Gossip: A Google Cat Fight On Hacker News

Apr 10, 2013 • 9:14 am | comments (11) by twitter Google+ | Filed Under Other Google Topics

cat fightWatching people fighting online is part of covering search topics via discussion forums. The only thing is, I rarely see Googlers fighting amongst Googlers or even ex-Googlers.

A HackerNews thread links to a post by a newish Google manager who is loving his job at Google after working as a professor at Harvard for 8 years. It is a nice post to read but then a 6-month old Googler who is no longer at Google came in to ruin it.

He wrote:

Oh boy. Don't even get me started on broken processes. When managers can use secret calibration scores to blacklist reports and keep them captive for 5+ years on undesirable projects, what else should it be called exactly?

Matt Welsh was hired above the Real Googler Line, so he has a rosy-eyed view. He's also comparing it against the nightmare of post-PhD academic politics. He also seems, from his account, like a decent guy. He hasn't seen yet what Google turns into for young engineers who don't have external credibility yet, and who end up with managers who aren't decent people... It'd be interesting to read his opinion after he sees that.

After that, Googlers who are currently at Google go after Michael O. Church (the one who posted that about) for saying bad things about Google. Here is the first Google's response:

I often wonder how someone who was only at Google for 5 months, and never went through the semiyearly review or transfer process could spout so much inaccurate BS about it.

If you are performing well and get poor calibration scores (which aren't secret), then that's something to bring up with HR and your manager's manager. The sad truth is that your poor calibration scores were an accurate reflection of your poor performance (I'll spare you the embarrassment of posting evidence of this). Your inability to transfer teams was a combination of that and the fact that it's almost impossible to transfer teams before you've spent at least 1.5 years on that team.

What is interesting through this process is not only the fighting but learning about how Googlers rate other Googlers.

You get a range for your calibration score. Whether your manager tells you the specific number is up to him, and you have no way of knowing whether he's telling the truth. Most Googlers will get Meets Expectations (3.0-3.4) which ranges from the 2nd to 70th percentile. For most, it means "solidly OK, but not yet promotable". 3.5-3.9 is Exceeds (70th-95th percentile) and means "on track for promotion" and 4.0+ is Strongly Exceeds (95+) which means "promotable". Almost never are numbers below 3.0 or above 4.5 used, because sub-3.0 requires PIP/termination proceedings (which are a lot of work for the manager) and 4.5+ makes an employee eligible very large cash bonuses (and, occasionally, double-promotes).

If your manager gives you 3.0's but positive verbal feedback, you'll think you're getting 3.3-3.4 (which is perfectly respectable) but you won't be able to transfer. Except for the first quarter, 3.0 means, "you suck but I'm too busy to deal with the PIP/termination process"; 2.x requires the manager to do a bunch of extra work so 3.0 is understood as the "he's awful but I don't feel like doing anything about it" score.

Of course, this goes on and on.

Heck, even Google's Matt Cutts gets involved and says, "Michael, you're complaining about rude attacks the day after you wrote Choke on a fucking taint, Google. Choke. On. A. Taint."

Seems like Michael was a special person at Google for the short time he was there.

Forum discussion at HackerNews.

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Andy Kinsey

04/10/2013 02:04 pm

seems like Michael was truly loved by google ;)


04/10/2013 03:29 pm

Same office routine like in any big IT company.


04/10/2013 03:33 pm

But it's important to highlight. It confirms one more time that Google is not a wonder factory, but an IT company, with its ups and downs.

Aaron Friedman

04/10/2013 05:22 pm

Woah, @rustybrick, does thi mean that at Google, all review information is public??

Barry Schwartz

04/10/2013 05:24 pm

I don't know but seems to imply that...

Google is rigged

04/10/2013 11:11 pm

Scrooglers attack like a wild pack of dogs anyone telling the truth about the crooked Google. MChurch was treated like sh*t at Google, we all know it.


04/11/2013 01:44 am

What Matt says has no bearing on the fight. Matt is just taking his usual Google is perfect stance, when everyone knows Google is far from perfect.


04/11/2013 01:51 am

Barry you missed the crux of the fight (G+) and this is the crux of every fight at Google at the moment because even the Googlers know it is shit! ( I know I swore did it on purpose). The Fuhrer's.. err sorry Larry Page's G+ or die stance at the moment is going to possibly rip Google apart. There are some senior people at Google that are acting strangely and they all seem to do so when ever they are forced to push G+. Here is the quote you missed. "My boss promised a 3.4, then gave me something lower (probably 3.0-3.1). When I confronted him, he said it was because Google+ out in California wanted me to suffer for criticizing a product (that later failed, as I predicted)"


04/11/2013 11:28 am

This is typical of large corporations that turn into coder farms. You're just livestock and are treated that way unless you're something special.The fact that they want move visas for more Indians and Asians proves the fact. There are so many unemployed coders out there but they don't want the ones with a brain, they want them to sit, code and not ask any questions. I would do that same thing in their position. Who wants to waste HR resources putting up with complaints?


05/09/2013 09:37 pm

To be fair on the matter, there is no evidence (other than my ex-manager's claims) that California had anything to do with what I experienced. I'm pretty sure that the G+ team is clean on that one. I think I just had a bad manager who lied to me; seems more likely.

Boo Radley

07/02/2014 12:47 pm

I was at Amazon.com and placed on a PIP. I was longer at Amazon that Michael was at Google. It was horrible. A large part of my job ended up for my last 6 months there was fixing bugs caused by other groups and workers. That was I suppose one irony of it all. If I was so bad to be fired, then surely it would have been better to fire all the people that wrecked my weekends when I had to fix problems they caused or caused my to be woken up at mightnight and 6am to fix problems they caused. PIPs are really horrible and I guess serve many other purposes than simply getting rid of bad employees. Our group was particularly badly hit. Either group was ranked very badly and needed to suffer a 50% reduction or simply a new director wanted to hire some people he knew - in fact he hired two people he knew as software engineers and one of them exempted himself technical questions and we had to make space for them. I don't know. Worse, I was told I might be able to keep my job if I did a new guy's pager duty. I did so and was told I had another year at the company. Then a few weeks later I was fired. It is particularly sleazy to hiring a new guy, fire an existing guy and tell the latter he might be able to keep his job if he does the new guy's pager duty. At that time I had done more than my fair share of pager duty for the whole year in the first few months of the year. I did say I couldn't swap places because I had nothing to swap with. But didn't deter him and he pressed my manager to do his pager duty. My concern was at the time that if I continually do pager duty I won't have time to do my project work and if I don't do my project work I will get fired. Even famous conmpanies can be really horrible to their employees and put people on PIPs for no good reason.

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