Dilbert Digs at Google Engineers

Dilbert’s cynical take on office politics can be cruel, for sure, and Google has certainly taken its blows in the strip over the years. But this time, its creator Scott Adams has pointed his pen at Google engineers and their reputation for arrogance.

DilbertIn a comic strip published on Dec. 27, Dilbert makes fun of the supposed hubris in the Googleplex. The infamous pointy-haired boss comments on hiring a Google engineer who’s so smart he’s “evolved into a life-form that exists as pure energy.” Says the life-form: “Bow before my greatness, you pitiful humans!”

Real life Google engineers, however, aren’t amused by the depiction. Richard Hay, for one, took to his blog to decry the stereotype, saying that “the more senior engineers become, the less arrogant they tend to be.” We’ll let you decode Hay’s qualifier comment.

While a number of commenters sided with Hay, others posted retorts about the elitist attitude of Silicon Valley engineers in general, and one snarky commenter took a direct zing at Google:

If you think you can simply “flip that bit” and not be arrogant because you say so, then you are indeed guilty as charged. There is a culture problem at Google. Many of the employees tend to think everyone wants to be like them, or that the world would be a much better place if everyone would just do things “the Google way.”

Not surprisingly, working as a top engineer with one of the tech industry’s titans has been known to stoke the ego. A former Google manager once told Business Insider that one of the many lessons he learned at the company was, “Don’t be afraid to be an asshole about hiring only really smart people who have achieved something extraordinary in their careers.”

6 Responses to “Dilbert Digs at Google Engineers”

  1. Richard Hay, for one, took to his blog to decry the stereotype, saying that “the more senior engineers become, the less arrogant they tend to be.”

    But aren’t the seniors at Google only there for 2 years or less? You start to lose the arrogance after 5 or after you’ve been humbled a few times.

  2. maguro_01

    Engineers are encouraged by management to have such attitudes in the Valley, though most do not. The reason is to distract from the reality of how short engineering careers are now. I see that many younger people are spending good money and paying huge rents, etc, not realizing that their likely peak earning years will be earlier in their careers and that they should be saving. It’s secondary how good they are.

    Corporations, famously Facebook, have been lobbying heavily in Washington to add many hundreds of thousands of visa workers to the immigration bills in Congress while the voters and journalists are distracted by “amnesty”. The corporations seem to have little interest in the staple a Green Card to a Masters degree program. That’s because such workers can be independent and come and go like anyone else in the job market. Instead they want the indentured H1-B workers over whom they have real authority for an increasing number of years. Don’t look at the salaries of the visa workers – look at the hours worked. Americans have to compete in productivity and costs with the world. No question. But no one here can compete with indenture.

    It has become a doubtful decision for American citizens or already Permanent Residents to be involved in tech at all and many of the best have bailed. Many get MS’s in Marketing or Business because they caught on soon enough. Large corporations are global and are lobbying their global interests in Washington including the interests of their new host governments around the world. We need to be more realistic about our Founding Flaw – the Pay-To-Play political system.

  3. Steven Shepard

    Young engineers everywhere need to take note of the careers of old engineers. Sooner or later you boys are going to be assigned a job you flat can’t do or don’t have the skills for because your skills and training have gone obsolete. It happens. And ego is not going to save you.

  4. Well, you can’t stereotype this, in the same way that you can’t say that all Germans are Nazi, all blond women are silly, all Japanese are hardworking and all Italians are lazy. There might be really smart engineers which are humble and there are some idiots that have big egos, just like the opposite it’s happening sometimes.
    So why do we have to emphasize in this country that if you have a high IQ, or really good grades from a top school, then you must be a nerd/geek – in a bad way?
    And if you achieve all that, and manage to earn a high salary at a top company, then definitely you cannot be proud of that, because, then you are “snarky, arrogant” and such.
    Let’s just celebrate and recognize true value and stop cheering the 9th place at a lousy contest where every kid gets a ribbon and a trophy, even at the 78th or nth place.

  5. As a web development vet of 20 years, I ride in between arrogance and humility, depending on the topic. I see some of the new frameworks like Bootstrap as just a lazy way of writing a liquid layout when I’ve been writing “table-less” layout, aka responsive design, since 1999.

    I don’t need a bloated library to write code I can create in a fraction of the file size and I say so. I’ve been in interviews where I have corrected the tests I’m given by the interviewers or suggested a better way to do something, or explained why I wouldn’t do something in a particular way (i.e. making modules generic and reusable from the beginning). That could be taken as arrogance or seen as someone who has a strong skillset.

    Sometimes I see the new frameworks and libraries as something a newbie would use because they don’t know how to write things themselves. Yet at the same time I am humbled and overwhelmed by the amount of technology there is to learn and keep up with and all of the many talented people I have worked with at all well known companies.

    • The current state of technology is a double-edged sword. Just because you CAN write something doesn’t mean you should. And just because something is already available in a library doesn’t mean you should use it (which is where newbies fail because they assume that the library will give them everything they need, then they have no flexibility when the project inevitably expands.)

      To look at an analogy, should car manufacturers built every single piece that goes into their car, or should they take some pre-fabricated pieces and only build the parts that they want to be different. The trap is that you assume that all the prefab parts give you everything you need, and then you end up creating a car like every other one on the market.