what.. what would you say… ya do here?

January 27, 2005

so lots of people have been asking me what my job actually is. contrary to some people’s beliefs, my job is not to blog about google; that’s what i do in my free time. i’m actually an associate product manager on adsense. that means i’m sandwiched in between being the customer advocate and harnessing all the cool stuff happening through engineers’ 20% time. in my opinion, this is the best job in the industry, especially given that i’m a google customer too. so basically, i spend the bulk of my time thinking of new features or products that customers would want (read: stuff that i want) and then i organize people to build it. it’s great!

anyways, one peculiarity in the population of associate product managers (apms) here is the mix of alma maters. there are only 3 non-stanford/non-m.i.t. apms, including myself. the other apms are split between the two schools, with stanford taking a slight lead i think. i don’t really think it was planned like that, but i’ll definitely be doing my part to mix it up a little 🙂

to be honest, when i first got here, i was kind of disappointed that i was put on adsense. i wanted to work on consumer products, where i could focus on coming up with new offerings that would revolutionize the way people use computers and the internet. but now that i’ve settled in a bit, i’m actually beginning to like what i work on. i can spend my 20% time exploring new ideas to my heart’s content and there are tons of possible improvements in the system – more work than our current team can handle. every improvement we make has the potential to help out tons of customers and the people here are focused on getting these solutions out to customers as soon as possible.

which leads me to one of google’s most valuable competitive advantages: the ability to get features out the door extremely quickly. this is by far one of the most striking contrasts between google and microsoft.

before i left microsoft, i chatted with a lot of people and there was one theme that they always touched on: microsoft knows how to ship software, we know how to turn the crank. at the time i thought, yup you’re right, microsoft has shipped many versions of windows, office, visual studio… the list goes on and on. for the past 15 years, microsoft has been a software shipping machine and it has become very good at it. my friends at microsoft argued for me to stay so i could absorb this knowledge and learn the “the microsoft way”.

but i figured something didn’t seem right. in the past few years, everyone’s seen microsoft’s software shipping machine start to break down – schedules have been slipping, features are getting scaled back and there’s the need for a huge patching infrastructure. the system isn’t working as well anymore and despite the billg’s internet memo years ago, the microsoft machine hasn’t reinvented itself at all.

for as much as google is confident, microsoft is stubborn in its ways. they know one way to ship software and it doesn’t work as well as it used to. the microsoft way, with its huge milestones and bi-annual releases (if you’re lucky), just doesn’t jive with the unlimited bandwidth, unlimited memory, unlimited computing power world that is quickly becoming a reality. the future of computing isn’t on the desktop, it’s on the network.

i remember when i was at microsoft, i’d propose trying new engineering practices: pair programming, unit-test driven development, iterative development. these ideas were shot down quickly and the response was always, “we’ve been developing software like this for 20 years and look at where we are. $50 billion in the bank, dominance in multiple markets… we’re one of the most successful businesses in all of history. why would we change the way we make our bread and butter?”

contrast that to google, where reinvention is almost in its blood. there’s no remorse about throwing away dead code; people work however they feel makes them most productive; and now, another critical part is here: there’s a product management core that can help harness that creativity and productivity into products the world loves to use.

anyways… enough commentary for today, but i’ll leave you with this: while microsoft focuses much of its resources and struggles to meet its deadline for longhorn, google can easily add, enhance, reinvent and distribute products seamlessly through this new computing landscape. in a nutshell, it’s the dream of the dot-commers, finally come true.


No Responses Yet to “what.. what would you say… ya do here?”

  1. Anonymous Says:

    Stanford and MIT. I see you’ve moved on from revealing overall company strategies to strategies of separate departments (starting from HR). Another great post!

  2. Anonymous Says:

    A very interesting read… keep ’em coming!

    I get the sense that the Google machine is hungry and Microsoft might be lunch!

  3. Anonymous Says:

    I hope google collapses and then we shall see who is more arrogant.

  4. Bill Says:

    Gee, Anonymous sounds bitter to me. Love live google.

  5. Bill Says:

    Or long live google. Love, live. Love to live. Live to love. Whatever.

  6. Anonymous Says:

    lol, stanford and MIT only. Maybe google should use their own search engine and find out that there are more than 2 good colleges in the world.

    Different schools brings different way of doing things. Maybe they just too stubborn to change the way they do things so might as well just hire people who will do things their way.

  7. nwistheone Says:

    wow… @ least people are showing some emotion, eh?

    google seems to be very interesting & exciting from a consumer standpoint, whereas microsoft seems to be a senior citizen with retirement sighted on the horizon 😛

  8. wow i can’t believe they let associate product managers post so many thigns. my friend works for adwords and says that that sheryl sandberg who is their boss there would fire their ass if they ever posted anything what they did at google. you must work for a really cool boss!

