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Saturday, 13 August 2011

Books - I’m Feeling Lucky – The Confessions of Google Employee Number 59 by Douglas Edwards

Star rating – 5/10

This account by Google’s former director of consumer marketing and brand management, Douglas Edwards, starts off really well, but in the end just feels like a bit of a whinge by a disgruntled employee.

Edwards’ story starts with much promise, as he entered the Google world when they were a very small start up type business in 1999, and left six years later when they had just floated as a public company, and were on the verge of being the behemoth that they are today. He was from a very different world, having been director of marketing at an established and reputable paper, with a big pay cheque to match, before joining Google. The downsizing in salary didn’t really matter too much to him, although his wife and kids may have felt slightly differently, as he was part of an exciting new company who wanted to do things very differently to the others, and also to do very different things than anyone else was doing out there.

He initially found the Google culture a bit frustrating, with its lack of structure, control, or foundation. They also had very unconventional approaches to strategy and marketing, which made Edwards’ new role quite challenging for him. He was not used to this new world where innovation was in, and hand holding at every step of the way was definitely not. He wasn’t used to not getting reassurance that every task he competed was acceptable before moving onto the next – so he had to change fast. That bit of the story is very interesting, along with the wacky and weird details of everyday life at Google, where you could get anything your heart or body desired on site, saving you the bother of having to go home much at all really.

Edwards does not really have much time for the Google founders, Larry Page and Sergey Brin. From the book he comes across as a bit like a petulant child who needs patting on the head all the time, rather than a senior executive and vital member of the Google team. At the start of his time there he felt that his opinions were ignored or over – ridden, and towards the end he felt like a Cassandra character ‘I could see bad things on the road ahead but couldn’t stop us from recklessly rolling over them.’ And I have to say it seemed that the people who he seemed to have most problems with were women.

Reading the book, and if you had just dropped in from another planet and didn’t know about the Google success story, you might be forgiven for thinking that things were going to go drastically wrong as no one was listening to the sage words of Douglas Edwards. Now I am no Google fanatic by any means, but this book just reads like sour grapes. Which is a great shame, as it could have been a fascinating insight into the rise and rise of an international phenomenon – instead it is a bit like a long whinge. And it can’t have been that bad working as Google employee number 59, or one would presume that he would have left of his own volition, when instead Edwards was asked to leave when his position became redundant, but he did cash in on his shares before he left. C’est la vie.

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