Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Google's Talent Empire


Google has produced a wide variety of incredibly successful products, from its search engine to Android to Google Docs to its money-making advertising platform. It also built up a reputation for having the smartest and most talented engineers in Silicon Valley at the reins of its products. This focus on hiring the best possible employees is one of the reasons why it has managed to stay on top of its competitors and develop so many successful products.
Google built this strategy by analyzing what it needed to build high-quality products in a variety of different fields and specialties. It decided to create a culture built around engineers, giving a completely different vibe than experienced at other large technology firms. Rather than having a sprawling hierarchy of business analysts and non-technical product managers, Google chose to self-select the best engineers from within and raise them up the ranks over time. This meant that a huge proportion of management at Google is technically knowledgeable and knows the details of how products are built and what makes them successful, aiding the development process greatly (one example shown in the Wall Street Journal here: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704503104576250691188026066.html).
In order to create an ecosystem of talented engineers, Google has a famously rigorous screening process to get into the company. This consists of multiple phone screens and on-site interviews that test candidates' problem solving skills, technical acumen, and creativity. When this goes as planned, they are able to weed out subpar employees and guarantee a high level of talent throughout their company. Working there is even seen as a badge of honor for Silicon Valley engineers, taking the title of ex-Googler with them wherever they work afterwards.
This company culture is a big part of Google's strategy for staying ahead of its competitors. In “Capitalizing on Capabilities”, the authors mention how important it is to identify what you want your company to accomplish and to build a team around accomplishing these goals. Google does that by looking at what it wants to do (build high-quality internet products in a variety of domains), seeing what it needs to do that (needs smart, devoted software engineers), and how to get that (strict hiring process to filter out the best talent).
In addition, this strategy gives them the ability to be organizationally agile as mentioned in “Competing Through Organizational Agility”. Smart engineers will be able to work on different products as needed without requiring a substantial amount of retraining or adaptation. Because they are promoting managers primarily from their own ranks, the management is already well-acquainted with how everything works at the company, letting them smoothly and efficiently get to work. As a result of these strategies, Google has built itself as the shining example of an engineering-driven company that produces high-quality products at a quick pace.

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