Tags: Schmidt | Rosenberg | Google | Mayer

Google Celebrates Itself at Valley Museum

By    |   Thursday, 30 Oct 2014 07:51 AM

Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt, company adviser Jonathan Rosenberg and a third author who modestly remained in the audience, appeared recently at the Museum of Computer History in Mountain View, Calif., to discuss their new book, How Google Works, with Marissa Mayer, who is the current CEO of Yahoo, the 20th employee of Google and the originator of many of the ideas discussed in the book.

Mayer was obviously hoarse, but she proceeded gamely with her role as both moderator and discussant. Mayer is under relentless fire for what industry commentators lampoon as the poor performance by Yahoo, and some say she has only a year to show progress in re-establishing the relevance of Yahoo after its main holding, Alibaba, recently went public. Viewers are likely to conclude that Mayer will be fine regardless of the fate of Yahoo.

Readers who hope to learn how to get more out of Google as a search engine are probably going to be disappointed. This writer has gotten plenty of garbage results from Google, and one would wish they would use some of their great engineers to fix the search engine. The fact that it so often produces excellent results in a flash makes the clunkers harder to accept.

What readers can look forward to is insight as to how Google created its vaunted culture, which has built the company into an engineering and marketing powerhouse and has ambitions to produce transformative technology such as a driverless car. For example, Schmidt, who served as CEO of Google from 2001 to 2011, told of an experiment in which a neural network spent 11,000 hours "watching" YouTube, and came up with a wealth of information about human faces and cats.

It would be no surprise that the biggest factor in Google's success is the people it has hired and the way it goes about hiring. Schmidt hailed the company's ability to generate new ideas, which has opened a gap between this company and others with what he called "very turgid management."

In hiring great people, many of whom have either created important products there or have founded companies throughout the Valley, Google looks for "passionate generalists," people who want to be "overworked in a good way," because they care so much. Schmidt suggested that people who want to work 9 to 5 with a half hour for lunch should work for the government, not that that's a bad thing, but they wouldn't fit at Google.

Committees rate prospects on a scale of 1 to 4, where 4 is the highest, looking at people who have tech backgrounds but are not programmers who will be groomed to be associate product managers, "smart creatives" who can build demos and prototypes of "phenomenal" products. Schmidt stressed that interviewing is a critical skill for top management and that they must remain involved in order to maintain the company's culture.

A highlight of the event was when Mayer asked the authors for examples of how they learned to "scale the culture" of Google. Rosenberg said that the founders of the company wrote down the founding principles of the company. He contrasted this with the tendency of most companies to do the opposite.

Rosenberg lampooned the practice of companies that, once they have had some success, outsource the writing of their mission statements to people from human resources and public relations firms who don't work for the company and don't know what it does. One instinctively suspects he is talking about banks, and Rosenberg gleefully quoted from the mission statements like "to build unrivaled partnerships with our customers through the dedication, hard work and perseverance of our wonderful employees to generate shareholder value."

Schmidt guessed that the quoted statement was from Enron, but Rosenberg corrected him that Enron's was "respect, integrity, communication and excellence." The statement Rosenberg quoted was from Lehman Brothers.

(Archived video can be found here.)

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Robert-Feinberg
Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt, company adviser Jonathan Rosenberg and a third author who modestly remained in the audience, appeared recently at the Museum of Computer History in Mountain View, Calif., to discuss their new book, How Google Works.
Schmidt, Rosenberg, Google, Mayer
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2014-51-30
Thursday, 30 Oct 2014 07:51 AM
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