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What It's Like to Work at Google: An Interview with Eric Giguere

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InformIT sits down with Eric Giguere to discuss his job at Google and why he loves working there.

InformIT: How did you get your job at Google?

Eric Giguere: This is a long story that starts in 2005. Like many candidates, I was first approached by a recruiter. I'm not sure where he got my information; it could have been from my books or my articles,since I was writing a lot of tech stuff back then. Or it could have been from a recommendation. Anyway, he phoned me at home, asked if I was interested and when I said yes the interview process started. First there was a phone screen and then I flew to Mountain View for some on-site interviews. I received an offer, but after looking at the price of housing in the area, my wife and I decided it would be best to stay put in Waterloo, Ontario.

A few months later, Google asked if I'd reconsider. They had just bought (in early 2006) a small startup and were opening an engineering office in Waterloo. I considered the new offer, but there was a lot of travel required; since the office was so small, employees would be spending several weeks per quarter at one of the bigger offices. Again, this didn't interest me and so I said no.

Google is nothing if not persistent. They approached me again in 2009 and by then the Waterloo office had grown significantly and the travel requirements were much less. I said sure, but there was a catch: they needed to interview me again to make sure my brain hadn't atrophied since the last set of interviews.

Here's the embarrassing part. I didn't pass those interviews! I guess I was borderline and it was enough for them to not proceed with the offer, not at the salary and level I wanted in any case. It's embarrassing because I'm the co-author of a book called Programming Interviews Exposed and so really I should be able to nail these things...

So what happened? I did no prep at all and walked in cold to the interviews, which is totally what you should not do.

I'm not exactly sure what happened next, but someone internally must have asked them to try me again. A recruiter approached me in early 2011 and asked if I wanted another chance. I said sure and asked for an interview date several weeks in the future. I then did a proper preparation, which included re-reading my own book (d'oh!) and various computer science textbooks. I took it very seriously, which is the advice I give to everyone, and made sure I passed.

This time it worked!

A rare look into Eric's office

InformIT: So, how long have you worked there?

Eric Giguere: I started at Google in April of 2011. I'm based in the Waterloo engineering office, one of two engineering offices in Canada; the other office is in Montreal. (There is also a sales and marketing office in Toronto.)

InformIT: What makes Google different from other companies?

Eric Giguere: There are so many things, I'm not sure where to start.

  • Open culture: there are fewer silos of information than you would see in any company of the same size.
  • Smart co-workers: since the hiring bar is incredibly high.
  • Challenging work: working at Google scale is hard.
  • Impact: you can write code that affects millions of users.
  • Promotions: peers review your work and promote you based on impact, not based on just what your manager (and the management chain above him or her) thinks.
  • Fabulous perks: free meals just scratches the surface.

InformIT: What’s your favorite thing about working there?

Eric Giguere: The internally open culture and the fascinating discussions that result.

InformIT: What have you worked on at Google that you are most proud of?

Eric Giguere: I can't talk about it yet, sorry! (That's one problem with working at Google... you can't talk about the cool stuff you're working on until it's been released!)

InformIT: Why should people want to work at Google?

Eric Giguere: Challenging work that can impact millions of people. Working with people smarter than yourself. Having fun and being paid for it!

InformIT: What advice would you have for a new employee just starting there?

Eric Giguere: Expect to be overwhelmed for the first few months since there's so much to learn. You'll get a starter project to ease into things, make sure you work hard and focus on the project and learn all you can about the systems it touches.

InformIT: Tell us an "It could only happen at Google" story.

Eric Giguere: Instead of cutting back on snacks, the food team has been subtly encouraging us to eat better by hiding unhealthy snacks and putting healthy food and drinks at eye level and within easy reach.

InformIT: Thank you Eric for being a part of this series! If you want to find out more about Eric, you can check out his blog at www.piexposed.com, where he discusses software engineering topics and his new book, Programming Interviews Exposed.

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