  9. Olaf Says:

    Sign me up. Though, I haven’t been to either of the college prerequisites. Come to think of it, I haven’t been to *any* college other than my time in training technology instructors. Isn’t it ironic, don’t you think?

  10. Joel Says:

    Good read … really interesting to get some sense of what Google’s like from the inside out.

    I have the impression that a lot of people are getting their panties in a wad over every little “possibly Evil” thing Google does, grossly exaggerating their significance and magnitude. This seems to follow from two things:

    1. Google showed a great deal of goodwill and honesty towards their customers from day 1 of being in business. However they have always been perceived (correctly) as being highly secretive of their internal plans, which while it makes sense business-wise, it appears to go against the grain of honesty and forthrightness which Google had already established with its loyal customer base. Others grew to view Google as “bad” out of some vaguely developed sense of jealousy over Google’s success and/or over their insistence to take the moral high ground time and again. This is why you see people calling Google “arrogant” when they do the slightest thing that could be construed as arrogant. Dropping a bit of mud in an already-muddy pool is barely noticed, but in a clear pond it’s much more apparent.

    2. As Google approached their IPO, some people became convinced that Google had thrown in the hat and would become “evil” soon enough. Others felt jaded because of the honesty/secrecy/envy issues addressed above. These folks therefore proceeded to further this view of “Google really IS evil” by spotlighting Google’s every misstep from their first pre-IPO fumbles onward.

    Obviously I’m coming from a standpoint in favor of Google here. But I do think it is interesting to observe how loyal and trusting Google’s users were up until early 2004, then things began to change for them. Now it seems Google is in a position of trying to reestablish that untainted level of trust that existed in the beginning.

    In my view Google has yet to ACTUALLY do anything that would lead me to view the company or its founders as (intentionally) evil or overtly selfish. I emphasize ACTUALLY because I think there’s been a great deal of hypothesizing, and many people asserting that “when” Google does Some Evil Deed then we’ll know they are evil, just like we suspected all along.

    But for all the insights of these armchair critics, Google (in my view) has yet to pull any Evil Deed that ranks with even the least of Microsoft’s despicable tactics.

    Or maybe it’s just that people today simply find it very difficult to believe that any for-profit company could sincerely want to do good things, both for its customers and its employees.

    So to all the nay-sayers, I ask you: just withhold your judgment until such a time as your doomsday Google predictions actually come true. Until then at least allow for the possibility that Sergey Brin != Bill Gates.

    It all reminds me a bit of New Kids on the Block…

  11. Quan Huy Says:


    What is with you and this obsession with Microsoft vs. Google comparison? Hey, give it a break! First time on benefits/compensation, and it “seemed” interesting. But now it is getting old and lots of a..-kissing, and this blog is no longer interesting.

    While your new employer will no doubt give you some “credit” back for this post after stinking the joint up so bad in your first week, being so critical of your ex-employer after receiving paychecks from them for however-long doesn’t seem to reflect well on your character either.

    Oh well, the more things change for the better, the more things stay the same.

    Good bye, Mark Jen’s boring blog.

  12. EP Says:

    Just feedback on a couple things about Google you mentioned:

    — Disruptive technologies. That is what Silicon Valley is about, isn’t it? There is nothing like being on the cutting edge, helping to “change the world” – and the financial opportunity, and personal risk, is sweetest closest to _that_ bone.

    — Stanford, MIT, blah, blah, blah. I guess people can not help but “go with what they know”, but it’s not a robust feature of the homo sapien. Whether it’s going with people from your own alam mater, or just people “from top schools”, it leaves a lot on the table.

    The pride of school is mostly a feature of the young, not the intelligent; more eliticism in a society becoming elitist with a slash and burn judgmental mentality.


    Still, it’s exciting to know others are intellectually stimulated by the technological and social possibilities.

    –> Enjoy Google.

    Do great things!

  13. Yeh EP everyone is so focused on figguring stuff out and cannot handle looking outside the box. This is not about who is better G or msn but rather how we can achieve greater things, reaching beyond.

    Both have their plusses and minuses and they are according to what ppl are looking for.

    I have been an internet marketing consultant for a long time and the development of search engines and the future fascinate me, the arguing and discussing of current algos and what works and what not bores me to death,

    great blog!

