5 February 2012

Celebrating 5 years working at Google today

50K email threads and about 20 offices visited. That's a bit more than half of my work career. It seems strange to think that 85% or so of the company was hired after me: I don't feel that old, arg. Taking a moment to reflect about those five years, here are 5 random things that come to my mind:

1. It's a great place to work. I have worked in five companies, and Google is by far the best. Of course the benefits are great but there are also some subtle things which make life easy and make me feel "at home": each office has its own decoration, but at the same time, every place looks familiar (our video hangout rooms for instance) and our internal tech support team is really top notch to help us with our little technical worries. I also have to admit that whenever I go on vacation, I take my Google badge with me to visit the office in the country I'm in (blush). Being able to work (almost) whenever I feel like it is really motivating... maybe too much, because I then tend to work all the time, almost non stop (arg), which brings me to the next point.

2. I've never been as passionate for my job. It corresponds well to my nature of - humbly - trying to help others be successful. I'm not simply talking about sharing the passion for Google technologies but more generally about giving people I interact with the confidence they need to believe in themselves, to take risks, to do something useful, to be unique and passionate in whatever they do, to pay attention - to details and to fellow human beings. I hope I also convey in this way the Google spirit, both internally and externally, but that's not for me to judge and I'm always keen to get feedback on how I can be better.

3. I have learned a lot, whether in terms of project leadership, team management, cross-functional work, crisis response, or product launches. For this, I have to thank my colleagues, the vast majority of whom are inspiring and encourage me to always do better, but also all my various managers (no flattering intended and I was maybe lucky since I don't think it's easy to be a good manager). I wouldn't be able to work in a company if I didn't learn constantly. Many people ask me for tips and coaching when they hear of my work or see me at work: it's actually not that easy to share my "techniques". I am not using a manual and I believe a lot in leading by example, i.e. doing the actual job and trying to do it better than it was ever done before. Paying attention to details is also a key component: that also translates in simple things like formatting spreadsheets. Among my numerous personal projects is one about putting together a list of exciting presentations on all the soft skills we never learn about at school but that I found key in my professional - and personal - life: how to deal with information overload, how to manage your time, how to innovate at all times, how to communicate and negotiate, how to love stats and how to use data, how to stop sucking at paying attention to others, etc. If anyone's interested by one or more of those training courses (I expect the total duration to be five days, with modules which could be taken separately), let me know - that may well be my next venture.

4. Opportunities are there to be seized. I always have had a lot of leeway to try new things, to innovate, to test ideas, even in a scrappy way before refining them - and what's more, with a possibility to impact many, many people at the same time. True that it's often on my personal time (and I think a lot at night!) but it's worth it. Every day, there's something new to discover, to learn, to execute, to improve, to share - and that gets me going. I also appreciate the trust that was given to me by managers to take new responsibilities: granted I get things done and built credibility over time but still, I wouldn't have had the job I have today if managers didn't put their trust in me and if people I interact with externally didn't think I was doing a good job. Gaining the trust by being honest and a hard, passionate worker is key to me. It's not always easy to take risks, to change roles (when you have to prove everything again), to change managers (when the working relationship is great), to move from one country to another (and leave your family and many friends behind), to work for new regions but I feel it made me a more accomplished human being, even if I have lost things on the way and often question myself on the direction I want to take in my life.

5. I love our products. Yes, it sounds very "corporate" and cheesy but it's true: I use them all the time. From search I don't know how many times each day (just now for lyrics and for unblocking water pipes - lol), to my Android phone, to Docs (to which I have completely migrated, even though I was a real Word, Excel, PowerPoint expert), to Google Music which has completely changed the way I listen to music, to Calendar which I couldn't live without (all my pending tasks are there), to Maps (even in far away countries, just using the satellite imagery to guide myself, for instance in beautiful Wadi Rum in Jordan), I could go on and on but I don't want to bore you (this blurb is already too long). They are maybe not the best in every single field (I don't know), but I do know the calibre and good intentions of people who are working on them, so I am very confident they will only get better while respecting the privacy of our users. I also pride myself in knowing a good deal on how to use almost all of our products, so don't hesitate to ask (me) when you are stuck or to send feedback on what we can do better.