[the palaverist]

Sunday, April 20, 2008

[hello from ca]

Just a quick note to say that I am home in Marin County, CA, with my crazy family, enjoying the lush greenery and remembering why I choose to live three thousand miles away. It's Passover, an adventure in eating, and the jet lag didn't help me get through last night's Seder, which lasted until 1 a.m. Tonight I get another chance. Ugh. All we do on these holidays, it seems, is eat, sleep and pray. I'm bored of all three, and there's another day to go.

Still, home is home, warts and all, and it's good to get out of NYC and away from the pressures of work. And mixed in with all the eating, sleeping and praying, there's also been a little walking around in beautiful Lucas Valley, and even a dash up the hill, knee deep in wild grasses, to a knoll I used to climb when I was a kid.

Tonight is another Seder to get through, with even weirder people than last night's. Wish me luck!

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Monday, April 07, 2008


This morning I arrived at work to discover that our offices had been (further) Googlified over the weekend.

Already as soon as the merger went through, we got snack carts and huge videoconferencing monitors, and our kitchen fridges started filling up with sandwiches, sushi and organic milk from grass-fed cows.

Those were nice Google touches, but the now we're into the visual branding phase. A number of our walls have been repainted in chipper primary colors, and our cubes all received Google nameplates (a CD case with a slip of paper inside, but still). And there's now a Tech Stop, one of Google's ubiquitous stations for rapid tech support.

But far weirder is the scattering of Ikea products everywhere. Google seems to have a passion for semi-disposable Swedish furniture, and especially lamps, and has kind of just tossed it wherever. There are Lyktas on the counters, Storms in the hallway, and a couple of Strannes sprouting here and there, not to mention cheery, cheap-looking tables and sofas in some of the common areas. They even took down the baby pictures that had been pasted haphazardly to a wall by the sales section, put them all in primary-colored Ikea frames, and put them back up. And of course there are lava lamps: they stuck two discreetly in our main lounge, only one of which seemed to be working when I came in.

There is something reminiscent of The Prisoner in all this, especially if you imagine this whole style translated onto a sprawling Mountainview campus traversed by golf carts. (Bizarrely enough, we were even given glowing white orbs as a welcome gift.) As in The Village, everything you need is provided for you at the Googleplex: meals, massages, a doctor, entertainment. It's lovely and a bit infantilizing.

Am I complaining? Not really. More like adjusting. Just noticing where it jars.

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Sunday, April 06, 2008

[google dreams]

What could be more interesting than corporate restructuring? How 'bout other people's dreams? Okay, how 'bout other people's dreams about corporate restructuring? Hang on for an incredibly boring ride, 'cause this morning I awoke from a Google stress dream, about moving into the Google offices and adjusting to the Google laptops.

The Google offices were in a gigantic, cavernous version of my parents' living room in California, with the burnt-sienna shag carpeting and the dark-brown wood. On the wall were a (fictional) pair of my father's paintings, two additional pieces from his beach negative series: one of my mother, in a somewhat different pose than in the existing painting, and one of the Beatles. There were also very large Chinese vases arrayed on ledges up by the roof, and I found myself wondering whether I could ever claim them now that the house had been sold to Google, or whether Google got ownership of any items left inside.

The laptops involved multiple oddly shaped screens that you pulled out of the top, and they were floppy, so that to get them to stand up you had to attach various straps and kind of jury-rig the whole shebang.

There was then a debate over whether we should sit on the floor or at tables. "Why does everyone think we have to be like DreamWorks?" someone asked (apparently in my dreams the DreamWorks people sit on the floor). "Well," I suggested, "it's also all the Indian decor in here." Then I worried that I had somehow insulted our Indian engineers.

In the end it was decided that we would sit at the tables, which somehow made our laptops normal again. Then I woke up.

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Wednesday, April 02, 2008


"There will be reductions in headcount." So declared Eric Schmidt back on March 11, and so it has been.

