Tags: , , | Posted by Admin on 11/27/2008 3:09 PM | Comments (0)
Many people have criticized Google’s (GOOG) management for losing market share in China to local firm Baidu (BIDU) after initially taking a commanding share in the browser market. In surveys my firm conducted with Chinese youth in Shanghai between the ages of 18 and 24, over 80% said that they used Baidu as their primary search engine with Google a far second at just under 20%. Google’s poor faring over the last year has caused a lot of analysts to lump them with eBay (EBAY) and other internet failures in China, with many arguing that foreign internet companies can never do well here. Could Google collapse in China much as eBay did, even after huge initial leads over local Chinese players? Will Google’s stock price be affected like eBay’s because it has been unable to capitalize on China’s booming internet culture, in which nearly 140 million Chinese connect to the net? What will happen with Rupert Murdoch’s Myspace (NWS) foray into China? Most American critics have argued that Google has stalled in China because they censored their Chinese language searches. In Davos, Google Co-Founder Sergey Brin stated "On a business level, that decision to censor... was a net negative." However, in our surveys and interviews, censorship was not one of the top 10 reasons that respondents said contributed to a preference for Baidu over Google. In fact, most Chinese did not even realize that there was a censorship difference between Google’s English and Chinese versions. It seems that Google’s censorship decision has been more of a hot topic for foreign critics than by Chinese end users themselves. I am going to buck the trend of most analysts and argue that Google has a huge opportunity in China to retake market share from Baidu if it can get the right management team in place, delegate authority to them, and localize services. I have also argued previously that Baidu is spending too much time distracted with the international markets than shoring up its domestic positions. If Google does not delegate enough to a local management team and develop China-specific services, and if Baidu continues to focus on the wrong revenue generating opportunities, then Google will fail as eBay did in China. Google’s Micromanagement and Oddball Hiring Practices Google’s problems in China result more from their bizarre hiring practices for a large MNC than in their censorship. In interviews we recently conducted with senior Google managers in China, we found that they believe that Google’s slow hiring practices (where Google co-Founder Page personally has to write off on every job offer) hindered Google China in bringing enough talent on board early on. Without the team on the ground, Google floundered while Baidu was able to keep up with fast-changing shifts in the marketplace. But the team is starting to get settled – and it is a very bright and talented group based on what I have found in discussions. My first suggestion for Google – it is absurd a company Google’s size to have every job offer be personally approved by such senior management in the US. Google’s senior management needs to learn how to delegate authority more. As Google expands in China, it will have to continue to bring the right talent on board. It will not be able to do so unless they change their hiring practices that are way too slow. I know very talented people who either decided not to try to join Google after initial interviews or refused to even go into the interview process because of what they felt was a drawn out and absurd process. Being able to recruit and retain top talent anywhere but especially in China is one of the most important, if not the most important, items an MNC needs to focus on in China. Access Speeds One of the reason’s respondents to our surveys said they switched from Google to Baidu was because there was a time around Baidu’s IPO when Google suddenly became slow or difficult to connect to, while Baidu never had those problems. This happened to me too and was quite frustrating. But in the aftermath of the Taiwan earthquake, where Google ran the whole time, we have seen that Google is now one of the more stable American portals. For my personal email, I have stopped using Yahoo (YHOO) and Hotmail (MSFT) and switched to Gmail, not because it is a more powerful system (which it is) but simply because the access speeds are much faster. Half the time I still cannot get onto Hotmail and Yahoo goes in and out. I am not sure how these portals structure their servers and the such, but it seems that Google has figured out the hardware structure necessary to be able to compete from a speed level with Chinese portals like a Sina (SINA) or Sohu (SOHU). Stickiness Factors The main thing we learned through our surveys is that the service and product offerings are paramount to Chinese internet users. 20% of survey respondents said that they used Baidu because of the MP3 search function and other stickiness factors – such as virtual currency – that keep people coming to the portal. While Google has some awesome services for the English speaking market, their Chinese services pale in comparison to Baidu’s. This is something that Google needs to remedy and which Yahoo did by teaming up with Alibaba where the management team under Jack Ma is close to the consumers. Foreign internet companies need to understand that China’s nearly 140 million internet users who actively engage in e-commerce are in itself a total market. Internet companies need to develop services, products and processes that target Chinese netizens directly rather than just bring what worked in the US to China. The market is too big here to consider China an auxiliary market as smaller countries are. New systems need to be put in place to compete with the top Chinese internet firms. Although they have no ADRs, for instance, I believe QQ is hands down one of the best run Chinese firms. Conclusion Many critics have said that Google has failed in China. I agree with this but not for the reasons that most critics highlight – censorship. While that is a sexy topic amongst many Americans, Google has failed for much more prosaic reasons. They should learn from eBay’s failure or Yahoo’s experience where too little management control was ceded to the team on the ground. If Google can change some of its outdated practices, it will do very well in China and expect its stock to continue to rise. If it does not and if Baidu can focus better, then Baidu just might give Google a run for its money.
