Mainly I want to take this space today to link you all to “What Larry Page really needs to do to return Google to its startup roots”.
Here’s a short taste of what the article contains:
Implement an in-house incubator.
Do this right now. When a current employee comes to you and submits their resignation letter, and says they’re joining a startup, you should immediately respond with “Oh! Well, let me tell you about our in-house startup incubator…”
Put smart people together in a room, let them think freely about products and infrastructure, and good things will come of it. In fact, I might argue that every Staff level engineer or higher should “go on sabbatical” to the in-house incubator for a period of a minimum of 6 months. Rotate people in & out, and let them bring their incubator learnings back on to the main campus. Have one incubator per geography, at a minimum, possibly more. Let people choose their best freinds/coworkers, and go off and do something great for 6 months. No managers, no meetings, no supervision.
I don’t agree with everything in the article, but there are definitely repeated themes that hold water. Hiring is atrocious (and I know Google loses good people who don’t like being strung along forever). Google needs to live up to its 20% time promise and let engineers do what they want to be doing (working on ‘startup’ projects or small projects, ). Fighting with infrastructure sucks.
Designing for redundant unreliable hardware is great. It makes me wonder how much the author knows about distributed systems was considering the technical implications of their comment. Things are going to fail. Having to design for things like their going to fail is a little painful, but expensive hardware won’t make it go away and for a company as big as Google, a .25% downtime is *not* okay (like it might be for a small company).
I just have to admit I love the in-house incubator idea. It would be so much fun. Great engineers who want to do something awesome get to do that without leaving (and Google has lately been very worried about good people leaving). Plus investment-wise, incubators have been shown to be a pretty solid place to park your money anyway.