Sunday, June 29, 2008

Noogler's point of view

Google'd In! Yes! That's the news this time! I'm a Noogler, that is what New Googlers (new joinees and interns) are called here at Google. Well, generally interning at Google is not that big a deal, because unlike all other companies, an internship at Google doesn't guarantee full-time position. It, nonetheless, is an exciting experience to work at Google. I'm working in a domain I haven't worked in before. Usually, at this point of my career, I would have gone for the domain I'm good at, to increase my depth. But I chose otherwise, for Google. I am eying this as an immense learning opportunity from my bright co-workers. Learning new things is always fun to me.

I'm sure you want to hear about Googleplex... so here it goes.. Everything (good) you heard about Googleplex is not only true, but exceedingly overwhelming! Everything out here is free: juices, snacks, sodas, gourmet breakfast/ lunch/dinner, sport activities, blah blah. The magnitude at which these things happen here routinely will definitely strike you. And will be a while before you can absorb all of it :) I haven't clicked any photos here (surprised???) but here's my desk:
My desk decorated with balloons and chocolates (eaten up!) to welcome me

I'm yet to hear from someone that [s]he doesn't like to work at Google! Whenever I see a Googler I envy her/him sooooo much... they always seem to be walking with an unknown bewitchment that no one can bereave them of : Pride-n-Joy of working at Google. People with pets, can get them to work into their cubicles, while they happily assault the keyboards, crunch numbers or even cook for Google. People even keep fishtanks. I can go ranting about goodies here, but people have already done a better job all over the web. But, it is not about facilities and perks that makes Google a great place to work at. Any company with enough money can do that. It is something more than that, something intangible that makes this place different. And the time I'm here, I am going to attempt to translate that feeling into words.

Google defies a lot of the conventional logic.
Amongst many, here are top 3 things that interest me about Google the most:
  1. One is their financial model... how does the company survive solely on it's Ad program! I personally think, Google can be credited for discovering the online ad market by itself! How does a company make money, own the largest fraction of PCs in the world, maintain, only God knows, how many data centers with unprecedented amount of cumulative storages and still give most of its services free of cost!
  2. This is something I admired from day one: I have used quiet a few Google services. Their design policy seems to be Keep It Simple, Stupid (KISS), make it robust, and tailor the product for power users (just like my [v]im). Right from GMail to Gtalk to Online docs, etc. you will see this philosophy religiously followed. I still remember the days when people didn't use gtalk because it wasn't cool enough with all the stupid MSN's bells and whistles. It is so exciting to see that each product gains a important feature one at a time without affecting it's reliability. And now, I have difficulty finding a person without GMail/Gtalk id! Now that I'm here for a while, I might have a glimpse into their design world.
  3. Openness of culture here is stunningly amazing. TGIF is a weekly company-wide get-together chaired by Google founders Larry and Sergey. While every company announces it's products and successes, what is unique about TGIF @ Google is the Q&A session. The founders themselves answer a handful questions in the congregation of Googlers, and the rest are replied-to offline. Questions range from finance to product to interns asking founders to join them for soccer match in the field. There is NOT a question that goes unattended! Seriously, this is by far _the_ most effective way to curb rumours and nonsense back talking about the company. They handle even the most point-blank questions with grace. Such an openess can only be afforded at small startups, but Google has defied that logic, again!
Google has spoiled me in one respect. It is now difficult to find a company that can beat the work environment Googleplex (link2) provides! And not to forget the startup-like casual (yet purposeful and professional) environment.

Another interesting thing here is that my manager (Jim) is a very enthusiastic and sporty person. (That, while I reported to Raghu, was true at Nevis as well. How do you think I managed to work there for so long!) Jim shows me routes around on bike, comes down jogging to see my soccer matches, and plays Frisbee on the way to lunch! I have always believed that interaction should go beyond weekly statuses, goal settings, appraisals, meetings, etc. Eventually, what matters the most is the personal, social and professional network you build up on your journey. As Raghu puts it, 'Building The Old Boy Network'. And as I love to put it, people work AT the company FOR their managers! You will be surprised by what you can do with that network. Talk to Raghu and he will quote you many interesting stories (probably I should pursue him to pen it down on his blog).

Last but not the least, it is an honor to work at a place that has amassed feverishly enviable talents from around the globe. To name a very few...
Two of them (Ken and Vint) are Turing Award Winners. I have very little doubt that Google will be to the world what Bell Labs or Xerox PARC was half a century ago!

Aaah... this post has grown way beyond the size I had planned! I should stop now :) But as I said... there is more than material perks @ Google to keep me interested!