Tags: | Posted by Admin on 11/23/2008 4:18 AM | Comments (0)
Google recently hitched a ride up to space with the GeoEye-1, the new imagery satellite built by the company GeoEye. Today, the company sent us a picture (above) that the new satellite snapped of the Google’s Googleplex headquarters in Mountain View, Calif. While you may look at the Google Maps view of the Googleplex and think this image isn’t much better, I’m told that it’s because what you see on Google Maps is a combination ariel imagery with satellite imagery. This image is all satellite — as in hundred of miles up in the air — as in, in space. From that perspective, this looks really good. The picture is a 50 cm image, which is the maximum resolution Google is allowed to use, because a certain large entity called the U.S. government is also using the GeoEye-1 for national security purproses. Original article
Tags: , , , , , , , | Posted by Admin on 8/14/2007 8:35 PM | Comments (2)
This a follow-up to my previous post about my interview process with Google. Once a post gets as long as that one did, I’m sure to forget to say some things. Rather than updating that post, I thought I had enough new to say to warrant a new post. First is the picture I got of their development process. There are plenty of other places on the Internet about their development process, so I won’t go into detail about what they told me–it pretty much matches up with the available information. It really sounds like they try to match the amount of process required to the specific project at hand. Projects with a huge public impact have lots of process (Google’s front page, indexing, etc.), while those that are newer and much lower impact (stuff in the Labs section, and even graduates of the Labs) have a much more flexible, agile process, designed to get improvements out the door very quickly. I like that–no mandatory bureaucracy where it doesn’t make sense. Aside from process, however, it seems that they are very intent on giving developers an environment designed to help them succeed. From what I understood, the company actively tries to remove stupid barriers to productivity (needless paperwork, poor IT, bad workstations) and give you whatever you need to do your job how you think best. Obviously, there are rules and standards, but it just sounded more flexible. It really sounded like an ideal development environment: Obstacles removed, needs granted. Now, how much of that is the official “show” they put on for all interviews, who knows, but Google is obviously doing something right. Bottom-line is that Google is a company of engineers for engineers. They’re the ones in charge of what the company does. That is a very nice place to be if you love coding. Also, I should mention that the Google Boston office is MUCH smaller than their Mountain View headquarters. The way things are done, while it will still be “Googly”, will most likely have a different feel and pace than at headquarters. I had read many reports on the web about how people worked late hours, on weekends, and basically sacrificed their lives for the company. I did NOT get that impression in Boston. They were definitely smart and very hard working, but it sounded more like the company was flexible and if you got your work done, who cares? (That’s the way things ought to be done for sufficiently self-motivated employees). I did ask about inordinate over-time (mistake on my part?) and work-life balance and I came away with a satisfactory impression. Whether this means Boston is special, or the accounts I read on the Internet were not representative, I don’t know. Probably a lot of the latter, for sure. I also wanted to address my final link in my last post. I know it can be a little disappointing to read that kind of post and realize it’s not talking about you, because you’re interviewing for jobs. I wouldn’t take it too literally. Maybe my link text is a little black and white. I think the principle is definitely valid, though. The better you are, the more freedom you have to choose where you work and what you work on and the less chance your going to fall into a company’s hiring process. It’s really more about statistics from a company’s point of view of finding the best, not necessarily for individuals. Hopefully, that’s all I have to say on the subject, but if you have questions, just leave them in the comments and I’ll try to answer them! Original story
Tags: , , , , , , , | Posted by Admin on 8/14/2007 9:06 AM | Comments (18)
A few months ago I received an e-mail from a recruiter at Google asking for an opportunity to talk to me about available development positions. Needless to say, I was pretty excited. I’m fairly happy in my current job, but–it’s GOOGLE. You don’t say no to an interview opportunity at Google. I’m writing this account in order to contribute to the meager resources available on the Internet about the Google interview experience. I signed an NDA, so I’m not going to say what the specific questions were, but I think I can give a pretty good idea of my experience. I apologize right now for the length. I traded a few e-mails with a recruiter in Mountain View. I had a phone conversation with him, wherein he asked me general questions about my skills, desired work locations (giving me a choice of Santa Monica, Mountain View, and Boston). I have no desire to live in California, so I chose Boston. I was then passed to another recruiter, who setup a phone interview with an engineer in Mountain View. There was a false start, when they couldn’t do the interview at the original time, so we postponed. The phone interview went very quickly. He was very nice and asked about my specific talents, things I enjoy doing, and projects I’d worked on–especially those I listed on my resume. He asked about the ray tracer I wrote in college, since he had an interest in that. He also asked some general