Saturday, July 23, 2011

Excerpt: "I'm Feeling Lucky: The Confessions of Google Employee Number 59"

From the Wall Street Journal:
The Beginning
An insider recounts the early days: the bizarre job interview, April Fools' pranks that enraged users, roller hockey, platters of sushi—and the uneasy leap to the mainstream.

In November 1999, Douglas Edwards became fledgling Google's first "brand manager," making him employee No. 59. In this excerpt from his new book, "I'm Feeling Lucky," Mr. Edwards gives an inside view of the company's early days, starting with his job interview with co-founder Sergey Brin, then 26 years old.
Cindy McCaffrey, director of public relations, brought me back to the conference room to wait for Sergey. I wasn't nervous. Sergey was about the age of my favorite T-shirt (I was 41) and a Russian by birth. I had lived in Russia. I spoke some Russian. I had Russian friends.
I felt unusually confident that the interview would go well. Perhaps I would become his mentor and we would toast each other's health with fine Siberian vodka. Sergey showed up wearing roller-hockey gear: gym shorts, a T-shirt and in-line skates. He had obviously been playing hard. I had known better than to wear a tie, but he took office casual to a new level.
Sergey pored over my résumé and began peppering me with questions. "What promotion did you do that was most effective?" "What metrics did you use to measure it?" "What types of viral marketing did you do?"
"How much do you think a company our size should spend on marketing?" Sergey asked me. Based on his earlier questions, it was easy to guess what he wanted to hear from me. "I don't think at this stage you should spend much at all," I said. "You can do a lot with viral marketing and small budgets."

He nodded his agreement, then asked about my six months in Siberia, casually switching to Russian to see how much I had picked up. Finally, he leaned forward and fired his best shot, what he came to call "the hard question."

"I'm going to give you five minutes," he told me. "When I come back, I want you to explain to me something complicated that I don't already know." He then rolled out of the room toward the snack area. I looked at Cindy. "He's very curious about everything," she told me. "You can talk about a hobby, something technical, whatever you want. Just make sure it's something you really understand well."

I reached for a piece of scrap paper as my mind raced. What complicated thing did I know well enough to describe to Sergey? I decided to go with the general theory of marketing, which was fresh in my mind, because I'd only learned it recently.

One of my dirty little secrets was a complete lack of academic preparation for the business world. Fortunately, my boss at the San Jose Mercury News, where I was working as a brand manager, had a Harvard MBA and a desire to drive some business theory into my thick skull. She had given me a bunch of her old textbooks, along with strong hints that I should spend time reading them. I began regurgitating everything that I could remember onto the paper in front of me: The five P's (or was it six?), the four M's, barriers to entry, differentiation on quality or price....MORE
See also:
Newly Rich or Expect to be? Google Employee #23 on What to do With Your Millions