It is clearly and unashamedly a single person's perspective of the early part of the Google story. However, what lends credibility to the narrative is the author's openness about his difficulty in transitioning from the ingrained working culture of his previous life, to a new up-is-down, black-might-be-white world of Brin and Page.
Did Google succeed with a great technology product despite this contrarian, unconventional thinking, or because of it?
I'm not sure, but it must have been challenging and fun to be a part of that experience and that is what is conveyed in this book, and that is why I enjoyed it.
I like listening to books read by the author when the author has the voice and skill to pull it off, and Douglas Edwards does a fine job.
A fascinating and fun read (listen). I recommend it.
Always strive for an open mind.
Yes. Compelling insight, honesty and self-awareness in this storytelling. Excellent composition.
"When were we ever wrong? Not often, but not often is not never."
"Smart people, motivated to make things better, can do almost anything."
Thank you for this book! As an engineer myself, I am hoping it will help me to be able to better explain to my husband (a non-engineer) how an engineer's brain works and why it is so hard to not be a perfectionist all the time.... It has already helped me to better understand how foreign an engineer's thinking can be to someone with a non-engineer's mindset - by seeing this directly through Mr. Edward's eyes. A true eye opener in this regard!
Did you ever wonder what it’s like to work at Google? Now you can find out. Well, that’s only part true. Edwards was Google employee number 59 and worked there from 1999 till 2005. We should perhaps instead have asked: Did you ever wonder what it was like to be Douglas Edwards while he worked at Google?
We listened to the Audible unabridged version of this book (at double speed — it’s addictive), and found it to be an appealing account of a work-place totally dominated by engineers — or should we say nerds?
Edwards sets the scene by recounting an episode from 2002 where he basically asks Page for a confirmation that, although Page and Brin had been right most of the time, Edwards’ expertise had also been important to the company. Page answers dryly: “When have we not been right?” And such is Edwards’ depiction of the nerd couple being Larry Page and Sergei Brin. They sincerely believe that they are right, that what they are doing is right and that anyone who believes otherwise is simply misguided.
Edwards ends up being misguided a lot of the time. And he is honest about it in his book. After all, his background in marketing is of the traditional type. He came from an executive position in marketing at the newspaper of the Valley, turned down an offer with Yahoo!, only to end up working with a future CEO of Yahoo!: Marissa Meyers just got hired at Yahoo!, but used to work alongside Edwards as a UI expert and later in the product management group reporting directly to Larry Page. It’s safe to say that Meyers and Edwards didn’t get along so well.
The book is largely anecdotal. Hear about the firing of middle-managers in a public staff meeting; Vice-President Al Gore spending his abundance of spare time wandering the corridors of the Google HQ and Eric Schmidt entering the scene during the long-lasting process of “we should probably get ourselves a CEO”.
Edwards asked Eric Schmidt, after a particularly exhilarating argument with Page and Brin in which Schmidt backed Edwards, if he didn’t think Page and Brin were a handful sometimes. Schmidt supposedly answered:
“I’m well compensated. Now, excuse me while I walk around the building a few times.”
September 11 affected the people at Google in much the same way that it affected anyone else. One early response was “Is Google alive?” meaning, are the people at the Manhattan office OK? Yet, the account of decisions made in the surge for information following the attack is memorable.
Edwards took compromises in a lot of places in order to spend time at Google. We say he was motivated by his eagerness to be a part of something bigger. When that feeling went away, he left Google in March 2005. He felt lucky, and he probably was.
Likes audio books
Two things I love about this book:
First, the author tells a story very very well. Clear prose. Dramatic flow of each chapter. He was trained as a journalist and it shows.
Second, as he tells each tale about how Google developed from obscurity to success, and his part in that development, he describes the enlightened wisdom that he tried to bring to each challenge that Google faced. Then, as each story unfolds, he confesses how he was often wrong and what he really learned from each episode. (Hence the subtitle "Confessions of Google employee number 59"). Everyone should approach life in this way: share your wisdom with others, but be open to their wisdom too. Remembering that you might be wrong is the only path to enlightenment.
This book is the story of human endeavor: the creation of Google. And it is the author's personal story of his quest for wisdom, economic survival, and enlightenment.
Four stars from me is not faint praise. I reserve the highest rating for just the few books that come along rarely in one's lifetime. .
A good motive to write it. I couldn't see the point of the book other than to make sure people knew that Larry and Sergei were very flawed and lots of other people really did the work. I heard bitterness everywhere.
The author - substitute him for someone less cynical
I don't know that this book added anything to the world.
Very entertaining book. To hear first hand about what it was like at Google in the early days was insightful and fun.
This is not a 'comprehensive' biography of the company. This book is more of a personal memoir. The author keeps the book fairly linear but does jump around a bit to follow a continuous thought based on an event or project within Google.
Overall this was an enjoyable listen and now I want to move on to Steve Levy's "In the Plex".
A true insider's view of the genesis point for Google. Doug was close enough to the action to observe and comment but not too close that it affected his objectivity or at least the appearance of objectivity.
Clearly his background as a journalist came through in this book. You could see the effort to present a balanced perspective on any of the issues, even when it cast him in a dimmer light. He has an easy to listen to style.
Yes, once you understood the characters and Google's evolution accelerates, it was hard to put down!
Obviously this is just one person's views of early Google, but it is a fun one and may shed some light on what was going on in there.
Steve (Walnut Creek, CA, USA)
I've gone on a biography kick recently and really enjoyed biographies of Elon Musk (Ashlee Vance), and Steve Jobs (Walter Isaacson). These books start before the biographee is born, in the Musk case going back 2 generations. You get to learn about the key people in the companies, and you hear about the evolution of the company.
This book is about the author's experiences at google. This isn't a shock with "confessions of..." in the subtitle, however I found it to be quite disappointing. I will look for another book that covers the actual history of the company.
It also ends just post-IPO, I think early 2005, which is pre-maps, pre-hangouts, pre-android, pre-niantic/ingress. That's a lot of the stuff I'd like to know about.
It takes you into the other side of a story we may have experienced as customers of this incredible company... is inspiring and interesting all along...