See Also:
0. Last Week of Internship at Google
1. Some Wonderful Moments of a Noogler

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Weekend getaway to Yosemite National Park

The Group, From Yosemite National Park

Yosemite National Park, it was this weekend. Thanks to Madhav for planning out everything, and everyone who looked hard for a place to stay. Everything was flawless, until one the members had to back off just 6-7 hrs before we started off!!! This resulted into another one backing off. The head count reduced from 8 to 6, and all the plans seemed to go for a toss. Not to mention the additional $$$s we would have to shell for now unnecessary bookings.

After seemingly endless arguing, cursing, cribbing and yelling... we retired to bed. Thankfully we managed to get some sleep. Oblivious to the fact, we had more sh_t to tackle. We started off, happily, pulled over for a nice brunch at Subway. And the horror struck... One of the 2 cars won't start. Soon we realized that the battery has completely drained. F__k! We were kind of in middle of nowhere. Something is definitely !@#$ing wrong with this trip :( After endless calls to idiots (aka Enterprise Rentals), endless waiting, repeated explanations, hunting for replacement, we finally decided to swap the battery at our expense, after a technician jump-started the car. Damn! 3-4 precious hours of the trip lost. I was almost certain the trip would be a disastrous failure. Thank GOD, I was wrong :)
Beautiful butterfly From Yosemite National Park

The fun of trip was manifold: I was hitting car on American roads for the first time, we had a good Chief Navigator (aka Vikram), near flawless itinerary and despite of sh_t, everyone maintained their cool and were positive of having a good time.

This car sucked, though. From Yosemite National Park

Near endless driving for about 800+ miles a lot of which was on curvy roads across amidst the scenic Sierra Nevada Mountains, seeing all we had intended to... this trip, after all, was more than a success! The best part of the trip was hiking to the mouth of Vernal Falls. The near 1 hour hike and reaching the top was epitome of successful trip!

Mesmerizing Vernal Falls, From Yosemite National Park

Verdict: An amazing place to go, but go while there are waterfalls, which is during mid/late spring.

The whole album...

Photo credits: Atul Talesara (Self)
Equipment: Canon EOS 30D + Tamron 18-200mm

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Californication and Visit to Lake Tahoe

The day I landed in Calif was unexpectedly and uncomfortably hot. For the first 2 days since my arrival, the mercury levels refused to come down. Damn! I cursed the people who kept swearing by Calif's weather claiming it to be THE best. Weather back in my (???) Pittsburgh is far better, barring the freaking winters. But soon the third day heat levels eased down and the temperature through the day is very pleasant and a little chilly by the nights.

You guys must have already seen the photos of surroundings I live in and my experiments with photography. After office, we (as in roomies) occasionally swim, play lawn tennis, TT, and even sit on our lazy a$$es every once a while staring blankly at our TFTs. Some are permanently glued to phone, though. I barely get time to do anything besides regular job... so I'm struggling to find the most efficient way to commute to and from office, get work done fast so that I can pursue other activities. Everything, eventually is about time management.

Last weekend was my FIRST REAL outing after coming to States!
After hogging on Subs by the highway
From Lake Tahoe Set 1
The 7 of us set out to the destination Lake Tahoe. Some 5-6 hrs drive from our place. But only we know better :D None of us have actually driven on US roads, so Madhav was the bold a$$ to take the initiative to hit the rented SUV on Uncle Sam's roads. But braver are we, the people who sat in that SUV ;-) The best part of the trip, interestingly, was our GPS... since it was our first time driving around downtown, freeways and highways, GPS confused us a hell lot than it aided us :D We managed to miss every single turn the GPS instructed us to take, despite 7 bright CMU-ECE raccoons applying every conceivable logic on it :D Resulting in the most irritating 'recalculating route' message... It wasn't until the time to drive back home that we almost managed to drive to GPS' instructions :) But all in all, Madhav did drive very well, despite of being tired and fatigued.

We started very late from home, and hence ended up spending all the precious time traveling. Lake Tahoe, is really a very nice (and romantic) place. We barely get to see such vast expanse of
clear and clean water back home in India. I have never seen so many shades of blue and green in one single place :) We couldn't do much of any activities except for a stroll on a trekking trail.
Serene Lake Tahoe
From Lake Tahoe Set 1
I managed to shoot a little over 500 photos, not all of which are present in the album. There are over 200 or so in Ravi's camera! Will share once I get my hands on them.
Nature's perfection: She's hovering in mid-air against strong winds for a fish to come in her sight! On spotting one, she would dive with lightening speed, catching it almost every time she dived! It was fun watching this amazing little feat.
From Lake Tahoe Set 1

Verdict: A very nice place to explore, but don't go to Lake Tahoe in winters, it is all covered in snow. And start early so you get more time to explore the place. Do try your hand at water sports.

See the whole album Lake Tahoe set 1

Photo credits: Atul Talesara (Self)
Equipment: Canon EOS 30D + Tamron 18-200mm (wish I had a CPL filter)