Early Google worker in memoir tells it like it was
Apr 15, 2012 (Menafn - The Sacramento Bee - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --Google Inc. is the epitome of the Silicon Valley success story, a tech company that literally started in a garage and went global.
Larry Page and Sergey Brin masterminded the concept when they were computer science graduate students at Stanford University. Marketing veteran Douglas Edwards went to work for them in 1999 at the new Google campus in Mountain View, departed after five years and wrote the business memoir "I'm Feeling Lucky: The Confessions of Google Employee Number 59" (Mariner, 15.95, 432 pages).
"I was in on the ground floor, so a lot of (Google's current) policies and attitudes were formed while I was there," Edwards said. About 60 people worked there when Edwards joined; now the company employs more than 30,000 internationally.
Edwards now works with the nonprofit www. maplight.org, dedicated to "revealing money's influence on politics." Visit his blog site at http:// xooglers.blogspot.com.
You literally were the 59th employee hired?
It's a little unclear, because the day I started was the same day the chef and the two massage therapists also started. It was good timing on my part.
You were Google's first director of consumer marketing and brand management. What did that entail?
There was no clear job description, but (essentially) I handled all the non-engineering (jobs) that fell into the marketing area. I set up the customer service department and wrote all the copy for the website. It was my job to articulate the values of the company in a way other people could understand them.
What was the workplace like?
The official dress code was: You have to wear clothing. The environment was very casual, but the people were very intense. It was a place where you were expected to work very hard and be available 24-7. I'd get to work round 6:30 a.m. and get home around 9 at night. Sometimes I'd get home at 6 p.m. and be online till midnight.
I mention in the book that one of the engineers was nine months pregnant and apologized to me for not answering my email at 1 a.m. because she'd fallen asleep.
Full-body massages were free and incredible food was free. The idea was to keep you from leaving the building, to keep you working as much as possible.
They figured if they fed employees healthful food, (we) wouldn't get sick as much. They hired the chef whose former job was catering for (the rock concert- promotion company) Bill Graham Presents, so essentially he was the chef for Jerry Garcia and the Grateful Dead. He knew a lot about macrobiotics.
Every day we'd have a choice of two or three entrees, four or five salads, a couple of soups, side dishes, and two or three desserts.
Your biggest frustration?
Trying to understand, organizationally, how things got done because so much of it was in the heads of Larry Page and Sergey Brin. They knew what they wanted to do but were not great at communicating to the rest of the company. You were expected to anticipate what they wanted and get in front of it. That could be stressful in an environment that put a high premium on performance.
What were your biggest contributions?
I'm proudest of having been the "voice of Google," which is how they referred to me. I wrote the (mission statement) "Ten Things We Know To Be True," all the April Fool's jokes ... I really tried to imbue Google with a personality that reflected (to our customers) the personalities of the founders and the people who worked there.
Google's reaction to your book?
They've been very positive, and had me back to do a presentation. I haven't talked with Larry or Sergey, though. They may hate the book, but everyone else I've talked to said it accurately reflects the company when I was there.
Why did you leave?
It was certainly the best job I've ever had, but I have three kids and didn't see much of them during my five years there.
Has Google taken over the world?
They've made themselves an essential part of life in the modern day. They want to be so useful that people can't stop using them. But there is competition.
Call The Bee's Allen Pierleoni, (916) 321-1128.
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