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Working at Google: insider perspective

We had a chance to sit down for a (virtual) chat with Larysa Aharkava, a team lead who's been with Google for more than ten years. Larysa started in a junior position, and now she's leading a tech team of seven people focused on internal data processing.

Google is possibly the best place to work globally and was voted the most attractive employer in multiple categories. After looking at the digital corporation from the inside, here's what we learned.

The digital realm

Like many other companies worldwide, Google has shut the doors of its office with the pandemic outbreak. All the employees are thus working from home, juggling their job, families, and domestic duties all at once. As the rest of us know, the struggle is real.

At Google, remote offices have impacted team productivity and internal communications for many. Even for employees who live alone, general anxiety and family circumstances severely impact their workflow.

Working the dream

Anticipating the question on everybody's minds, we asked Larisa what it actually takes to get hired by Google. Turned out, the recruiters are first looking at how well an individual can fit the company culture. There's no scientific metric to evaluate this, but several characteristics and personal qualities are a must.

Self-starters and fast learners are very likely to fit the corporate dynamics of the company just right. New hires are expected to become well-established and become productive within a few months and produce fast results with continuous internal support.

As Larysa mentions, the path is different for everyone. Some hires tend to overthink the complexity of tasks or suffer from imposter syndrome, and the team is there to help them work it out.

For new joiners, the learning curve is steep. With a short time to get up to speed, digesting information quickly, and having a learning-through-doing mentality is vital. A hands-on approach is a way to go since employees are expected to become independent very quickly.

The art of communication

It shouldn't come as a surprise that communication skills are a top priority for anyone looking to make it at Google. Being able to adjust to the communication style is essential and interacting with peers is fundamental.

It sometimes becomes a challenge for employees on the introverted side since the work can only be done through proactive communication. Interrupted or fragmented communication flow can impact the results of an entire team or department.

Wondering how soft skills like this are assessed in the hiring process?

Some of the recruitment calls are focused exclusively around them. Did you ever get one of those questions like "tell us about some challenge you faced recently?" or "what do you do when the deadline is looming, and you think you might not meet it?". These are used to test individual communication styles and responses to a stressful situation.

Now to the popular myth. Despite common misconception, puzzle questions like "how many tennis balls fit in an elevator" have long been obliviated. The reason being, they mostly helped identify a close-focused thinking mechanism that doesn't necessarily constructively characterize applicants. Nowadays, questions are more open-ended and personality-focused.

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Corporate culture guide

To maintain internal communication and bring the team together, Google has implemented a bunch of processes. For example, weekly stand-ups take place to discuss ongoing projects, current pain points, and questions.

One-on-one meetings with managers and team members are encouraged but also might fall under specific regulations. Due to privacy and legal reasons, it doesn't hurt to be considerate about what's being said in a meeting or sent via email to a colleague.

Mental health

As the current times are challenging, mental health resources are always available to employees — things like support groups, training, meditation, and awareness workshops.

You might think of Google as a huge, high-pressure work environment where productivity reigns supreme. But that's not the case at all. In fact, work-life balance is a top priority in the company, leading to far fewer cases of employee burnout than you might imagine.

Fixing the problems

Human nature is prone to errors, and Google employees are no exception. Given the company's scale and the impact its products have on the everyday lives of people, all the processes inside the company are highly regulated, and each technical change or update has to follow a series of steps before it reaches the customer.

This draws out the process, but it also stops mistakes from falling through the cracks, with every change being tested again and again. And if errors happen anyway, they are treated as a learning opportunity.

Internal communication chain

Google has a layered communication chain — teams interact with each other to exchange experiences and collaborate, with internal competition also taking place if they happen to work in a similar direction.

Sometimes product teams are not even aware of each other's existence due to the company's size. This means that a similar idea could be developed by different teams. In this case, resources need to be allocated on a project basis, and teams sometimes compete for a place on a project.

The initiative is always respected, with team members being encouraged to work independently and take ownership of their products. For example, Google hosts regular hackathons to stimulate idea generation and therefore increase product range.

Fun fact: if an employee wants to create a startup, there's no need to become an entrepreneur. They can join an internal accelerator, keep the salary, and use all internal resources available.

If successful, Google will buy out the startup and boost it to the highest ratings. As a result, career growth doesn't always have to be vertical at Google. Some employees switch teams alongside the product they create and develop.

Whether you're considering a career change, wondering how top companies approach crucial issues, or looking to start your own business, Google is a good example of how a giant company can get things right.

Anything else you want to know about life at Google? Let us know!

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