Interviewing With Google 2013-03-14
A while back I was invited to interview with Google at their Kirkland, Washington facility. I probably signed an NDA or something, but I'm not going to talk about anything technical anyway. I'm mostly just going to talk about my observations of the process.
Google is weird.
I've worked in office environments pretty much my entire adult life. After a while they all tend to feel the same, sitting in cubicles, eye-rolling at endless office politics, with anything unique or interesting is slowly and relentlessly hammered out of existence.
Google is different, but I'm not sure if it's more an experiment against reality than something to try to emulate.
When I entered the main building, the first thing I noticed is an indoor rock climbing wall, complete with Google-themed hand-holds. My weird-o-meter was immediately pegged.
During one part of the tour we stopped over a suspended walkway thing and looked down at the floor. The floor tiles below were the same blue, red, yellow, and green that make up the Google logo. My handler suggested their might be a pattern to the tile layout. (I suspect not, I doubt you could get a contractor to lay out tiles in a seemingly-random pattern without them messing up enough to make it impossible to decipher).
Most of the decor in the facility followed the Google color scheme. It was all sort of eerie, like it's all really just a theme park with a secretive labyrinth below it all keeping things moving. I also don't know why they have to hate on orange and purple; those are some pretty good colors.
During the lunch-breaky part of the tour, We came across two Guitar Hero / Rock Band rooms, but the real winner was the completely-illegal fully loaded mame arcade cabinet. My handler and I tried to play a fighting game, but the controls were misconfigured(Google is so sloppy sometimes D:).
Hovering over their (free!) lunch room was a large print of this. Kind of cute, but let's get back to the issue of how crazy they are. Food in their cafeteria is free, they actually had a pretty wide selection of things too, unlike my previous experiences with free food, where it's pretty much just whatever the boss's secretary was craving that week that happened to fit in the budget. Though their idea of 'organic' fruit pretty much just means over-ripe and bruised.
They've also stashed numerous refridgerators full of energy drinks throughout the complex,
The whole free-food theme-park with vidja games and exercise is clearly created to keep people together and working as long as possible. It probably works pretty well at that too, though those are usually the first things to go whenever a company needs to cut expenses.
I'm not sure if it's just the local culture(probably not, I've been to that area more than once), or if (more likely) they pay for style assistance services or something, but everyone there was quite stylish and/or pretty good looking, following the nerdy-chic apple store template.
My usual experience with System Engineer types is that they dress in whatever shirt they got for free from that one vendor two training classes ago that happens to be (marginally) clean, put on pants that are too short for their legs, and their only pair of black shoes(regardless of condition). There's nothing wrong with this approach at all; It's reasonably comfortable and doesn't require much time investment. In fact, style in the computer field usually works the exact opposite as it does in other fields, the guy wearing shorts, a shaggy beard, and flip-flops is usually the smartest and most respected guy in the room (otherwise he wouldn't be able to pull that kind of stuff).
Either way, I'm not sure how Google managed to either convert hundreds (or thousands?!) of unstylish nerds into people who get haircuts more than once every six weeks, or find hundreds (or thousands!?) of them to hire, to exclusion of everyone else.
Oh, They actually asked me questions.
The interview part of the day was pretty exhausting. I think it was about 6 hours long, and they had groups of 1-2 people come in and ask me questions, one of them would write a transcript of what went on (getting system engineers to do paperwork is more impressive than getting them to get haircuts).
The questions were not all that difficult. The first set of questions were about a situation very similar to something we went over in one of my phone interviews; The rest was just trying to figure out my basic understanding of things and some reasonably basic technical questions.
The odd thing comes later, where after the first couple of sessions you start hearing the same questions again. The first couple times it showed up I mentioned that someone asked me that before, but they wanted me to keep going. After a while, you can tell what they're trying to do. They don't really care what you know, they just want to see if you can figure stuff out; Which is fine, but you don't need to be disingenuous or appear sloppy because of it.
Needless to say, I didn't get it.
As typically happens for me and fly-out interviews, I received the call when I was in the airport waiting for my flight. To me, that always seems like the worst time to get that sort of news, you have several boring hours ahead of you where you have to think what went wrong. You feel you've wasted time, and you always blame yourself.
One part of it has stuck with me more than anything though, is that before I flew out for the interview my mom said she was proud of me. It was the last time I ever heard it from her. Bleh.
With love, especially for orange and purple,