Thursday, July 26, 2007

Muggling Along in Googleland (and how Punit Soni got to drink the Kool-Aid)

All the views in this blog are mine, only mine, and not of Google's or anyone affiliated to Google..yada yada yada...Need to put this so that I can be a good corporate citizen.

The Kool-Aid
So here I am. I came to work in the morning, gave my car to the valet to park, and then applied for reimbursement for my newly connected Internet (which might be useless since the Google WiFi works very well in my new apt in downtown Mountain View). Then I got down to work and saw this guy called Larry Page walk right by my cube. Reminding myself that is no big deal, I got back to work. Then realizing that my legs were hurting because of the early morning move into my apt, and so I went to a massage chair and got myself some machine love.

So what I am doing now? I am drinking the "Googley" Kool Aid. And no point being cynical about these guys. They are after all, pouring more money back into their employees than most other companies do. Why should we grudge them their riches then?
I came here partly because I wanted to experience the buzz around this company myself and partly because I believe there is a learning here about how to build and run a new age company. And so this experience is an eye-opener.

Me First
The company creed is employees first. This is going to be tested these first few weeks where I float around trying to find something that interests me and that they have an opening for. I want something that makes me happy and useful. But the same process that facilitates that at Google also hinders it.

The Process
In many ways, this is a different from going to a regular company. In a regular company, they hire you, make you sit through orientations that talk about the product suite, culture etc. At Google, you come in, and automagically they assign you to a vertical within the company (there are a few large verticals). And they give you a bit of time to snoop around and you have find something pretty quickly. Now that kind of pressure ensures you learn super fast about what the product suite looks like, what is going on in which part of the company, and what is good for them and you.
If someone thought of this subtleity and then put in this process, then kudos to them. They found the magic potion to ensuring new employees figure out the company in no time. When you butt is on the line, you don't walk, you scamper.

The Glitch
The only glitch is that this ambiguity also carries with it the frustration of being assigned to a division that you may have had no interest in. And then in your first two weeks at work, you run around like a headless chicken trying to convince others that this is not what you wanted to do, and then providing them an alternative with your 1 week's worth of diligence. Which leads to confusion, nervousness and all that.

All in all, I am stressed but having fun. And hoping that things get real fun real soon. I know I will get a couple of very interesting things to do, and so things are good on my end.
However, I do not know if this is the best way to recruit PMs. This way increases the chances that the guy is frustrated. Most PMs I have met have figured their way into what they really want to do in a few months or in a year of being here, but that initial time is pretty chaotic for most. Incorporating some feedback from the guy I am hiring before throwing him into the pool should be rule no. 1 if you want to make your employees happy. Or atleast tell them which division they might end up in before making them sign the dotted line.

I guess I have not drunk enough Kool Aid yet.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007


I am sitting squat on a red couch. Wore a pant to work yesterday and stood out like Hannibal in a Pixar flick. "Googley", "Noogler", "GBus"...random phrases are swirling around in my head.
That this place is a different kind of company would be an understatement of the century. The first thing I noticed was the demographics. I was standing in the central courtyard next to Charlie's cafe, and everywhere, there were young people. At first glance, it looks like 85% of Googlers are in the age group of 20-35. The average age looks like it is younger than at Wharton. This place is young. Very young.
The next thing one notices is the food. There is too much of it. Its very good, very healthy and very fun. I, for one, never thought that I too would be carried away by the valley's obsession with the food at Google. But here I am. There are starbucksesque cafes with smoothies, snacks, and what not sprinkled around. And then there are the micro kitchens, juice bars and happy hours.
Right now, I have not had the time to notice much beyond this. The next few weeks are going to be intensive and so I will have to get used to putting in such lean, mean blog entries. Will also need to check with the legal about this personal blog. Aaah...corporate life. But I will ensure my blog flows freely.
All sorts of people make good product managers. I am not sure which sort I am going to be. Right now, I am just interested in shutting up and listening in. All the cliches about this place are turning out to be true. Let's see how long the myths hold up.

Friday, July 06, 2007

The next step

I have spent the last two years on a rollercoaster ride and for most part, you have all been with me. You have seen my thought process go from sniffing at Venture Capital, to being committed to VC, to getting opportunities in VC in the Bay Area, to veering off towards startups and finally getting to this point.

