Google employee Ben Tilly joined the company about a month ago. On his personal blog, he’s written a post called “Things I’ve learned at Google so far.”He describes the great perks, the company’s atmosphere of “creative chaos,” and Google‘s “amazing people.”
In fact, Ben says all the talent makes him feel surprisingly average:
Google has amazing people. It is often said that engineers find working at Google a humbling experience. This is absolutely true. It took me less than a day to realise that the guy sitting next to me is clearly much smarter than I am, and he’s nowhere near the top of the range of talent at Google. In fact, as best as I can tell, I’m pretty much average, though I’m trying hard to hold out a ray of hope that I’m slightly better than average.
Let me put that in context. The closest thing that I have to an estimate for my IQ is scoring 2340 on the GRE exam in 1991. Based on conversions that I’ve seen, that puts me at about the top 0.01% in IQ. Now I was really “on” that day, happen to believe that there are problems with the measurement of intelligence by an IQ test (a subject which I may devote a future blog post to), but without false modesty I wouldn’t be surprised to find that I’m as high as being in the top 0.1% in general intelligence (however that could be measured). Which in most organisations means that I get thought of as being very smart.
However software development is a profession that selects for intelligence. By and large only good software developers bother applying to Google. And Google rejects the vast majority of their applicants. Granted the filtering process is far from perfect, but by the time you get through that many filters, someone like me is just average.