Google engineer Bharat Mediratta discussed some Google engineering customs in the New York Times yesterday. Bharat goes beyond 20% time to talk about some different aspects of being an engineer at Google:
- Grouplets bring together like-minded engineers who care about things like documentation, improving our build system, or testing. It’s an informal process lets engineers contribute on the topics that they care about the most.
- Sometimes we have “Fixit days” where every Google engineer is encouraged to tackle a specific topic. From the article:
Or my favorite: the Customer Happiness Fixit, when we fix all those little things that bug our users and make them sad — for example, when the hotkeys aren’t just right on mobile phones. Many of these events come with special T-shirts and gifts to reward the engineers who take a little time out to work on them.
That particular fixit day was one of my favorites too.
- Bharat also discusses the best way for an engineer to have an impact at Google:
Google works from the bottom up. If you have a great technical idea, you don’t have your V.P. send out a memo telling everybody to use it. Instead, you take it to your fellow engineers and convince them that it’s good. Good ideas spread fast, and this approach keeps us from making technical mistakes. But it also means that the burden falls upon you to spread your idea.
I’d completely agree with that. I’ve noticed that a good way to accomplish something at Google is to convince other engineers and build consensus from there. Google’s culture also rewards those who take the initiative on their ideas.
Bharat also talks about how his testing grouplet hit on the idea of posting one-page stories about testing in the bathrooms. Just like that, “Testing on the Toilet” was born. Now that the tradition has been discussed publicly, I don’t feel bad about linking to this picture that Niall Kennedy snapped while visiting Google a while ago.