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tough at the top

Google employees confess all the worst things about working at Google

It isn’t all milk and honey.


It’s career heaven, right? How could a gig at the biggest, most ambitious tech company on the planet possibly be bad?

Well, take a look at this Quora thread, which is being used by current and former Google employees to dish the dirt on working for the search giant.

Turns out that working at Google isn’t all free food and bike rides around campus.

Take their complaints with a grain of salt. These are the complainers, after all. But we’ve heard many of these same things from our own sources.

They can hire the very best people — so *everyone* is overqualified.

google - 1 Glassdoor Glassdoor

“There are students from top 10 colleges who are providing tech support for Google’s ads products, or manually taking down flagged content from YouTube, or writing basic code to A|B test the color of a button on a site.”

There are too few “bozos.”

shutterstock_247316740 Shutterstock / Stock-Asso Shutterstock / Stock-Asso / Stock-Asso

“There are enough talented people that being talented won’t guarantee you an inside track on good projects, because there are thousands of equally smart people ahead in the queue and equally underutilized, but there are just enough bozos that you have to prove that you’re not one of them,” said a former engineer.

Google staff are so outstanding that there’s an internal joke about it.

shutterstock_155551085 Shutterstock / Natalia Dobryanskaya Shutterstock / Natalia Dobryanskaya / Natalia Dobryanskaya

“I used to joke with my colleagues that Larry & Sergey go out on their yachts — tie them together, sit back on the same recliners you’ll find on their jumbo jet, each on his own yacht/set of yachts, smoke cigars, and put up pictures of Googlers with little snippets like ‘was a GM at multi-national telecomm company, got a Harvard MBA and is now answering Orkut tickets.’ and then they would erupt in laughter and clink their cigars & Scotch together in celebration. This, of course, is highly unlikely given neither of them would ever smoke a cigar or drink Scotch. Remainder is plausible.”

The company only cares about measurable improvements.

google - 4 Google Google

“Any improvement not based on a hard metric was flatly not a respected use of time,” said a former Google software engineer. ”Usability? Number of bugs? Nobody cared. If you couldn’t measure it, nobody was interested in it.”

You won’t get time off.

“Work/life balance. What balance? All those perks and benefits are an illusion. They keep you at work and they help you to be more productive. I’ve never met anybody at Google who actually [took] time off on weekends or on vacations. You may not hear management say, ‘You have to work on weekends/vacations’ but, they set the culture by doing so — and it inevitably trickles down.”

It’s hard to be honest with your colleagues.

google - 5 Google Google

“It is really hard to discuss any issue unless it is your friend you are talking to,” said a former employee. “Objective discussions are pretty rare, since everybody’s territorial, and not interested in opinions of other people unless those people are Important Gods.”

Projects get can cancelled arbitrarily all the time.

google - 6 Google Maps Google Maps

“The biggest negative, by far, for me has been seemingly arbitrary project cancellations,” said an anonymous commenter. “To add insult to injury, people who worked on canceled projects have promotion applications denied for failing to have made an impact.”

There are managers who have been over-promoted.

google - 7 £The Internship" £The Internship"

“People are promoted into management positions — not because they actually know how to lead/manage, but because they happen to be smart or because there is no other path to grow into,” said a former technical program manager. “So there is a layer of intelligent individuals who are horrible managers and leaders.”

There’s not enough employee diversity.

“They hire the same person over and over again,” said an anonymous commenter. “Same background, same 10 schools, same worldview, same interests.  It’s no exaggeration to say that I met 100 triathletes in my three years at Google. Only a handful of them were interesting people.”

Working at Google may not prepare you for future jobs.

google - 8 Business Insider Business Insider

“The downside is that after doing that for a few years, you may very quickly lose touch with the real world on how to scale things via open source technologies,” said a former engineer.

“Get EVERYTHING in writing.”

