'Like a resort, but you have to work hard': an immigrant from Belarus spoke about working for Google
Google Cloud Headquarters called “The coolest of Google’s offices.” There is an outdoor pool, a rooftop court, hammocks, a gazebo, an apiary, a vegetable garden, a restaurant, a secret bar and much more, which can only be envied. Moreover, employees use everything for free. Journalists 42.tut.by We talked with one of the employees of this office - Vladimir, who was born and raised in Minsk, and now works in Silicon Valley.
Before Google Cloud, Vladimir worked at Oracle, a company that specializes in releasing database management systems. Now Minsk is a senior software engineer in the Google Cloud division: he is developing the Google Assistant for users of G Suite (a set of Google tools for business).
Since childhood, Vladimir dreamed of working abroad - his parents worked at the Academy of Sciences, and when the boy was 10 years old, he first ended up in Nice, where his mother received a work contract at the institute. Another event that defined his life was the first computer with an 12-inch black and green monitor, 5-inch floppy disks and a hard drive with 20 megabytes. Already in the ninth grade, Vladimir decided to work in the IT industry, especially since this specialty is in demand almost all over the world.
He graduated from Belarusian State University of Informatics and Radio Electronics, got a job at EPAM, and then the 2008 year began - the beginning of the global economic crisis.
“After that, I seriously thought about moving, explored many countries, and the choice fell on Canada. While I was preparing to pass the language exam, my wife won the green card, after which the plans changed, and we moved to the USA, ”he explains.
Immediately after the move, Vladimir got a job as a programmer in a startup, grew up to a leading programmer, and then received a good offer from Oracle.
“During my four years at Oracle, I took part in product development for one of the company's top priorities - Oracle Cloud Infrastructure. After a successful launch, I thought about the next step in my career. My choice fell on Google - one of the most desired companies for many programmers, - says Vladimir. - Even taking into account the constant letters from recruiters, interviews with successful companies have a certain format, and one must prepare for it, despite previous work experience. So after receiving an internal recommendation, spending months preparing and going through seven rounds of interviews, I got a job offer at Google.
“The essentials were a great gym with a pool and plenty of cafes”
According to Vladimir, Google and Oracle have a lot in common: both companies are technological, rather large, have offices in different countries of the world and highly qualified employees work in them. But, of course, there are differences dictated by the internal culture of the company.
“Oracle seemed rather conservative to me, and Google, on the contrary, was dynamic and open. “Google hosts ongoing meetings where management discusses all sorts of topics, from strategy and product development to gender equality and positive impact on the world,” says Vladimir. - Each employee has the right to attend a weekly meeting, where the founders of the company Sergey Brin and Larry Page or the CEO of the company Sundar Pichai can appear on the stage. Before the meetings, employees ask any questions they may have on the general forum (you can anonymously) and vote for those already asked. At the end of the meeting, the manual answers the most popular. Such meetings exist at different levels - companies, divisions and teams, feedback is very appreciated here. ”
Google is also famous for its attitude towards engineers, they are very appreciated here, and many projects are developing from the bottom up.
“If an employee notices an opportunity to make a product better, he can use 20% of his time to work on his idea, present a prototype to the team and management, and, if there is a positive reaction, work on this project constantly, assemble a team and, accordingly, grow in career ladder, doing what is really interesting, ”said Vladimir.
If you compare Oracle and Google, then, according to the programmer, Google is ahead.
“In this regard, Google is one of the leaders. Oracle didn't have such a variety, but the essentials were there: a great gym with a pool and many cafes, however, you had to pay for food. Another benefit was an unlimited number of vacation days - a fairly popular trend, vacation is taken on conscience / necessity / agreement with the management. And in Google, the number of vacation days is limited and depends on the number of years spent in the company, says Vladimir. - Google pays a lot of attention to team building. In addition to general events and concerts at the company level, each team has a separate budget for corporate events. So, last year our whole team flew to Las Vegas for a few days, and this year we will fly to Disneyland. "
“There are a lot of Belarusians in Google”
Google employs professionals from all over the world. According to Vladimir, many are aware of where Belarus is located. And if there is a hitch, you can always say that this is "a country in Eastern Europe."
“I believe that there are a lot of Belarusians in Google for a country of this size: there are more than 250 people in a special email group. Sometimes we get together for lunch at the head office of the company, and 20 − 30 people come, ”he says. - Belarus has a pretty good education, and there are excellent IT companies, so specialists are strong. Of the weaknesses - only knowledge of English, but otherwise they are world-class experts. "
“Some of Google's projects are developed by contractor companies. Some have development offices in Belarus, and some of the employees work here, in Google offices. There are also guys from the Belarusian company AIMatter, which was acquired by Google in 2017, - Vladimir added. - In addition, I am very inspired by the success stories of service and food companies that Belarusians founded. "I periodically communicate with the founders and employees of some of them - these are very talented people who make a huge contribution to the development of the IT industry in Belarus and attract investment in the country."
About Google they say that there is a big staff turnover. According to various sources, on average, an employee of the company has been working for 1,1 of the year. But Vladimir claims that he personally did not notice this.
