Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Google needs code monkeys too?

Saul Hansell from the NYT wrote an article today, "Google collects better data searching for the perfect hire".

In that article, Googler Todd Carlisle said:
Sometimes, too much schooling will be a detriment to you in your job.
Wow, is that a change. Too much education can interfere with your job, Todd says. While this kind of anti-intellectualism has infiltrated the culture at other companies, it is quite a shift to see it from Google.

To be fair, as Saul reports, Todd and other Googlers are trying to optimize the hiring process. They are attempting to find what factors indicate that people will be successful, happy, and productive at Google.

However, at least from what is in the NYT article, the current process sounds less data driven than ideology driven. Not only are the measures flawed -- individual job performance does not capture the substantial impact of experts advising other teams, for example -- but also the replacement system they built never outperformed the original in tests. From the article, "It is too early to tell if the system is working. The surveys have been in use in about a dozen areas for several months."

See also Googler Chris Sacca's post, "Did you get the memo about the new cover sheets we are using?", lamenting the influx of MBAs and middle management goo at Google.

[Found on Findory]

Update: On a lighter note, do not miss the "Code Monkey" video by Jonathan Coulton and Mike Booth. Very funny.


Unknown said...

I don't think this is a harbinger of anti-intellectualism at Google. I think it's more casting the net wider for interesting factors; something like "I participate in discussions on the web" or "I've contributed to an open-source website" or "I've started my own business" might be helpful factors to know about, but might not be covered in a traditional interview format or someone's resume (simply because of time or space constraints).

Just my personal $0.02 though.

Anonymous said...

Hello Greg.. I was using and searching my name, and I saw your blog pop up.

In response to Matt.. I would think someone would put that they started their own business in their resume.. Isn't the idea of a resume to put your background, including where you've worked? =P

Andrew Hitchcock said...

I tried posting this the other day, but it might have been lost in the ether (delete if it is a duplicate):

I agree with Matt. If someone spent all their time in high school memorizing words for the SAT analogies in order to get an 800 on the verbal, instead of doing outside coding and computer experimentation, then their grades might not accurately represent their abilities and experience.

I welcome this change because I was always a little turned off by Google's super obsession with grades (at least, from what I hear as an outsider).

Greg Linden said...

Hi, Matt. Good to hear from you!

I agree that there are other important factors in hiring. For example, I imagine Google would be going after people with substantial contributions to an open source projects since that demonstrates initiative and has the added bonus of being easy to evaluate.

But, getting back to the point, don't you think the idea that "too much schooling will be a detriment to you in your job [at Google]" clashes with Google's culture? Even the idea that you could have "too much schooling" seems at odds.

That quote may not represent a widely held belief at Google but, if it does, it seems like quite a change from the past.

Anonymous said...


Hah, those factors you mentioned are interesting. I interviewed at Google a while back.

I wasn't asked about my participation on the web. I participate in a LOT of discussions and have been doing that for years (see Dejanews->Google Groups archives).

I wasn't asked about open-source involvement. I've contributed to several open source projects, most notably and relevantly in case of a Google interview, to Lucene, an open-source java search engine library.

Nobody asked whether I've started my own business before. I have.

Nobody asked me about my side project, Simpy, and then later Google built its own basic version of a social bookmarking service.

That said, that was the best interview I've seen up to that point. I think I answered everything correctly, but didn't get the job. I also didn't get any kind of sensible explanation as to why.

Anonymous said...

Sometimes, too much schooling will be a detriment to you in your job.

There is substantial truth to this, if you keep in mind Schooling != Education. It is very easy to confuse the two, and academia has a vast share of social parasites who actively aid and abet this confusion, but real world businesses experience this all the time. In an unsubsidized "education market" 75% of US colleges wouldn't survive.

I find most college education (again Most != All, so hold your fire right there) to be a waste of time. I have seen this in my many years of hiring for tech industry.

See the article below about the hidden gender gap, which makes the tangential point that college doesn't seem to help improve the ratio of women in the software profession because of all those self-taught men.