“If you are in the process of gaining employment with Google, negotiate hard, be demanding, and make sure to get EVERYTHING in writing. Google makes lots of vague promises, and seems to not deliver.”

Only techies can feel like they’re making a difference.

google - 9 AP Photo / Jeff Chiu AP Photo / Jeff Chiu / Jeff Chiu

“If you’re in a non-technical role, (i.e. Sales, Recruiting, People Ops), it’s so easy to feel like you’re just another piece of the machine,” said a commenter. “Many of the processes are already so refined that — as many have said — you feel overqualified to be doing the job.”

Your office space can be too small.

“[I]f you have to work in one of the four main campus buildings, you will most likely be extremely cramped. It’s not uncommon to see 3-4 employees in a single cube, or several managers sharing an office. With all the open areas for food, games, TV, tech talks, etc, it can be surprisingly hard to find a quiet, private place to think.”

Google is so big you can’t have any impact on it.

google - 10 Wikimedia Commons Wikimedia Commons

“I worked at Google for 3 years and it was very difficult to leave but there was one major factor that helped me make the decision — the impact I could ever have on the business as an individual was minimal. As noted in many answers below, Google is an incredible machine that prints money thanks to AdWords. Unless you are an amazingly talented engineer who gets to create something new, chances are you’re simply a guy/girl with an oil can greasing the cogs of that machine.”

Middle management is mediocre.

“I’d say the relentless daily mediocre thinking of middle management types who are completely focused on metrics to the exclusion of all other factors. They don’t want to rock the boat, they don’t know how to inspire their workforce, and they rely far too much on the Google name and reputation to do that for them.”

Googlers can get caught up in trivia.

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“In Zurich there is a quiet room where people go to relax, or take a nap. There are very nice looking fish tanks there and you can waste as much of your work time there, watching the fish do fishy things. There was a 100+ emails thread about removing the massage chairs from that room because some people allegedly were being kept from sleeping because the massage chairs were too noisy.”

The culture is immature.

“It’s like never-never land — people never grow up. They drink at all hours, socialize constantly, play games, and do little to no work.”

You can’t work remotely.

“But the killer to me was the inability to work remotely, which I have been doing successfully for the past 5-6 years.”

Staff are rewarded for dreaming up new things even when new things aren’t needed.

google - 12 Cheap Trick Cheap Trick

“This lead to imaginative un maintained nightmares, frequently based on discarded shells of other platforms nobody maintained. We had four internal-only official JavaScript libraries. Why? Because writing an innovative JavaScript library could get you a promotion!”

It’s a big company and things move slower than at a small startup.

google - 13 SaraYeomans / flickr SaraYeomans / flickr / flickr

“The product release cycle is sluggish at best, and though teams may work and feel like startups, I found that you can often end up with the bad (long hours, grueling work) without the good (agile development, rapid iteration).”

“Stepford engineers.”

google - 14 Colombia Pictures Colombia Pictures

“The engineers Google hires fit the mold of generalist system types. They are good at algorithms, database concepts, transaction processing, scaling, etc. They generally do not have domain expertise in product areas. The culture rewards engineers who solve knotty technical problems and leaves behind those who enjoy the harder part of product development, moving a product from version 1 to a truly great version 3 by smoothing out the rough edges and adding functionality based on customer feedback, and by maintaining and debugging a product.”

Being under-used can be a nightmare.

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“I worked at one of the larger non-MV campuses, and the only intellectual stimulation I encountered in my time there was the interview process. Not that I met that many brilliant people, but I did meet a lot of fairly mediocre people that were convinced they were brilliant, and I saw a lot of political ass kissing. I worked under a team lead who hadn’t touched code in over two years, and had been incompetent as a programmer when she was one, with a tech lead who was okay at UX, but not much else.”

Read: Denis O’Brien’s Digicel is taking on Google, Facebook, and Yahoo

Also: Are you an expert on the Internet of Things? Accenture is hiring 200 people in Dublin

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