“Probably, we should separate the situations when the employee leaves for another project or moves to another office and when the employee leaves the company. Google does everything to get employees to work on what they really want. As I already mentioned, if an employee has found some interesting project, you can agree with the manager and work on it 20% of the time. And when an open position appears, completely transfer to it, - says Vladimir. - In my opinion, the transition between projects in this company is quite simple, and it is a very effective approach for retaining specialists. On the other hand, this kind of work experience opens the door to other successful companies, and Google is trying to provide a competitive compensation package that includes salaries, promotions and bonuses. "
Parking Rooftop Park, Secret Bar and Heated Outdoor Pool
But perhaps one of the most enjoyable parts of working on Google Cloud is the office itself. Outwardly, it looks like an ordinary office building, but in reality it is a whole block with restaurants, bars, sports fields and its own park.
“Alphabet Holding, which includes Google, has many buildings throughout the valley. The main Google Cloud campus is located in Sunnyvale, not far from Google Headquarters. The campus was built recently, consists of five eight-story buildings (the sixth is under construction) and a conference center, says Vladimir. - There is almost everything that an employee may need. Inside each building there is a cafe with breakfast, lunch and dinner, a coffee hub with a barista, on each floor there is a small kitchen with drinks, fruits and snacks. ”
“There are two restaurants on campus, a health center, soccer field, gyms and a heated outdoor pool. On the roof of one of the parking lots there is a park with volleyball, basketball courts, mini-golf, and a vegetable garden for gardeners, - he continues. - All this, with the exception of massage, is absolutely free for employees and their guests. In general, everything is like at a resort, except that you have to work, and the staff treat this responsibly. "
There are also games rooms, libraries, laundries, rooms for nursing mothers, classes in music, meditation, massage, sleep capsules and automatic massage chairs. If you wish, you can even find a secret bar.
But what employees may not like about the company Vladimir finds it difficult to answer.
“It's hard to say what you might not like under such conditions. I guess not everyone enjoys working in open spaces, but it has its pros and cons, ”he says.
“Here are some of the highest real estate and rental prices in all of America.”
On the Web you can read that rental prices in the valley are off the charts. Thus, according to estimates of the RadPad rental service, the average monthly cost of renting a two-room apartment near the offices of Uber, Twitter, Google is from 42% to 54% of the average earnings of software engineers. Not surprisingly, some prefer to live in a car instead, such as a Google programmer Brandon.
“The cost of living in the valley is actually very high, primarily due to the price of housing and rent. We came here in 2011 and rented our first Mountain View lodging for 1200 dollars a month. Now there are no such prices, - Vladimir assures. - At the moment we are renting a townhouse in the city of Menlo Park, where the Facebook headquarters is located. We chose this place primarily because of the good school where our daughter goes. We were lucky to take it directly from the owner for 3200 dollars a month, while the market value should be more expensive at 1500. ”
Here are some of the highest real estate and rental prices in all of America, with the main cost not in the building, but in the land on which it stands. Now the market value of the townhouse we live in is 1 million 750 thousand dollars. And this is for the construction of the 1972 of the year with repair, an order of magnitude worse than it was in our apartment in Minsk.
The average salary of a Google employee at the L5 level (like Vladimir), including promotions and bonuses, before taxes is about 340 thousand dollars a year.
“Also, when buying a property, you will have to pay insurance, interest on the loan and an annual tax of approximately 1% of the cost. I believe that at such prices it’s quite possible that someone might want to live in a cottage trailer and save some money, especially when some companies provide laundries, showers, saunas and free food, ”the programmer continues. “I don’t have such acquaintances, but I see a lot of caravans in the streets and I fully admit that some of them may be staffed by IT companies aimed at increasing their savings.”
How to get to work at Google
The procedure is different for those who have had internships in the company, and for candidates from the outside. But Vladimir described the standard interview process.
“Google is one of those companies where the candidate first goes through a general interview, and only then chooses the team in which he wants to work. Therefore, the interview will be the same for everyone. In my opinion, the most successful tech companies value prior work experience less and more try to gauge a person's ability. Therefore, many technical rounds consist of solving algorithmic problems, ”said Vladimir.
Vladimir said that in most cases an interview consists of several stages. At the first, the resume is evaluated (most of the candidates are eliminated here). On the second one or two telephone 45 minute technical interviews are conducted. If everything went well, the company invites you to an interview in your office and, if necessary, pays for tickets and accommodation.
“Typically, an office interview consists of five 45 minute rounds. One round can focus on issues related to company culture and leadership. For more experienced candidates, there may be a round of system design on which you need to talk about creating some pretty serious computer system. In the remaining rounds, algorithmic problems are usually solved, ”Vladimir explains. “In the middle there will be time for lunch with the current employee, from whom the candidate will be able to learn more about the company.”
“You may then be assigned a few more rounds, withheld or sent to a committee where more experienced staff will examine the results of all rounds. If successful, the process will move on to the next stage - team selection, ”he added.
Usually these are a few short telephone conversations with managers of different teams. When the interests of the manager and the candidate coincide, the process will go to the stage of discussing the terms of compensation. Yes, in the early stages, if the terms of compensation are discussed, they are only approximate, and proposals from other companies can significantly affect this factor.
After the recruiter and the candidate discuss everything, the process reaches the final stage - obtaining approval from the senior management. And only after that the candidate receives an official job offer.
According to Vladimir, this is one of the best ways to test candidates for such companies.
“Most of them try not to depend on third-party technologies and develop their own internal ones. Knowledge of certain programming languages or any frameworks that are key to hiring for other companies may be of secondary importance. Candidates are interviewed in one of the most popular programming languages, but it is likely that they will have to work with another. In any case, working in such companies, you will have to learn a lot from scratch. But it's worth it, ”said Vladimir.
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