Sunday, December 30, 2018

Someday I'll Write A Book... (intro)

“Caviar! Caviar break!”

Deep inside a nondescript building in a flat, sprawling office park in Mountain View, California, a man pushed an ice cream push-cart down a cubicle-lined hallway. “Caviar! Caviar break!” Workers poked their heads up from their cubicles to see what was going on. “Three types of caviar, on artisan bread!” People started congregating around the push-cart decorated with the Google logo. The man opened the top of the push cart, and pulled out jars of caviar. The employees helped themselves to expensive fish eggs.

This was my peak-Google: The point at which the extravagance of working for one of the world’s most successful companies, and the world’s most successful internet company, reached its zenith. I was hired at Google in 2009, well past the point of the company’s initial public offering, and therefore I was late to the party. But the party was still in full swing, despite the CFO insisting the company was still a “scrappy start-up.”

Two years before the caviar cart rolled down the hallway, I was sitting in the lobby of 1950 Charleston Road, a building adjacent to the main Googleplex -- Google’s headquarters complex. I was waiting on two people to come get me, as I was there to interview for a job as in-house counsel. Suddenly through the window I saw two people running towards the lobby doors. They looked panicked. They opened the door and asked if I was Travis. I acknowledged I was, and they said, “Quick, follow us!”. We exited the lobby through the fire escape doors, up a flight of stairs, and into a nearby conference room. They shut the door. I must have looked alarmed at the rush from the lobby. My hosts explained that my then-current employer was on the campus, and headed towards the building. I did not want my employer to know I was interviewing for a job at Google. And there was no way to deny what I was doing, wearing a suit and tie. Years later, I would laugh at job candidates who showed up for interviews wearing a suit and tie -- clearly they, like me, hadn’t done proper research on the culture of the company.

I had a full day of interviews, and at one point my hosts were moving me between conference rooms on different floors. We used the elevator, and when the doors opened, my current employer was on the other side of the door. This did not shock me, as I had a premonition this would occur. My hosts were terrified for me, but I remained calm and said hello to my employer. They instantly knew I was interviewing.

There were products that were overhyped as wonderful, world-changing ideas. They were treated this way internally, and to some degree externally. Google Fiber led to cities chartering airplanes pulling banners reading “Pick Kansas City!” over the campus. Google Plus, the failed attempt at a social network, consumed several years of massive efforts. What was at one point labeled a “Facebook Killer” eventually turned into a joke about “the social network that even Google forgot it owns.”

More random notes:


  • Stalking VIP's like Al Gore, Lady Gaga, the Secretary of Energy, and the Prime Minister of Israel
  • Seeing Al Gore and Lady Gaga in person
  • The first TGIF, seeing Larry and Segey on stage in person
  • Meeting Segey while in line to get cash bonus checks
  • Holding the door open for Larry (wearing jogging shorts on his way to do the earnings release conference call), and the guy who invented the internet
  • Earnings release quarterly in my building
  • Being on the team that approved handing over our fiber optic capacity to Japan in the days following the earthquake/tsunami
  • Seeing self-driving cars drive around town
  • Working with people who are rich enough that they are coming to work for fun
  • Marching in SF's gay pride parade with someone who pilots his own private jet
  • Seeing Larry debut Google Glass to a standing ovation at TGIF
  • Listening to tech talks such as the debrief by the team who fixed healthcare.gov
  • Annual holiday gifts
  • The busses
  • Unlimited, free, super-healthy food (and some not-so-healthy food)
  • Having a concierge make reservations for hard-to-get restaurants
  • Watching TV shows like Silicon Valley mock my workplace
  • The day the CFO and I got on a first-name basis
  • Becoming a millionaire
  • -Having friends from SF resent Google because of tech bubble/housing crisis
  • Turning down recruiters from amazing companies (Twitter, Groupon, Walmart, etc.)
  • Having the flexibility to go to the gym and use the outdoor pool mid-day, or the YouTube pool and gym on weekends
  • Going down the slides at YouTube
  • Overnight at Google
  • Infrastructure (people who move bikes at night), and teaching the cleaning crew English and giving them tablets to use to learn
  • Caviar cart
  • Not carrying a wallet for an entire week, because I don't need any cash.
  • Admin supporting my team had a graduate degree and worked as an admin in the white house for Obama
  • Seeing laundry being done at work / Doing laundry at work
  • "Some day my great-grandnieces will ask me what it was like to work at Google and I will tell them that it was the kind of place where a senior vice-president personally apologized for missing the Pride Parade because he had to test his stratospheric life-support system."
  • "I'd like to remind everyone that this still is work and therefore clothes are required. "
  • One hour before earnings release and the CFO is outside on the front lawn doing acrobatics.
  • Being in a meeting discussing Al Gore as a consultant.
  • No update from the CFO because he's climbing Mount Kilimanjaro. And doing an Iron Man with his daughter.
  • Google $500 certificate paid for $500 anniversary dinner at Alexander's Steakhouse
  • CFO zipping through hallways on an electric skateboard
  • When I had enough money that things didn't "cost" anything anymore.
  • Coworker (Meng) nominated for Nobel Peace Prize
  • Mission of Access: "To improve the lives of as many people as possible."

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