I am going to start working as a Product Manager at Google. I have debated this opportunity along with the others that I had for a long time. I spent time talking to VCs, entrepreneurs, people here, people in India, parents, girlfriend among others, and finally decided this is the most exciting next step for me at this point.

Why Product Management at Google
A veteran VC friend of mine once said to me, "Being a Product Manager at Google is the closest you can get to being the CEO of a small startup without being the CEO of the small startup."
And one day, I intend to be the CEO of a small startup.

Why Google?
Because that is the only operating role that I applied to. The only job in a large, fast growing company that could entice me from Venture Capital and other startups.
And because I do have to learn what they have to teach. For all the experience, I am still a startup myself. I have not taken a product from concept to launch till date, and this is my shot at learning it from the best.
Because the network of amazing engineers and business types that I will make, will be as useful to me as my Wharton experience has been.
And finally, because I believe in the company and the sector I will be working in. For most part, it is the one place (other than my own startup) that will make me feel excited about getting to work (at this point of my life).

What happened to Venture Capital?
I got a few offers in the space. They were all good solid firms. But I had my concerns as I didn't want a position that would:

- Lock me into a niche sector or a nice role
- Hinder my chances at being in the best place in whatever field I was (Venture Capital in this case)
- Not provide me with the relevant mentorship to grow. And by mentorship, I mean exposure to growth opportunities, and not handholding

A lot of my offers failed on one criteria or the other. Even though they were fantastic jobs and fantastic stepping-stones for a good career. At the end of the day, I had to make a call on the choices I had, and I did.

What happens to this blog?
Nothing. It is still my intention to be a VC one day. Not just in the near future. In fact, I do not fancy looking for a VC job. I think the right one will probably find me if I am good enough. Do expect the content to be a bit more operational in the near future. I am still around cutting edge products, people, entrepreneurs and of course, VCs. So I will keep penning down my thoughts as usual.

Some things, like the tagline of this blog for instance, will have to change.

The Bottom-line
The last four months have been very enlightening for me. I wanted something and wanted it badly. I got it. Then when I was faced with a real decision, I realised that I was happy to leaving them on the table. Maybe I will make a little less money in the short term, but as the say in the MasterCard ad, learning how to build and lauch a product, priceless! So I changed course midway and here I am.

The Lesson: It is important not to lock into something so hard that you forget what you really want. What I really want is to be immensely successful and immensely happy. And Venture Capital is one way to it.

For those of you who are thinking of MBA, hopefully my thought process helps you clear things about the MBA experience (and what to get out of it) a bit. For the aspiring VCs, hopefully it helps understand the process to getting a position and how to go about deciding on the opportunities. For the others, you can continue to enjoy a ringside view of my loony life.

The rollercoaster ride goes on.

The next post will be a wrap-up on my Wharton experience. Something a few of you have asked me to blog on.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Back to Bay Area

So I am finally back in sunny CA (The picture is from behind my temporary apartment). It has been a long wait and I have been raring to be here for ages. When I first left to do my MBA, I was looking forward to a good stint in the east coast. Sometimes, I even wondered if I would ever come back. However, a month or two into my stay, I was clear that my heart was out here. Barring India, there could not be a more exciting place for me. And even India pales in comparision when I consider the weather, the trails, and all that jazz.
I am currently based in Redwood Shores about a minute's walk from the bay itself. There was a Stingray in the water behind my apartment, and I walked five minutes to get to a bird sanctuary. Yet, about 5 mins drive away is the world headquarters of Oracle, and 15 mins away lies Palo Alto, Stanford, and the crazy entrepreneurs hacking away on University avenue.
The contrast between India and Bay Area could not be more stark. However, one thing is common. There is a buzz in the air in both places. People are building companies everywhere and there is a feeling that anything is possible. It is almost like 1999. Well almost. The ideas are a bit more mature this time around, and the people more restrained.
Anyways, I am back and spending a lot of time meeting entrepreneurs, VCs, valley people of all stripes and shades. If you are in town, and want to meet up, drop me a line. My plan is to spend about a month and a half, listening and talking to folks out here. Then, hopefully I will be ready to lock in on something and start working again. All I know right now is, life is so much fun!