Working at Google, widely considered Silicon Valley’s most prestigious employer, may not be all its cracked up to be. For example, consider a recent Quora thread on the subject:
“The worst part of working at Google, for many people, is that they’re overqualified for their job,” wrote a former employee. “There are students from top 10 colleges who are providing tech support for Google’s ads products, or manually taking down flagged content from YouTube, or writing basic code to A|B test the color of a button on a site.”
Google is well known for the gauntlet of interviews, tests and executive reviews potential employees must face. Are the tough standards really necessary? Are they there to benefit Google or hurt other companies? One commenter offered an answer: The company has “too many great people, doing work that just doesn’t matter, and they’re being paid off not to care in an explicit effort to starve the rest of the valley of extraordinary talent,” the commenter wrote. “Otherwise, it’s the best place to be.”
Another’s take on life at Google:
I used to joke with my colleagues that Larry & Sergey go out on their yachts – tie them together, sit back on the same recliners you’ll find on their jumbo jet, each on his own yacht/set of yachts, smoke cigars, and put up pictures of Googlers with little snippets like ‘was a GM at multi-national telecomm company, got a Harvard MBA and is now answering Orkut tickets.’ And then they would erupt in laughter and clink their cigars & Scotch together in celebration. This, of course, is highly unlikely given neither of them would ever smoke a cigar or drink Scotch. Remainder is plausible.
Easy For You to Say
Whatever the company’s reputation as an employer, a number of comments consider the downsides to working at Google.
We tend to massively underestimate the compounding returns of intelligence. As humans, we need to solve big problems. If you graduate Stanford at 22 and Google recruits you, you’ll work a 9-to-5. It’s probably more like an 11-to-3 in terms of hard work. They’ll pay well. It’s relaxing. But what they are actually doing is paying you to accept a much lower intellectual growth rate. When you recognize that intelligence is compounding, the cost of that missing long-term compounding is enormous. They’re not giving you the best opportunity of your life. Then a scary thing can happen: You might realize one day that you’ve lost your competitive edge. You won’t be the best anymore. You won’t be able to fall in love with new stuff. Things are cushy where you are. You get complacent and stall.
So are Googlers just birds trapped in a gilded cage?
Perhaps. If comments about intellectual stagnation, being trapped in a job with too many perks to leave and even developing “bad karma” are correct, having too many smart people could end up hurting Google more than it helps.