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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