    I will be revisiting and passing it on 🙂

    Mike Dammann
    Site Tutor Web Development

  14. Hey man. I just bumped into your blog from a news item at CNet, I think. What a cool blog. I am a Google fan. Chech me out here: http://technbiz.blogspot.com/ and, by the way, I don’t think your comments have been a hurt to Google at all. Google is what it is, the sexiest dot com there is. A little frankness from someone on the team in the blogosphere is no hurt, that just is the new world we live in, post-blogs. Keep blogging, I will keep reading.

  15. netdev Says:

    Yo, dude, I think you should mellow down with the disses, maybe oneday you need your old job back, then what? Anyways your blog makes for some good reading 🙂


  16. alias420 Says:

    Google can make changes to their environment fast because they don’t “Ship” software – they deploy a couple of changes to a bunch of webservers and mark it beta (like gmail) – so that if it fails – well it only a beta.

    Microsoft has to ship actuall units of software – and that has to be solidly tested and developed.

    Microsoft web system are contantly eveloving and changing – MSN search / myspaces – MSDN is contatnly being updated – etc… because on the web microsoft enjoys the same advantage as google does – as google starts moving into the client area it will find that it is more encumbered (such as desktop search – it is going to be hard to deploy new features and bug fixed – because you are depending on the downloader themselves)

    Case in point – google toolbar – there has only been 2 versions released – and no major feature upgrades in between the “Mileston” releases

  17. sinescuela Says:

    Cuando la creatividad y la libertad del hombre no tiene limites, ya se encarga el “poder” de buscar las formas para enjaular las propias alas de quien vuela…

    No es verdadero creado aquel para quien la libertad es mera ciencia de como acompañar al hombre y la mujer, sino aquel en quien la libertad despierta gracias a su divulgación de como ser libre…


    Un saludo

  18. Google is the dream of the dot-commers? Give me a break. The “dot-commers” had no idea what they were building; they just wanted their fuck-you money. The online community that pays Google’s bills grew in spite of what the dot-commers were trying to do, not because of it.

    But that’s not why I’m here. I’m here with an observation and a request, and I even went so far as to sign up for a Blogger account so I could deliver it. Here we go:

    You have a rare (and therefore valuable) take on what’s going on inside Google, but it’s damn near impossible to read because of your precious little no-caps text formatting. (Look, honey! Isn’t that cuuute? Google hired a passive-aggressive fourteen-year-old to run AdSense! Gosh, that’s forward-thinking of them!) Will you for FUCK’s sake PLEASE start using your shift key?

  19. gogowes Says:

    what is this google of which you all speak, and what does it do?


  20. IIxVADERxII Says:

    Just another google hag!

    Your white font on a black background is a sign of an amateur.

    So basically what you are saying is: find out what is REALLY popular for searches, make up some pathetically thought pages fill it with BS blogs and collect profits from adsense?

    If I see adsense on a site it gets the axe. I would never patronise a site with adwords, nor should anyone else. This is where the manipulation and failure of google lies, the destructive nature of mindless ramblings thrown together that almost no one will read with any respect.

    Youre a moron for leaving Microsoft! Get a clue.

  21. IIxVADERxII Says:

    Just another google hag!

    Your white font on a black background is a sign of an amateur.

    So basically what you are saying is: find out what is REALLY popular for searches, make up some pathetically thought pages fill it with BS blogs and collect profits from adsense? What happened to professionalism. What a low level to be at in such a professional field.

    If I see adsense on a site it gets the axe. I would never patronise a site with adwords, nor should anyone else. This is where the manipulation and failure of google lies, the destructive nature of mindless ramblings thrown together that almost no one will read with any respect.

    You are a moron for leaving Microsoft! Get a clue.

    PS. google has won a Golden Poopy award at: http://www.websiteratings.net/webs-worst.php if you havent seen it yet, take a look.

  22. Jon Burchel Says:

    Uh.. sorry you lost your job dude, you are just young I guess, but I don’t blame Google, though I feel for ya. I mean, you were entirely indiscrete in a public medium, it was not professional at all. Google does rock, too bad you screwed up there. Hope when you find a new job you will learn and not be so indiscrete about the internal affairs of your employer.

  23. Ellen Says:

    I’m not an IT person, but I came across this blog somehow while reading up on the Bush admin. & the current atmosphere of censorship, etc.

    I can’t believe how catty and nasty these comments are. Mark Jen you definitely inspired lots of competition, jealousy, and back-stabbing. Heck, most 22 year olds these days are just lucky to have any job and not get deployed to Iraq, much less have a hot shot career like you’ve had.

    The nasty comments I’ve read throughout are disturbing and were a clear omen…

    Keep your head down, but stay open & outgoing!

  24. markjen Says:

    Thanks for the comment Ellen. I have been quite blessed in all of my adventures and I’ll try to stay on the lookout 🙂

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