questions about the stuff I do for work. Then he got into the technical question. It was an interesting problem, and I asked follow-up questions, talked out loud, wrote things down in front of me (and told him what I was writing and why). I immediately thought of the naive solution–always a good place to start. He was interested in the asymptotic complexity. I knew there were better ways of doing it, so I started thinking of optimizations to the algorithm, trying to come up with ways of caching information, reusing previously-computed values, etc. He gave me some gentle prodding, and I think I understood immediately where he was going. I answered the question fairly well, I though. And that was it–just a single question. I was surprised. The entire thing lasted less than 30 minutes. I was almost disappointed, and thought–”well, that’s that–I won’t hear back.” I really wasn’t expecting any follow-up. The next week, I got an e-mail from my recruiter who said I had impressed and was going to get the opportunity for an in-person interview in Boston! They hooked me up to a travel coordinator, as well as the recruiter in Boston. Very exciting. I had a convenient time to go, so I set that up, took time off from work and went up to Boston, staying in the Cambridge Marriott. Very nice hotel. 40″ flat screen TV in the room ( which I never turned on). All expenses paid for, of course. I did have to pay for hotel and food up front, and save the receipts. (And yes, I promptly received a reimbursement check from them a few weeks after I sent them in.) I arrived on Monday afternoon, figured out Logan International (a very confusing airport, I thought), and got myself to Cambridge, in the heart of MIT, an hour or so later. I checked in, then went walking. I found the building Google is in on the very next block from the hotel. They have a floor in a building that MIT leases to startups, tech incubators, and the like. There are plenty of news articles about the Google Boston office–just…you know, Google for them. I walked past the ultimate geek bookstore– Quantum Books. Discount tech books. COOL. I would definitely have to stop there later. Then I got some cheap, awful Chinese food at the food court right under the hotel. Why? When I could go out on Google’s dime? I think I was just tired and wanted to get back to the hotel soon and start studying. I ate dinner in the room, took pictures of the wonderful view of the Boston skyline. Studying What did I study? I brought two books with me: Robert Sedgewick’s Algorithms in C++, and a C++ reference manual. I went over advanced C++ topics, STL, simple sorting and searching algorithms, properties of graphs, big-O, and anything else that popped into my head. By far the most valuable thing I did was write out algorithms before-hand. I picked something and wrote it out by hand in a notebook. It was hard going at first, but I knew it was the best thing I could do to prepare. I did selection and insertion sort in both array and list form. I did string reversal, bit reversal, bit counting, and binary search. All by hand, without looking in a book at all. As well you might know those simple algorithms, it’s harder than it sounds. I went to bed relatively early–9:30, and woke up the next morning at about 6. I went to breakfast in the hotel restaurant, got a rather large meal, and then headed to my room to study more. I wrote more algorithms and redid some I had done the previous night. Oh, I also wrote down in my notebook (beginning on the plane ride up) questions for Google, as well as answers to questions they could ask me (standard interview fare–projects, favorite project, languages, strengths, passions, getting along with people). My interview was scheduled for 10 am–I checked out at 9:30 and left with my bag (I had everything in a single bag I could carry–it was very heavy) and sat in a little square for a few minutes. At about 9:50, I went in, took the elevator, and was greeted with ... google. The Google Dr. Seuss land! Yes, that was my first thought. I think the door was green, the reception area was very colorful. The receptionist was very nice and asked me to sign in on a computer, which printed a name badge for me. They had some research papers by Google employees on a wall, so I grabbed a couple (their hard drive failure study, and map/reduce). After a few minutes, my Boston recruiter came out and greeted me, offered me a drink from their free fridge, and took me to a small conference room, furnished, it appears, from Ikea. It was simple, clean, and very nice. There was a white board. I would get to know that whiteboard very well. My first interviewer came in and we got started. I talked about my projects for a bit, they answered my questions, and then we got to the problem. Each interviewer asked me to solve a single problem (could be some sub-problems involved), and I had to do it on paper or on the board. I wrote C/C++ code. They take note of what you write and ask you further questions, especially if your first solution isn’t optimal. I tried to take extra care with my code and not let stupid mistakes creep through. I used good variable/function names, made sure my braces matched, and I ran through the algorithm on the board once I had written it. The first interview was one of the toughest. I was more nervous. I think I made more mistakes–I didn’t see things as quickly as I did later. I had three interviews before lunch. They then handed me off to someone else who would not be evaluating me, but would just be an escort for lunch. The Google cafeterias in Mountain View are legendary, but the Boston office is far too small to warrant such lavishness. Instead, they have a catered lunch every day. It was wonderful. They also have all the free drinks and candy you could want, available all the time. I spent much of the time asking my escort questions about