Google employees could probably use a good laugh right about now.
In recent weeks, President Donald Trump and his political allies have accused the company of trying to undermine political discourse. Earlier this year, thousands of Google employees protested the company’s work with the military and, later, the possibility that managers may launch a censored search engine in China.
“Goomics,” a new book that satirizes the company’s corporate culture, may provide the right amount of comic relief.
Emmanuel “Manu” Cornet, a software engineer at Google, is the book’s author and illustrator. Cornet, who’s also an artist and musician, is from France and started working at Google in 2007.
Judging from “Goomics,” Cornet is also a keen observer of the company’s culture. Though he often takes a kid-glove approach when sending up his coworkers and bosses, his illustrations are still revealing. Through humour, he casts a light on what life is like working at one of the world’s most powerful, innovative, and likely least understood tech companies.
Cornet, however, is at his funniest when he turns his attention to Google’s competitors, such as Apple, Microsoft, and Oracle.
We talked to Cornet about his life at Google and his cartooning. Here’s what he had to say.
Meet Manu Cornet, the cartoonist behind “Goomics.”
In an interview with Business Insider, Cornet said that while he couldn’t go into much detail, there was a lengthy review of “Goomics” before he was given the managerial OK from Google to publish it.
He said that not everyone at Google was thrilled with the book. According to Cornet, some at the company worried about how it would affect its reputation.
“I hope that it’s clear from the tone and the language that I really like the company,” he said, adding: “I think that it’s important for Google to retain a sense of humour. I think it’s good for our image in the long run.”
Cornet said he didn’t really know what led him to write the book, but he acknowledged that it might have something to do with his background. Comics such as “Asterix” are huge in France.
The illustration Cornet is perhaps best known for is this cartoon poking fun at the organizational structures of some of tech’s biggest companies.
“I almost didn’t release this one,” Cornet said. “This is probably the most popular of my illustrations, but I didn’t really think it was that funny. So this shows you how clueless I am at predicting what drawings people will like.”
The drawing appeared in The New York Times, and Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella cited it on the first page of his book, “Hit Refresh,” writing that it was what persuaded him to change Microsoft’s culture.
In the 148-page book, Cornet shows how employees make good use of the famous perks Google offers, such as free food.
Cornet said that sometimes those perks are abused.
He said some Googlers didn’t observe common-sense rules such as: “Snacks and take-out boxes for lunch and dinner are not supposed to be taken home to feed the whole family.”
That Google allowed Cornet to release the book could be a sign that regardless of the many changes at the company, managers and workers can still laugh at themselves.
Each chapter of Cornet’s book is titled a letter of the alphabet, in honour of Google’s parent company, Alphabet. For example, “F” is for “fifteen,” which he says is the average number of pounds new Googlers, or “Nooglers,” gain in their first few months.
“S” is for “spoiled,” which Cornet argues is what Googlers are. He wrote that employees could experience three stages regarding all their Google benefits: delight, tolerance, and entitlement.
“It’s been but a few weeks since the Googler joined, and already it’s amazing how much the world owes him,” Cornet joked in his book. “This is a small minority of employees, but they tend to be rather vocal.”
“I would say that most people at Google are happy with what they have,” Cornet said. “Some do complain, and I tried to take a balanced view. I tried to show how appalling it is to complain when we get so much.”
In one cartoon, Cornet drew Google’s former CEO Eric Schmidt announcing a series of raises, bonuses, and gifts. And – you guessed it – someone still wants more.
In the interview, Cornet was frank about where he falls on the scale. Google is the only workplace he’s ever known. Though he knows that very few workers around the world enjoy the same luxuries, he still has nothing from his own experience to compare it to.
Still, he said, one can’t take it for granted.
Some parts of Google’s culture are surreal, he said.
Much has been made of the Google Bus, also known as the GBus.
The word from Googlers in the past has been that the bus ride allows them time to do their work.
In the above photo, Cornet suggests that not all Google employees are working during the commute – or, for that matter, supporting Google+, the company’s less-than-ubiquitous social network.
“J” is for “jargon,” and Google has plenty of that.
It’s best for Nooglers not to let on when they don’t understand terms like “dog-fooding,” which refers to when Google’s own employees test one of the company’s products, Cornet wrote.
He also tried to decipher some of the countless acronyms bandied about at Google. A PM is a product manager, not to be confused with a TLM, a technical lead manager.
“Employees who join a new team often undergo specific training explaining the architecture of the software they are going to work on,” Cornet wrote. “If that software happens to be a complex beast like Search or Gmail, they are in for a treat.”
Apparently, none of Google’s iconic business practices — not even in hiring — was spared.
Cornet pointed out that the bar for getting hired as an employee is very high, and he noted the low percentage of candidates who actually make the cut.
The downside – or at least a downside – is that it can create an elitist mentality among some Google employees, Cornet said.
Referring to Google’s acquisition of Motorola in 2011, Cornet wrote, “Some Googlers get all cocky about their academic prowess and question whether all those new employees would have met Google’s hiring bar.”
The perception of Google is that it hates patents, which critics say can get in the way of free thinking and the free flow of information.
Cornet mentioned this and noted that when Google sold Motorola to Lenovo in 2014, it held on to Motorola patents.
Much of the book is very inside baseball; anyone not working in tech or who can’t geek out on tech enough will struggle to understand. But if you in either of these categories, then “Goomics” is worth the $US19.
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