Let me start by saying that I survived. I will be staying on as a Googler.

There. Now I can tell the story.

The last three weeks have been difficult. There were rumors and more rumors, but nobody really knew anything, except for our senior managers, who were making themselves scarce. Then we were told that this week, instead of our usual monthly planning sessions, we'd have a week to work on "system stability" — a particularly absurd euphemism for sitting on our hands and waiting for a moment of extreme instability.

Last Friday, some old-timers threw an End of the World as We Know It party in a back room. Then on Tuesday — April Fool's Day — was the DoubleClick Schwag Party, at which old-timers (myself included) put our DoubleClick promotional gear on display for a sort of last corporate hurrah. (I contributed my yo-yo and slinky, and also my Camp Day T-shirts from 1999 and 2000. There was no Camp Day in 2001 because they were already laying people off that summer.)

I'd been trying to keep working, but it hasn't been easy, in part because so many others have been kind of shut down. My job involves asking lots of people for information, and many of them were just not willing to bother when they weren't sure that they, or I, would be around at the end of the week. Even so, I started my Wednesday morning doing actual work.

That quickly came to a halt as knots of people began to gather. The layoffs had begun. Word trickled to us that finance had been hit. Sales too. We began to see people walking by with the dreaded white envelopes that contained the Google severance package. (Only later did we learn that some of these were contracts, not straight-up layoffs.) The mood went from tense to grim to borderline hysterical. Emails came in from longtime veterans sending out general farewells. People were in tears — some who had been let go, and some who were still waiting to hear. I waited it out at my desk, wondering when I would finally get the call.

At last my old boss, now a VP, came by to inform me that everyone who was getting news had gotten news — that I was, in other words, a survivor. Others were learning the same thing, and a kind of shell-shocked giddiness began to steal over those of us who remained, mixed with survivor's guilt. In engineering, which is my part of the company, relatively few jobs were cut. No one on the documentation team (at least in New York) lost their jobs, though two of us were offered only contracts. Still, that made it all the more humiliating for those who had to go.

Google has for the most part been generous with both its layoff package and its contract package (for employees who will be phased out). I won't go into details there, but they've been non-evil, though not exactly milk-and-cookies fuzzy-wuzzy (Google is a business).

On Thursday we received our official offer letters, and information about orientation at Google (mine is on Tuesday). I am satisfied that I've received a very, very good offer.

I guess I'm a Googler now. For the moment, though, I have that post-finals feeling of exhaustion and emotional collapse. I have a cold, and I just want to go home and sleep.


It occurs to me that this post, more than most, is likely to be read by people who don't know me. There are a lot of folks out there trying to dig up whatever gossip they can about the whole Google-DoubleClick merger so they can post it on their terribly insidery industry blogs. Already I'm reading plenty of ill-informed mutterings about how DoubleClickers will be miserable at Google, how Googlers are already miserable at Google, how Google is due for a culture shift to something grim and hideous, etc.

My own experience of Googlers is that they are curious about DoubleClick, a company that theirs bought for $3.1 billion because we built something they were unable to replicate. They are also generally happy with life at Google. They are not, as a rule, snooty dickheads.

Secondly, it has somehow become blogosphere lore that Clickers had to reapply for our jobs and go through interviews. This is only half true. Yes, we submitted resumes of a sort, listing past experience and also what we'd done at DoubleClick in the past year. But I don't know of anyone who went through an actual interview. There was no ritual humiliation.

I for one am looking forward to life as a Googler. It'll be interesting. Is it a trip to heaven? Probably not. Is it a reasonable job? Probably. So yeah, if you've got fantasies that being a Googler is a cross between working for Willy Wonka and working for Hugh Hefner, then you're likely to be disappointed that it's more like working for a large tech company. If, however, you're the sort of person who could be content at a place like DoubleClick, then you can probably get along just fine at Google.

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[what does it all mean?]
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[our pakistan moment?]
[how to fail like an olympian]
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