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Development — Software, Personal, or Otherwise

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My Google Interview

And the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day(s)

Beginning the Day Beneath the Bay Bridge
The Google, San Francisco office is nestled in a nook beneath the Bay Bridge.

Another person just asked how the Google interview(s) I had at the beginning of July went. With that I realized that I really haven't shared the bizarre story. I've avoided talking about it elsewhere online since I'm still looking for my next job; you can never tell how things might be interpreted. But since it's just you and me and the NSA here on the interwebs, what's the harm, right?

I was flown to the Google offices in San Francisco for a final, onsite interview for what I thought was a Developer Evangelist position. After three rounds of phone interviews, I was lead to believe that the position was all about building communities and giving Google-centric talks; if coders had success building in the Google cloud then I would be successful. The phone conversations focused on my community management experience, specifically on how to have quantifiable analytics on otherwise fuzzy terms like "programmer satisfaction" and "developer growth".

I started the morning with the first of five interviews. As it proceeded, I became aware of how the questioning seemed to diverge from what I had prepared for. My fears were confirmed when the person opposite, the founder and head of Google's cloud evangelist program, said "I'm not sure why you're here for a program manager position."

I had to agree since I was there for Developer Evangelism, not Program Management. The polite gal who was responsible for showing me around was brought in. Reviewing the email chain did indeed show that I hadn't confused titles. HR people where called. The head of the department, who had just told me that I was all sorts of wrong, waived off the remaining four interviews as being a waste of everyone's time. He explained, and I agreed, that my passion for writing and speaking about code made me a better developer advocate candidate that whatever he was looking for.

Obviously this was disappointing. The Google recruiter that had arranged for me to fly out said I was free to wander while they tried to figure out next steps. I wandered for a bit along San Francisco's famous piers for a bit but wasn't feeling the artisinal cheese shops at the moment. Not having anywhere else to go, I decided to drive out to Candlestick park to see where the 49ers played. They were going to tear it down after the coming football season. It seemed apt with my mood.

Candlestick Park
Candlestick Park has been home to a tremendous amount of NFL history. And it's a dump.

Shortly before I was to fly out I got a call from the recruiter letting me know they had scrambled a developer advocate interview track for the next day. Travel arrangements had been taken care of and had my hotel accommodations extended. Exhausted from the day of nerves but excited about the second chance, I found a Kohls, picked up a clean polo for the extra day, and retired to re-review my interview notes.

Day two onsite at Google
Day two certainly got off to a beautiful start.

The next day I made my way back to the Google offices beside the Bay Bridge. I was eager to discuss technology landscapes, code differentiation, and my ideas for inspiring developers. Instead what transpired was over five hours of whiteboard algorithm diagramming. There were no bathroom stops or breaks for lunch in the highly touted Google cafeteria. By the end fatigue and huger had set in. Late in the afternoon I know I was probably less than coherent. When I commented that my phone interviews for the position hadn't really focused on code, an interviewer replied :

"But we don't write or speak, that's a separate group. We build the libraries others use."
According to previous day's interview a developer advocate had to have a passion for writing and explaining code. The paradox still causes my brain to implode if I dwell on it too long. It's like staring at a Mobious strip trying to divine where it starts and stops. Only your career is at stake.

Google cafeteria
A Google cafeteria. By the time I was done on the second day the chefs had packed up and gone home. But they did offer me a peanut butter and jelly sandwhich after I foolishly asked if they had anything other than hummus in the satellite kitchen.

I flew back to Denver. The internal Google recruiter, the one who arranged for me to fly to San Francisco, called a few days later. He was polite. He said that he was confident that if I had been prepping for a code-centric interview track I would have been fine. And, all things accounted for, I had performed respectably. However, my marks hadn't been high enough for them to extend an offer. When asked about the discrepancy between what I had interviewed for offsite verses on, he was as confused as I was. His only explanation was that perhaps the perception on what the job was had changed from when I had done the phone calls prior to Costa Rica and when I was subsequently onsite a month later. He felt sure there was a place at Google for me but he just needed to figure out what that is.

I haven't heard from him since, nor do I expect to.

That's more than you possibly could have wanted to know about my interview at Google. Despite what happened I still believe being called to work there is like a minor league player being called up to the majors. The size of company and intelligence of people there make moonshots possible (just a brief list includes project Loon, self-driving cars, and wearable computing). It's a place my Mother has heard of, which means they're doing something at scale that is right. I would not discourage others from aspiring to join them.

But it is hard to know what to do with the experience. I can walk away from a clear failure with a set of feedback for improvement. This, despite getting a peak at what their hiring process is like, still feels like a colossal waste of time. Really, it's not even an interesting story - just a weird, confusing, odd set of stress that is now past.