Google’s Cambridge Office Assumes Growing Role Inside Search Giant

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having a senior team here before we supplemented that with a lot of people coming out of college. So we really opened that up, and we’ve got a lot of people who have accepted positions but who haven’t gotten started yet because they’re winding up their academic studies. We’ve also significantly increased the number of interns we’re going to have here this summer, as part of increasing that pipeline of interest and experience for students.

Another factor is that if you look at people who are working here they really come from three different sources. One is new college grads. One is people from outside the area who move to Boston. And third is people from inside the area who worked at other companies. There’s a certain critical mass that you have to reach before an arbitrary engineer in the local industry knows somebody who is at Google, and my view is that we have passed that critical mass of visibility in the area. We’ve tried not to aggressively market ourselves; I wanted this office to be a magnet based on the people coming, and I think that approach takes a while to pay off. Now I’m seeing people coming in from the same companies as other people who have already joined.

X: I’m kind of surprised that you feel Google, of all companies, had a visibility problem.

SV: I think Google is very well known, of course, but it isn’t well known in this area. It may have been a bad strategy on our part not to be more visible. I was here for two years and I still had people coming to me and saying “I didn’t know Google had an office in Cambridge.” Having somebody you know who works here makes you think differently.

X: What’s the other big change?

SV: The other factor is having the critical mass in an organization. A very common thing in the industry is that when you have 15 engineers you have a critical mass for a team to have deep involvement in something. And when you have over 100 engineers you have the ability to have multiple teams of 15. Suddenly you are able to talk with candidates about having a significant impact on projects. If you come in an interview and you want to work on X and we have three people and Mountain View has a hundred, that’s not significant; there is a legitimate concern that a small team is not going to have a big impact. But when you get to teams of 15, from a management standpoint, it feels like you are offering a stable team with lots of opportunity.

So there are a lot of consolidated teams that work here now. The tendency is to think of sites that are not headquarters as being marginalized in terms of the projects they are doing. Sometimes people think of us as being maybe more research-oriented or future looking. But I view impact as our primary goal in the kinds of projects we take on. The team in Mountain View wants to expand here because they believe there’s good talent here. So now it’s much easier to work on something and expand independently. Teams collaborate heavily with Mountain View, but the credibility we’ve established offers enormous opportunities at a time when Google is growing.

For example, we’ve branched out from Chrome into Chrome OS. Now that we are doing Chrome OS, with a specific focus on performance and networking issues, it allows us to have end-to-end responsibility. Likewise, when you play a YouTube video, all of the servers involved in showing that are … Next Page »

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Wade Roush is the producer and host of the podcast Soonish and a contributing editor at Xconomy. Follow @soonishpodcast

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