Google Worship Gone Too Far
Last week, a GitHub repo called google-interview-university popped up on the radar when it hit Reddit and Hacker News. Go ahead and check it out.
The tl;dr is that an early-forties self-taught developer named John with an Econ degree and about fifteen years of varied startup experience has compiled a lengthy and thorough study guide of sorts that he is using to try to get a job at Google. It contains hundreds of links that run the gamut — tips from Google recruiters, books to read, articles on data structures, questions to ask in the interview, and even a link to a PDF file that says “future Googler” with the colorful Google logo intended for printing as some sort of inspiration (you know…because you should print a sign) — all courtesy of a man who uses the domain googleyasheck.com.
According to his LinkedIn, John has been studying full-time since April of this year to reach his goal of becoming a Google engineer.
Insert sound of brakes screeching.
A guy that has been programming since the TRS-80 days and doing stuff with the web since 2000 and runs his own startup is taking off seven months to try to get a job at Google?
I’m not sure exactly what is wrong with this picture, but something feels wrong.
It could be that someone is investing an awful lot of time into a goal that, when they reach it, might be entirely unfulfilling. This isn’t meant as a knock on Google – but clearly, like every other company in existence, Google isn’t going to be a great fit for everybody.
Maybe it’s that an experienced person already in the industry who is probably qualified for a substantial number of programming jobs and even less hands-on technical roles (Product Manager jumps out at me) at hundreds of other companies still may need (or felt the need) to spend over one thousand hours studying just to get past a few hours of interviews with Google.
And what if it doesn’t work out? I’m absolutely rooting for John no matter what (I can’t imagine his enthusiasm and newfound fame won’t help), and I guess if he has a bad day on the phone screen and fails he could still take his knowledge to some other elite companies that could hire him.
Reaction from the web has ranged from laments on the effect of Google’s “CS trivia” interviewing style on the industry to cringeworthy Google fanboyism to admiration for a guy who is working hard to achieve a goal. All have some level of validity.
I see Google worship on a fairly regular basis on Reddit, and I’ve previously written about this fixation many new college grads have on the “Big 4” (or Big 5) companies. It’s rare to hear of senior level candidates having the same enthusiasm, and rarer to see someone taking months off of work to try and qualify for a new job.
As much as I admire someone for setting a goal and working towards it, I’m torn.
I’ve been trying to find, or drum up, the enthusiasm to build my skills to either work on an open source project I love or start my own technology project. It’s difficult to do with kids and their full schedules.
I can’t criticize this guy – if this is something he cares to do, then it beats binge watching Netflix or drinking himself into oblivion or any of a thousand other cute but useless or outright harmful ways to spend time. But it’s not a path I would pursue.
If I were to criticize the guy it would be the narrow target. As another example, if someone spent 12 hours a day practicing basketball at the gym because they wanted to play basketball professionally, I think we’d admire that person for their dedication. If we came to find out that he was obsessed with only playing for the Lakers, we might encourage him to keep his options open. It’s not the dedication that feels odd, to me anyway.
I agree that his target is a bit narrow, but if this goal inspires him to learn it is not necessarily bad. There certainly is merit to setting a goal and striving for it. Ultimately I hope he finds a job that fits him and he finds fulfilling. Even if he falls short on the where he should be better off in the end.