Company Reunions

Tuesday, January 5, 2010 , Posted by Johnny Fuery at 4:20 PM

Originally Published 2007-11-16 02:45:23

I found myself at a reunion tonight.  It was a get together of old colleagues, workmates, and quite a few people I consider friends, even if the pressures of "real life" have pushed us apart.

There were some interesting things I observed about the group, however, aside from the obvious fact that everyone was a little older, a little grayer, a little fatter, and lot more chill. Well, except for me, of course. One friend joked that I looked 14 when I started at the company back in the day. I retorted that I was 14 then. :-)

So, aside from the big changes that everyone except me seemed to have had -- getting married, having children, working less -- I saw the following tidbits:

  • The google representation was surprising, impressive, and overwhelmingly positive. One fellow who was a former peer of mine (we both managed people, we both were single, we both were smarter than the average bear, and we both reported to the same douche-bag) pointed out that, "if you're gonna work for a big company, you can't do much better." Another colleague said that, unlike most other fast-growing companies that become large and successful in a short period of time, "it's run really well. Micromanaging is kept to a minimum, engineers have the freedom to do their jobs right and well, and the reporting structure is conducive to getting things done instead of sitting in meetings."

  • When I say the representation was surprising, it's not just the positive words. Of the 50-60 people present, I'd say over a dozen were now google employees.

  • One of the smartest engineers I've ever known said he was intimidated for the first couple of months he worked there. "I'm just an engineer. There are a ton of computer science PhDs running around tossing around theories with their own set of jargon."

  • Another 20% or so had been through more startups through founding them and/or seeking out extremely early stage (think garages and spare bedrooms). And it wasn't just the top brass -- there were people who had been up, down, and sideways through the quagmire of the bust and beyond. It seems entrepreneurship is less about cast and more about drive. Of course, it never hurts to live in Silicon Valley, have a technical background, a prestigious degree, and have been involved in a startup that went public a couple of years back. Still, it was inspiring to see people in the midst of making the world a different place than the one that was given them. And a lot of them have.

  • About three quarters were doing the same thing they'd always been doing. Slightly more responsibility, perhaps, slightly more prestige and dollars, and slightly more experience. But otherwise the same. Yes, there is some overlap with the groups noted above. For these, the biggest changes were appearance, family, and perhaps a calmer outlook on life. The acceptance and pleasure of maturity, I suppose.

  • About 5% were doing something completely different. I count myself in that group. One other fellow, about 50, is more or less retired (love that guy -- wish I'd had the opportunity to be mentored by him more).

  • Another thing that struck me is how marketable everyone is. There wasn't a single person in the room who felt disenfranchised, down on their luck, or otherwise negative about the opportunities available.

  • Finally, I noticed that I have changed quite a bit. There were people who I had previously found intimidating who were now just other entrepreneurs. Other people, just like me, who could make a good wage by working, had some good ideas, and made some intelligent choices. Where once I was taken aback by pedigree, by wealth, and by age, I was now the cool guy in the room, saying hello to everyone, proud of my place in the world, and unapologetic about what I've done, what I'm doing, and who I have become. I'm not sure if the same was true back when I was that awkward teenager running the support team. :-)

  • Everyone seems to be aware of the big successes. Most everyone asked me about real estate, for instance, just as I knew (at least) the basic business models on all of the new businesses my peers had founded.

Of course, the very nature of reunions does mean that those with the most to hide don't show up. There were quite a few absentees, like that weird network guy who beat his wife, the VP with the lazy eye and the golden parachute, the CEO many blamed for the company's failure, and a few others I'm forgetting apparently couldn't make it.

Lessons for Today

Talk to everyone. Don't be shy about your ideas. Ask lots of questions. Do the exploring you need to do so that you can have and convey the confidence you'll need to succeed. Buy people beer. Listen well. Respond positively. Learn.

Be a nice guy. Be "real". There wasn't a person in the room who didn't remember me. And despite my then-status as a padawan at best, including the unassuredness of my youth, my mixed leadership skills, my lack of pedigree, and my sometimes inappropriate remarks, everyone remembered me as passionate, dedicated, and genuine.

You can't fake any of those, no matter how good your social skills.

Oh, yeah, there's one more: the google-bot will one day be the master of us all. Let's just hope it still abides by "don't be evil" when it becomes sentient and controls every computer system on the planet. :-)


On 2007-11-16 03:16:28 Mortgage Business » Company Reunions said:
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