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Non Fiction

I’m Feeling Lucky – The Confessions of Google Employee Number 59

Back in the internet boom in the advent of 21st century, I was a techy geek reading Fortune magazines and following the stories of technology trailblazers such as Bill Gates, Jeff Bezo (founder of Amazon) and Larry Ellison (Oracle). I am still a techy geek and find it fascinating reading about geniuses who create a market or a business that never existed before. Google is one of them.

The last book I read on Google was in 2008. “The Google Story : Inside the hottest business, media and technology success of our time” by David Wise narrates the lives of the Sergey Brin and Larry Page; and the founding of Google. I found the insider story about Google the company more fascinating and juicy.

“I’m Feeling Lucky – The Confessions of Google Employee Number 59” is about Douglas Edwards who worked in Google from the early days of 1999 to 2005. Douglas applied for a marketing job at Google and was interviewed by a young man bouncing on a large ball while dressed in roller hockey gear (or the famous one: Sergey dressed as a cow and stroking his udder while conducting an interview?). He knew that he wasn’t working for an unconventional company. Edwards takes us inside the hyper-energised world of the Googleplex for the closest look you can get without an ID card.

The young Google as a company doesn’t have a structure, job description for employees, no marketing and business strategy, and no structured policy and procedure. All of which I must say is a management science industry that I make my living with. The only believe besides creativity is its motto: “Don’t be evil.” Naturally in a workplace like this, the founders’ command is the company’s decree.

Edwards found Google in its infancy is a crazy place to work. As much as he tried to put a branding strategy in place, it takes second place from the top priority of its research and engineering workforce to make Google’s search quicker and more relevant. It’s a story of making your job up as you go, in an office that’s like a geek fraternity claiming squatter’s rights to eat, invent and sleep there. It’s a place where years of work experience amounts to little. Of massages at work, being asked to come up with 100 ad lines in 24 hours, April Fools tricks and cash bonuses so big they’re guarded by armoured cars.

Edwards chronicles in details the names of employees and recalled the launch of new Google products with gusto, humour and some let downs.

I was continuously amazed by how a company who defies all management convention strives and became the world’s most valuable company. Where the world depends on branding to differentiate themselves, Google holds true to fundamental truth, that its product (adwords, Gmail, would be so good and continuously improve the product. “If we can’t win on quality,” Larry said quietly, “We shouldn’t win at all.” The Google products are to be so great that no rival could ever reach the zenith Google has achieved. That, to me speaks volume and demonstrate Google as a company of substance which confirms in a world of smoke and mirrors, only substance and quality win through in the longer term.

It was this book that gave me the true real glimpse of the founder’s impatience for corporate pretense. The two founders behave and think alike. Larry doesn’t like repeating himself, doesn’t say very much and expect his instructions to be followed. Everything that seems wrong in corporate practice becomes a rule in Google. For example: Larry’s Rules of Order go like this:

  • Don’t delegate: do everything you yourself to make things go Faster (which I always believe!)
  • Don’t’ get in the way if you’re not adding value. Let the people actually doing the work talk to each other while you go do something else. Don’t be a bureaucrat. (I know the modern office hold so many meetings with so many views and opinions that things never get done!)
  • Ideas are more important than age. Just because someone is junior doesn’t mean they don’t deserve respect and cooperation.

More than once Edwards question whether he is suited to be a part of the Google revolution and the college culture of the company. Google employees work 7 days a week 24 hours where they can, shared meals and go on ski-trip together. People either became close friends or driven apart by annoyance in close quarters. In the midst of all this, people feel in and out of love, formed life long bonds and ended their marriages. For some, Google became more a lifestyle than an employer.

“I liked coming to work. I liked my job. I like the challenges. I liked the energy and I liked my coworkers – with whom I was spending more hours than with my family. But for me the Googleplex was just a place to get things done. I was a 41-year-old man, married, with three kids, two cars, a car and a mortgage. I already had a home.” – page 182

“It’s a story about a corporate ascent without precedent, as Google exploded from obscurity to dictionary definition in five short years.” – the flap of the hardback says, and it also a story of Edwards tenure and experience from the day he joined to the day he left the company. This is the most intimate account of Google there is out there. In all aspects, technological and Internet breakthroughs, a corporate story on the rise to greatness, personal workplace triumphs and tribulations, this book scores high on all arenas.

For more insights, read the interview with Edwards about the book see here: Fast Company interview with Douglas Edwards

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About JoV

A bookaholic that went out of control.... I eat, sleep and breathe books. Well, lately I do other stuff.

Discussion

17 thoughts on “I’m Feeling Lucky – The Confessions of Google Employee Number 59

  1. Sounds fascinating but… Working in such an environment would drive me batty(er). It’s possible that reading about it would be too much to take. 🙂

    Posted by debbierodgers | January 4, 2013, 11:44 pm
    • Debbie,
      It is too much to take in with the details in the book some times. I always wish I work in one of these great companies but as someone who is no longer in her puberty, I don’t think I can take long hours and extra stress! on top of being in the world’s toughest job, a mom! 😀

      Posted by JoV | January 5, 2013, 12:34 am
  2. Haha sound slike a crazy work place! 😉 Must’ve been a great experience and an exciting time, but I can imagine that all this doesn’t allow much or personal time. I’d go nuts if I had to hang with the same people 24/7 for years.