Google, what he was working on (couldn’t tell me), the area, the office, the commute. We were also joined by the head of the office, who didn’t realize I was an interviewee, and we had a nice conversation as well. Lunch was an hour, and then I was back in the conference room. I had two more interviews. Then the recruiter came back in at about 3:15 or so and debriefed me–asked me my impressions, how I felt. I reiterated what I had told him on the phone previously, and that morning before we started: that I was trying to take this as easy and nonchalantly as possible, to have fun, and learn, and let it be a good experience. I had a job that I enjoyed, and didn’t NEED this one, but I think I would do well there and enjoy it very much. They came to me, after all. I think by the end of the day, I was really pulling that off well. Once I got over my nervousness in the first interview, I really did have fun and enjoy it. General Notes They didn’t ask me any stupid questions. None of this “what’s your biggest weakness?” garbage. Not even the recruiter asked me anything like that. Nothing silly at all. They also didn’t ask me easy technical questions. They got right into the problems and the code. I had to describe an algorithm for something and write code for it. It was serious, they were all nice–I met people with serious reputations online. I felt like they were respecting me as a fellow programmer–almost. I wasn’t one of them, but they really wanted to see if I could become one of them. I did receive prompts to get through certain problems, but not overly so. I answered every question they asked. Some I answered better than others, but the ones I didn’t get right away, I had alternate solutions, and I understood where they were going as soon as they started talking about it. Why I didn’t get the job Well, companies these days won’t tell you why. I think they fear it opens them up to lawsuits. I think that’s silly. It prevents those of who really do want to learn and improve from knowing what we’re deficient in. Oh well. They told me that they thought I would do well at Google, but that it wasn’t a good fit at the time, and I should apply again in the future. (Of course, I didn’t apply in the first place.) My suspicions, however, are that I lean too much towards Microsoft technologies. I do a lot of work in .Net. That’s where more and more of my experience is. I do consider myself very good in C++, but I’m doing more and more C# work. I’ve always been a Microsoft Windows developer. I also am not really interested in web-centric technologies, and I told them so. I’m more interested in client apps on the desktop, and server apps. Of course, it’s very possible I just didn’t answer the questions to their satisfaction–that I needed more prompting than I should have. Oh well. It could also be that my GPA wasn’t what they wanted. I goofed off my freshman year of undergraduate work. I really hurt my grades. I came back, though, and got straight A’s for my last few years where I took the hard CS classes. I also got straight A’s in my Master’s program while I was working full time. I don’t think this was the issue, but it’s possible. Lessons Having your own web-site is a no-brainer. Do it. Update and maintain it. Do personal projects. You must be passionate, you must love programming. You must be good at it. Not average. You must aspire to excellence and be working towards that. Know what you’re talking about it. Don’t show off–just display your knowledge as it applies to what they asked you. Use an interview with them as a learning opportunity and ensure you have a good experience regardless of the outcome. Don’t take the interview too seriously. Make sure that not everything rides on the outcome. You must be comfortable, confident. You must try for success in every possible way, but yet be completely prepared to fail–and have that be ok. This is a hard balance to achieve, but I think it can really make you have a healthy outlook and have a good time while still showing your best self. If you don’t get an offer, realize that even being selected for an on-site interview by Google puts you above the ranks of the average-good programmers. Google gets 1,500 resumes a day. You’re already in the <> Practice writing code by hand in a notebook. This helped more than I can express. Do stuff that’s hard that you don’t know how to do immediately. Time yourself. Make the problem more challenging. If you can’t stretch yourself, they will and you’ll probably break. They did not ask me to do any of the specific questions I had practiced–but the experience writing out and the THINKING is what helped. Be able to explain your background (90% technical / 10% personal) in a few words. At some point you’ll be asked. Have a lot of questions for people. You’re interviewing them too. Make sure they’re good questions. Asking about salary is not a good question before you’ve been made an offer. I let the interview build my own self-confidence. I have no doubt that I could walk into an interview anywhere else and it would be laughably easy. Don’t ignore obvious, simple solutions. Sometimes a table lookup is better than an O(n) algorithm. Bring a good, FUN book for the plane ride back. On the way, I focused on the interview, but on the way home I wanted to do anything but, so I had my current novel (Dickens’ Bleak House–very good book, by the way). If you do all of those steps, it actually doesn’t really matter if you apply to Google or any other great/famous company–you’ll probably get the job you want for the pay you want anyway. Somebody, sooner or later, will come across you and give you the opportunity. Great programmers will rarely, if ever, need to look for jobs. I hope this long, rambling essay is helpful to some. I make no claim that my experience is typical or that I’m being completely objective. In other words, YMMV. Original story