Reflections after a year at Google

At the start of September 2019, I joined Google as a Customer Engineer in Google Cloud based in their Manchester office.After working many years at DXC.Technology (previously from the CSC side) it was a big change, but one I was eagerly anticipating.

(a view of the Google Sunnyvale Campus – Oct 2019— [image courtesy of Author])
I don’t think anyone who enjoys technology or has had career in IT can really remain vendor neutral in terms of their preferences on consumer technologies.  In fact the ecosystems and services combinations that the vendors provide make it very difficult to remain totally independent in many respects.  So over the course of time, having chosen Google services or based technologies more than any other vendor it was a thrill to be becoming part of Google and not just a consumer of their services.

I have no shocking insights or reveals to make about joining a company such as Google, and my commentary and thoughts just adds to the myriad of articles and opinions already written and published.  “Fast paced”, “steep learning curve”, are among a common set of descriptive phrases that Nooglers will attest to during their on-boarding, and I don’t disagree.  However, looking back my 1st year, I count myself fortunate to have been part of an intake that was able to travel and experience the culture, office environments and the on-boarding in person and face to face with my other colleagues.  In fact my respect of colleagues having joined since lock-down is greater because of the additional challenge of virtual on-boarding and working virtually has been placed on all of us.

[Some other blog posts on Google culture | Blog | Inside Google’s Culture of Success and Employee Happiness | (no connection or affiliations – just cited as examples )]

My previous job was one where I was primarily home based, and I was very comfortable with it in terms of both the physically working environment and how to approach work.  So the recent reversal to being home based again has not been a difficult or challenging change for me. However, I do miss the opportunity to connect with colleagues and clients in the office (as I’m sure we all do).  Particularly it’s the unplanned and serendipitous catch ups and side conversations that constitute the wide tapestry of human friendship and relationships that is now harder to come by with virtual meetings we all attend.  We are all to aware of our own commitments, activities and to-do’s and perhaps those of our closest or most immediate team and colleagues. I think we’re missing, to a great extent I imagine, the feel of the flow of happenings within the wider community.  Those everyday trials and tribulations, successes, failures and context that provides that rounder view and awareness.

I won’t seek to describe more about the technology or the culture, your preferred search service will provide ample results.

What I will describe, which I think may be more helpful or useful is how I approach or think of “going to work” at Google. I’ve long held an interest in the area of Personal Knowledge Management (PKM) and productivity, seeking to work smarter and not harder. That is why the following letters appear on my Twitter profile (ECHO|GTD|MTH|WOL), they’re all acronyms and mnemonics (sorry Graham | “Why do acronyms bug me? And what has that got to do with Zip files?“) a plethora of them around the topic of personal productivity.

They are:

  • ECHO – [“Explore, Connect, Help, Optimise”]more on this later on.
  • GTDGetting Things Done (as of Dave Allen) – not per se something I use rigidly, but more of what I consider as execution mode at the individual contributor level. If you can do it now, quickly and completely then “Get Things Done“.
  • MTH – “Make Things Happen” – the follow on from GTD, stuff (sometimes tasks, often meetings, decisions etc.) that require more than a single contributor to progress to completion. As an individual contributor, my take on these is to progress that communication and connect context to those necessary to collaborate on the activity itself.
  • WOL – “Working out Loud” – again not something I have done in depth or taken abroad in the manner prescribed in the framework itself . My take being that contributing and sharing knowledge (system / organisational wealth) with your work colleagues (network) is always a positive input and builds organisation efficiency, prevents silos and increases social capital and community within the organisation.

Whilst (GTD, MTH, WOL) – can be applied in certain specific contexts (a task | convening a meeting, assembling an ad hoc team | sharing knowledge/answering a question in a group chat), they don’t in my mind constitute a broad methodology or approach to work as a whole.

  • How to do I learn new things?
  • How do I understand my customer better?
  • How can I help my colleague in this situation?
  • How do we improve the outcome?

So this is where I apply ECHO [“Explore, Connect, Help, Optimise”]and this has slowly become my more conscious approach to all work in general. Breaking them down into their individual elements:

  • Whether it is a customer, colleague, opportunity or topic area, I seek to understand more (Explore). How best I can contribute, assist or learn? Normally this is when attentive listening is the best thing to do.
  • (Connect) bring in others with more skills, or experience that could accelerate value or outcomes. This is definitely part of my role which I enjoy, getting smarter or more experienced people to share their experiences or knowledge to progress something.
  • (Help) by contributing individually or as an IC in a team to a specific output or goal (e.g. customer presentation or proposal response).
  • (Optimise) always seeking to leave a situation or scenario with an additional option to improve or enhance where it is appropriate.

Each stage also presents an opportunity to gracefully exit, without adding additional burden or hindrance, so where I can’t add or contribute effectively I do dis-engage with clarity and respect.

Sometimes the expectations of a work situation are clear and explicit but when they’re assumed or unstated, what do you go to as your default? Could a framework or approach like this be helpful to you?

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