Manifesto Offers Clues to Google Culture

Susan Hall
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If the Job Fits

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Google's response - or lack of one, apparently - to the engineer's manifesto published this week on Google+ says a lot about that company's culture.


Steve Yegge published the 4,771-word rant to his Google+ profile, though he said it was intended for internal digestion only. Yegge called Google+ a "knee-jerk reaction" and laid waste to the company for failing to build a platform that other developers could build upon, The Los Angeles Times reports. He said the company just doesn't "get" platforms.


Actually, it goes way beyond that, according to GeekWire. He dissed his former employer Amazon for having "no engineering standards whatsoever except what individual teams choose to put in place," and said Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos "makes ordinary control freaks look like stoned hippies."


Yegge later said he took the rant down of his own accord - he blamed the public publication on being a new Google+ user and posting at midnight. (I have questions about that.) Of course, though, there are copies. You can read the whole thing at Minyanville.com. In his followup post, Yegge said he contacted the company's PR department and the folks there "went out of their way to help me understand that we're an opinionated company, and not one of the kinds of companies that censors their employees."


Farther down he says:

I love working at Google, and I especially love the fact that I'm comfortable posting something as inflammatory as my post may have been. The company is super open internally, and as I said several times in my post, they really try hard to do everything right. That includes being open to strongly differing opinions, and that has certainly not been true at every company I've worked at.

Of course, though PR didn't try to muzzle Yegge, there still could be other repercussions for him that we know nothing about. There could be career implications: He could be known as a strong, independent thinker - or a loose cannon, depending on your point of view.


Much has changed at Google since this 2007 piece by my colleague Ann All questioning its unconventional nature. In returning as CEO, though, Larry Page has said he wants to return the company to its startup culture. Yet Google remains the company that young professionals most want to work for, according to a survey by employer-branding company Universum. Many will get that chance. The company announced that it would hire more than 6,000 people this year and added 2,585 in the most recent quarter. At its earnings call Thursday, it announced headcount has grown from 28,768 at the end of June to 31,353 worldwide. That puts hiring for the year at more than 5,000. Business Insider quotes Page, saying:

We're at the edge of what's manageable with headcount growth.

As an aside, in an article at The Wall Street Journal, Mike Michalowicz, author of "The Toilet Paper Entrepreneur," advocates hiring for the personal attributes that best suit your company - even before skills or experience. He says skills can be taught, but you can't change candidates' fundamental nature. Michalowicz writes about entrepreneurship, so his approach might be more tricky at a company as large as Google. But it's an interesting read.

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