March 15th is my first anniversary. When I’d been at Sun for a year I wrote how I was Angry at the Cat because I loved my work but I had to feed him before I could get online in the morning. Well, I’m OK with the cat now, but not because I’m less fully engaged. I’m not sure how this whole Google thing is going to work out but I’m glad I took the plunge.
I’m not mad at that cat because he died. He’s been replaced by another male cat who’s not very smart and also very demanding at dawn till fed. But that’s OK, because while I still wake up before the rest of the family, I get caught up right there in bed, usually via the Galaxy Tab which is also my alarm clock.
What’s Good · Android, more than anything. A year spent in intimate contact with its coalface hasn’t shaken my feeling that most things about the system are mostly right. As I’ve already said in this space, I’ve never met a more accomplished engineering group; it’s a privilege to be associated with them.
When I joined, it was obvious that the top three problems were Android Market, Android Market, and Android Market. Now that Market’s on the Web and about to get in-app payments, I think it’s lost its pain-points lead; still lots of room for improvement though.
I probably shouldn’t share my perceptions about what our biggest problems are right now, because almost all of them are under active attack and I don’t want to stumble into preannouncing anything.
Android has improved the quality of my own life too, and not just by allowing me to dodge the pre-breakfast yowls. I travel a lot and work with people all over the world, and having the Internet and a bunch of handy apps stuffed in my pocket has reduced the friction immensely.
It’s not just Android; Being a Google employee is, in A.D. 2011, a good thing. I’ve never been anywhere with such an intense focus on problems that are really important. Certain MBA-school graduates would probably sneer at the belief, widely held here, that if you solve important problems in ways that benefit large numbers of people, this will lead to good business outcomes, so don’t sweat the profit/loss in advance.
On top of which, if I stand for anything it’s for the Internet; and almost any investment that increases the usefulness of the Net, and the time people spend there, is likely to have positive ROI for Google.
Also there are fascinating people and challenging attitudes and, all cynicism aside, a huge amount of concern for doing the right thing. There are also [Gasp!] politics and personalities, not all of them pleasant, but that goes with being a member of Homo sapiens.
Also, the pay is good.
What’s a Problem · Being a remote worker, mostly. It’s just not a part of Google culture, and the Android project is particularly centralized. If you’re not spending a lot of time in that building with the dessert sculptures in front, it’s extra-difficult to be in the loops that matter; they’re not unwelcoming, they’re just super-busy.
My accomplishments here are very modest and so far don’t include any noticeable technology or strategy contributions. I have some ideas for things that ought to be done and so far they’ve failed to get any traction. So I guess I need to do less talking in the coming year and just build some shit.
I say jokingly that one of my assignments is to find a good company here in Vancouver for us to buy so that I can have a genuine Google office to go to. If I did, my employer might be reluctant to pull the trigger because <snicker> a huge number of Googlers, mostly but not all Canadian, would instantly start angling for a transfer.
Next? · I’ve been headhunted a few times, but seriously, who else out there offers this wide a view over the whole landscape of my profession? So the temptation hasn’t been very high.
Now that I sort of understand how the pieces of Android fit together, I need to invest some serious effort in understanding the Google back-end infrastructure, because to do anything that matters here, you have to work with it.
I’ve started giving a bit of help to the people working on “Cloud”-flavored stuff here, and who knows where that will lead.
So, thanks to Dan and Mike and the Hiring Committee and the others who signed off on bringing me in, to my manager for outstanding support and good advice, to the legal and PR people who’ve been absolutely great, to the Android team for building a wonderful thing, to Apple for keeping us challenged and hungry, to the advertising wizards who pay for it all, and to the search apostles who make everything possible.