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Update: A reader tells us this Google engineer is no longer at the company. Our reader thinks he may have been fired from Google, and therefore what he says here should be treated with some scepticism. We reached out to the engineer, and Google before writing this and never heard back.He reached out to us and said he was not fired. Here’s what he had to say:
“I think very, very highly of many, many of the engineers I worked with and really would appreciate it being made clear that almost everyone whom I worked with on a daily basis I consider to be people who deserve the utmost respect for their work and their talents.”
Original: Just yesterday, former Google engineer James Whittaker wrote a long post about why he left Google — saying its management was obsessed with beating Facebook.
That’s not the only problem with Google’s management either, according to Michael Church, who is listed as a software engineer at Google on LinkedIn.
He posted a damning assessment of its management on a Hacker News comment thread attached to Whittaker’s post.
Here is the entire comment from the thread:
To understand why Google isn’t what it used to be, one has to understand what happened in 2009-2011. This is the era when Google decided to get “real managers” and they hired a bunch of executives from places like Oracle, IBM, and Intel. If Google had told them to wipe their fucking feet off before tracking shitty culture into the place, it might have survived. It didn’t.
Google has an immense amount of talent “under its roof”. Unfortunately, there’s a necrotic layer of useless and counterproductive middle management coming up with a series of “innovations” that each have made the company worse. For a few examples:
* 20% time is dead. It requires managerial approval. More on that later.
* Until recently, people were hired “between levels” on the engineering ladder (which is generally a disaster at Google; see this: http://piaw.blogspot.com/2010/04/promotion-systems.html) and then about 2/3 of them were “downslotted” to a lower level. It didn’t affect their pay, but it blocked future raises, was a career kiss-of-death, and generally shat all over morale. What’s amazing to me is that no one ever said, before this bit of syphilitic idiocy could reach implementation, “This is a terrible idea and you need to stop abusing cough syrup on the job.” Fucking California culture, man. In New York, terrible ideas cause buildings to fall down kill people and so we refuse to tolerate them. Unfortunately, Google’s executives seemed to lack the insight to recognise an obviously horrible idea as horrible. (Downslotting was abolished last year, but I’m astonished that such idiocy got in the door in the first place.)
* Engineers (not just managers) literally drop everything for 1-2 weeks each year to write “Perf” (for themselves and peers). The high-stakes performance review process is just that important.
* Google is resistant to any change that might improve engineer productivity beyond the rather plodding rate it has now. C++ and Java are the real house languages; Scala’s not even on the table. Python is listed as a house language so Google can still hire people but it’s rarely used and nearly deprecated in production.
* Managers have free rein to fuck over an employee in Perf if they believe him to be “distracted” or at risk of future distraction by 20% time, even if that employee’s performance is otherwise strong. This doesn’t make Google any worse or any different from more traditionally managed companies. It does deprive them of the right to market 20% time as a perk without being called out as liars.
* Last summer, it was announced that every employee had to have a 3-word “mission statement” that managers could change, and a 63-word quarterly summaries of their work. This was the infamous “7/20” all-hands in which the deprecation of 20%-time was announced.
* HR ignores severe ethical lapses by influential managers, including a person who was outright proven to be using low performance scores and PIPs (Performance Improvement Plans, which stop transfers) to block transfers.
To make it clear, Google still has some really great people and could turn itself around if it just fired most of the middle layers. The company still has an incredible number of immensely talented engineers of whom I think quite highly, but the company is so horribly managed that I see nothing but a cold, miserable twilight in its future.
We’ve reached out to Google for comment on the matter, but haven’t heard back yet.
Are you a current or former Google engineer that knows what’s going on in the Plex? We want to know how things are going under Larry Page! Shoot us a message at [email protected] — we’ll keep it confidential.