ya.” Google is doing just that.

Lastly, leaders take a lot of arrows in the back; both from competition and from the jealous masses. Certainly their success HAD to be luck, or HAD to be timing, or HAD to be ANYTHING but really smart, hard-working people plowing through adversity to be one of the most successful software companies around. It’s OK to criticize, but it’s better to learn. That’s what Sam Walton did in the early days. Whatever you think of them now (Sam’s long since gone), most admire his early approach of analyzing the competition. He never let himself focus on their negatives. Instead, he fiercely studied their positives and either emulated them, or tried to improve them, but always incorporated them into the style that was uniquely his.

It takes confidence and humbleness to learn from others more successful than yourself, but in the end, it is usually worth the effort.

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