“There will be reductions in headcount.” So declared Eric Schmidt back on March 11, and so it has been.
Let me start by saying that I survived. I will be staying on as a Googler.
There. Now I can tell the story.
The last three weeks have been difficult. There were rumors and more rumors, but nobody really knew anything, except for our senior managers, who were making themselves scarce. Then we were told that this week, instead of our usual monthly planning sessions, we’d have a week to work on “system stability” — a particularly absurd euphemism for sitting on our hands and waiting for a moment of extreme instability.
Last Friday, some old-timers threw an End of the World as We Know It party in a back room. Then on Tuesday — April Fool’s Day — was the DoubleClick Schwag Party, at which old-timers (myself included) put our DoubleClick promotional gear on display for a sort of last corporate hurrah. (I contributed my yo-yo and slinky, and also my Camp Day T-shirts from 1999 and 2000. There was no Camp Day in 2001 because they were already laying people off that summer.)
I’d been trying to keep working, but it hasn’t been easy, in part because so many others have been kind of shut down. My job involves asking lots of people for information, and many of them were just not willing to bother when they weren’t sure that they, or I, would be around at the end of the week. Even so, I started my Wednesday morning doing actual work.
That quickly came to a halt as knots of people began to gather. The layoffs had begun. Word trickled to us that finance had been hit. Sales too. We began to see people walking by with the dreaded white envelopes that contained the Google severance package. (Only later did we learn that some of these were contracts, not straight-up layoffs.) The mood went from tense to grim to borderline hysterical. Emails came in from longtime veterans sending out general farewells. People were in tears — some who had been let go, and some who were still waiting to hear. I waited it out at my desk, wondering when I would finally get the call.
At last my old boss, now a VP, came by to inform me that everyone who was getting news had gotten news — that I was, in other words, a survivor. Others were learning the same thing, and a kind of shell-shocked giddiness began to steal over those of us who remained, mixed with survivor’s guilt. In engineering, which is my part of the company, relatively few jobs were cut. No one on the documentation team (at least in New York) lost their jobs, though two of us were offered only contracts. Still, that made it all the more humiliating for those who had to go.
Google has for the most part been generous with both its layoff package and its contract package (for employees who will be phased out). I won’t go into details there, but they’ve been non-evil, though not exactly milk-and-cookies fuzzy-wuzzy (Google is a business).
On Thursday we received our official offer letters, and information about orientation at Google (mine is on Tuesday). I am satisfied that I’ve received a very, very good offer.
I guess I’m a Googler now. For the moment, though, I have that post-finals feeling of exhaustion and emotional collapse. I have a cold, and I just want to go home and sleep.
It occurs to me that this post, more than most, is likely to be read by people who don’t know me. There are a lot of folks out there trying to dig up whatever gossip they can about the whole Google-DoubleClick merger so they can post it on their terribly insidery industry blogs. Already I’m reading plenty of ill-informed mutterings about how DoubleClickers will be miserable at Google, how Googlers are already miserable at Google, how Google is due for a culture shift to something grim and hideous, etc.
My own experience of Googlers is that they are curious about DoubleClick, a company that theirs bought for $3.1 billion because we built something they were unable to replicate. They are also generally happy with life at Google. They are not, as a rule, snooty dickheads.
Secondly, it has somehow become blogosphere lore that Clickers had to reapply for our jobs and go through interviews. This is only half true. Yes, we submitted resumes of a sort, listing past experience and also what we’d done at DoubleClick in the past year. But I don’t know of anyone who went through an actual interview. There was no ritual humiliation.
I for one am looking forward to life as a Googler. It’ll be interesting. Is it a trip to heaven? Probably not. Is it a reasonable job? Probably. So yeah, if you’ve got fantasies that being a Googler is a cross between working for Willy Wonka and working for Hugh Hefner, then you’re likely to be disappointed that it’s more like working for a large tech company. If, however, you’re the sort of person who could be content at a place like DoubleClick, then you can probably get along just fine at Google.