What larry page really needs to do to return google to its startup roots
by slacy, slacy.com
March 24th 2011
I worked at Google from 2005-2010, and saw the company go through many changes, and a huge increase in staff. Most importantly, I saw the company go from a place where engineers were seen as violent disruptors and innovators, to a place where doing things “The Google Way” was king, and where thinking outside the box was discouraged and even chastised. So, here’s a quick list of things I think Larry could do to bring the startup feel back to Google:
Let engineers do what they do best, and forget the rest.
This is probably the most important single point. Engineers at Google spend way too much time fussing about with everything other than engineering and product design. Focusing on shipping great, innovative products needs to be put before all else. Here’s a quick rundown of engineering frustrations at Google when I left:
Compiling & fixing other people’s code. This is a huge problem for the C++ developers at Google. They spend massive amounts of time compiling (and bug fixing) “the world” to make their project work. This needs to end. Put an end to source-code distributions for cross-team dependencies. Make teams (bigtable, GFS, Stubby, Chubby, etc.) deliver binaries & headers in some reasonable format.
Machine Resource Requests for products in the “less than a petabyte” class. Just hand out the resources pro-bono, track usage, and if they exceed some very high limit, then start charging. Why is this a struggle?
LCE & SRE “blockers”. Having support for Launch Coordination & Site Reliability is great, but when these people say “you can’t launch unless…” then you know they’re being a hindrance, and not a help.
Meetings. Seriously, people are drenched in “status update” and “team” meetings. If your company has to have “No meetings Thursday” then you’re doing it wrong. How about “No meetings except for Thursday”. That would make for a productive engineering team, not the other way around.
Weekly Snippets, perf, etc. I was continually amazed by the amount of “extra cruft work” that goes on. I know it sounds important, but engineers should be coding & designing.
Perf, Interviews & lengthly interview feedback. The old fashioned model of getting together in a room to discuss a candidate is way more efficient. Make sure that every single engineer in the building is participating in the interview process to spread the load more evenly. Don’t let the internal recruiters pick engineers for interviews, as they have favoritism and are improperly motivated. Limit to 1 interview per week, maximum. Make a simple system for “I can’t make this interview” and “I think this resume looks shitty and don’t want to talk to this candidate.”
Discourage of open source software. There is so much innovation going on in the open source world: Hadoop, MongoDB, Redis, Cassandra, memcached, Ruby on Rails, Django, Tornado (web framework), and many, many other products put Google infrastructure to shame when it comes to ease-of-use and product focus. Engineers are discouraged from using these systems, to the point where they’re chastised for even thinking of using anything other than Bigtable/Spanner and GFS/Colossus for their products.
Get rid of the proprietary cluster management system.
Yes, seriously. What they have is a glorified batch-scheduling system that makes modern datacenters feel like antiquated mainframes.