Why Google(or everyone else) will eventually fail.
Google goes to extraordinary lengths while hiring brilliant developers. I admire the respect and freedom Google gives to its engineers. Google is what it is because of its extremely talented engineering team and leadership. I wish Google all the best but I am also not sure if Google has yet come to terms with it’s weakest link. Yes, the weakest link will eventually bring down Google.
Before we begin, go to linkedin.com and search for “Program Manager Google India” - select location as “India” and take a look at some profiles.
How does it look like?
- Bachelor of Engineering from a sub-par Non-IIT college.
- Working with extremely mediocre companies like Infosys, Wipro or to my horror Satyam. If you work in any of the service companies in India, you are basically doing extremely menial and intellectually pedestrian work.
- Spend 2 or 3 years (depending on your lameness) in the aforementioned companies.
- Somehow, get into part-time executing MBA courses in Indian School of Business (ISB) or IIMs. I have nothing against ISB or IIMs. They are excellent institutes. But they have a very serious problem. They do not understand exceptional talent when it comes to programming or computer science. The candidate can write something like - “I lead the project which generated 40 Million USD revenue and demonstrated exceptional technical acumen” - and ISB believes this shit. Most of the colleges in India believes shit like this. So this candidate is admitted to the prestigious course and gets his or her MBA.
- Google goes GAGA and hires this person. Ofcourse, (s)he has an MBA from ISB or IIM. Who would not hire such a person.
And the problem starts…the eternal problem of supremacy of mediocracy.
Now how harmful is this ?
- Program Managers define the product requirements. Shit is not a requirement. It is shit. If you hire the candidate we just talk about and allow him to define product requirements - you will produce shit. I have seen Program Managers give product requirements like “and the button is of color blue…”, “..the menu will have buttons…”. I have seen Program Managers go into ego-fight during meetings on how the product will behave by coming up with shittier arguments than the other. This is how a mediocre person will behave. He has to survive and grow, so he will make sure he produces enough crap. He can not come up with gold in any case.
- You insult an incredibly talented engineer (whom you hired after excruciatingly painstaking process of interview) by asking him to develop the requirements defined by the mediocre Program Manager. This brilliant engineer will not survive this and will leave Google.
- As the mediocre and untalented Program Manager keeps on growing (and great engineers keep leaving) - that is the saddest part of all.
I have known extremely mediocre people who were extremely mediocre (sometimes plain stupid) engineers taken this route and joined executive MBAs in India and outside to eventually join as Product Managers in Google, Microsoft, Amazon in India. I have also known brilliant engineers leave these companies due to their frustration.
I have heard arguments “I have coded enough, now I want to stop coding and manage products. Big Picture and all…” - from these Program Managers. You have left coding because you were stupid and you sucked at it and you will suck at being a Program Manager too.
Is there something Google (or everyone else especially in India) can do about this?
- Google has international standards of hiring. They say that even their managers code and they are interviewed for that. Is this standard applied for the Program Managers? I am sure not.
- Hire a PM only if he a great engineer. Not if he has slogged on a maintenance project at Infosys and somehow got an MBA. Test him and make him write programs in Python and ask him to do it in O(1). Don’t ask him to reverse a linked list - everyone knows how to.
- MBA is not a silver bullet for finding Program Manangers - understand this.
- Let engineers hire Program Managers (this is the best solutions)
Or, eventually fail.