I’m Feeling Lucky: The Confessions of Google Employee Number 59
After listening to a few audiobooks the last being “The Steve Jobs Way: iLeadership for a New Generation” I bought this book from my Audible monthly Gold subscription about 2 months back. The audio version is in two parts (8 hours each) and the best part it was read by the author “Douglas Edwards” himself.
Douglas Edwards joined Google as its 50-something employee on November 29, 1999, just about a year after its founding and a full 5 years till March 4, 2005, when its stunning IPO was announced. Before Google, he was working for San Jose Mercury News, a 150-year-old newspaper managing their online product “Merc” (The Newspaper of Silicon Valley). Douglas was the first director of Google managing its early days of marketing and brand management, much of what we saw in the initial days of Google marketing was written by him. He has penned the text and documentation of many of the early products of the mountain view firm. One of the first products for which he wrote the welcome text was for Google Toolbar for which he wrote the below “…NOT THE USUAL YADA YADA” text, he seems to be so thrilled by this line that he repeats it often in the book.
Douglas recalls the early crazy days of working in Google, late nights, midnight emails to getting to the office the next day early morning. His encounters with Chef Charlie, interactions with Larry & Sergey, Product managers and others. He recalls tales of how everyone in Google helped to add server capacity in their data centre just before big customers like Yahoo! or AOL signed up. How Will Whitted, a Hardware Engineer at Google designed Machines so cheaply that they don’t need to care if they fail – this is something that all new age computing firms including FaceBook, and Amazon seem to take advantage of today. The author goes into explaining what he saw happening on how Google won many of its early deals with Yahoo!, later with ISP as the first customer for Adwords & then the biggest of all AOL
In the later chapters as Google evolves & grows big, teams were formally divided Douglas recalls many occasions where he constantly had to struggle with Marissa Mayer who was managing Product Development and Douglas was managing Branding & Marketing. What Douglas leaves out, probably we readers can guess the reason for Larry to be siding with Marissa because he was dating her then. Douglas seems to have had a better relationship with other early product managers including Salar Kamangar (9th employee and presently, in 2011, the CEO of YouTube).
Douglas talks of many Holiday parties at Google, how extravagant they were and the facilities in Googleplex. He talks of the founders’ obsession with trying to solve everything with Engineering & Algorithms, not having empathy or respect for the conventional ways of working with people & companies, and sometimes this bordering on arrogance. He recalls how the founders disliked spending money on vendors, they wanted a vendor of a CRM system they were evaluating to give it free for the privilege of having Google as their customer. In the end how they went with a not-so-popular CRM solution to manage the thousands of emails pouring into Google from users and all the problems they had till they finally wrote an email & CRM system on their own. He recalls what they did immediately after 9/11, pouring into Weblogs trying to dig for any clue that may be useful for security agencies.
Douglas talks about how Google went searching for the next billion-dollar idea after the search’s success – how it accidentally got GMail! and Google News. He talked about how he got into preparing the company’s IPO documentation, and how he parked his car miles away from the Investment banking firm handling the deal.
An interesting book to read if you are interested to know the real Google story.