    Posted by Bina | January 5, 2013, 5:58 pm
  3. As a self-professed techie, this sounds really interesting. Google seems like an amazing company from so many perspectives

    Posted by Helen Murdoch | January 6, 2013, 12:24 am
  4. This sounds fascinating. Somehow Fortune 500 companies razzle dazzle with lots of sparkly benefits, but lots have found that by climbing or staying on the rungs of this ladder, they make very difficult life changing decisions. Selling one’s soul to work is a slippery slope, but without the commitment shown by these people the world would be different as well I guess.

    Posted by Joanna | January 6, 2013, 2:06 pm
    • Joanna,
      It’s true that there are a lot of razzle dazzle in these global companies. Whether you are willing to give up your family, personal time and devoted all your waking hours to your job is another matter! I respect the commitment of these ppl who serves to contribute to a greater good of mankind, I’m just not sure if it is me! :p

      Posted by JoV | January 7, 2013, 7:50 pm
  5. Fabulous! I would totally read this book.

    Posted by Ti | January 6, 2013, 6:14 pm
  6. How interesting! Sounds like the perfect place for a young single person to work, but I can see how it wouldn’t be for someone with a family. I’ll pick this one up if I spot a copy.

    Posted by farmlanebooks | January 6, 2013, 7:07 pm
  7. Hi Jovenus,

    I looked elsewhere for a way to contact you but could find none.

    You have an amazing book blog site. I would consider myself very lucky if you chose my book “A Soul’s Calling” to review on your website.

    A Soul’s Calling is part travelogue, part hiking adventure, some might even call it speculative non-fiction, but what it really is about is making the world a better place.

    A Soul’s Calling is a memoir about a man who listened to his heart instead of reason.

    Scott, a forty-something attorney, is average in every way except one. He has a connection to the Other Side. He speaks to Spirit and Spirit speaks to him. He sees, hears, and interacts with an invisible realm that is beyond ordinary human perception. When Scott learns his soul has been spiritually compromised he travels to the ancient kingdom of Nepal to win it back. Once there, he hikes the Himalaya carrying a mysterious bundle and a stick laden with prayers from Luminous Beings hoping to come face to face with the greatest mountain on earth: Mount Everest. As his journey unfolds, Scott is called on to battle his fear of heights, the thin air, and his physical limitations.

    A Soul’s Calling transports readers to the rugged but enchanting Khumbu Valley where mountains speak and nature is imbued with a special kind of magic. The novel is an inspiring modern day adventure that weaves the timeless themes of living an authentic life, the consequences of power, and what a man would do for unrequited love. Powerful, sweeping, and deeply moving, readers will search their hearts as the book draws to a stunning conclusion.

    A Soul’s Calling is a book for our time and for anyone who believes the world can be a better place.

    If this sounds appealing, I would be happy to send you a Kindle copy. To learn more about my book and where you can find a short excerpt, visit http://www.scott-bishop.com

    With every best wish,

    Scott Bishop
    Author

    Posted by Scott | January 6, 2013, 8:17 pm
  8. Wow, this book seems to be interesting to me 🙂 Will try to get a copy of this. Thanks Jov!

    Posted by Marvin | January 8, 2013, 2:54 pm
  9. Google is the one company I really want to work at. I had heard of this book last year but somehow it slipped my mind. I have to get it.

    Posted by Athira | January 9, 2013, 12:21 am

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Ratings Defined

0 = Abandon the book after first chapter

1 = Waste of paper, we will see what the environmentalist say about this!

2 = Skip it, read the book if you have got nothing better to do

2.5 = An average book, easily forgettable.

3 = A good read.

3.5 = A good entertaining read, a page-turner

4 = So glad that I read the book, a book with substance and invaluable for future reference

4.5 = So glad that I read the book, would pester everyone to read it, invaluable, I would want to own it and wouldn't mind a second read (something that I seldom do)

5 = The book is so good that I feel like I am on scale 4 and 4.5, and more, it blew me away and lingers on my head for weeks!

Books Read

JoV's bookshelf: read
Hold Tight
The Fault in Our Stars
The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon
The Thief
Mockingjay
Catching Fire
A Tale for the Time Being
Into the Darkest Corner
The Liars' Gospel
Goat Mountain
Strange Weather In Tokyo
Strange Shores
And the Mountains Echoed
Ten White Geese
One Step Too Far
The Innocents
The General: The ordinary man who became one of the bravest prisoners in Guantanamo
White Dog Fell from the Sky
A Virtual Love
The Fall of the Stone City


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Reading, after a certain age, diverts the mind too much from its creative pursuits. Any man who reads too much and uses his own brain too little falls into lazy habits of thinking. - Albert Einstein (1879 - 1955)

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