I was one of the more prolific Google bloggers, even if PR & management sometimes didn’t like it (and I did receive the occasional second hand admonishment from people above my pay grade). But instead of shying away from contributing to the share-osphere, my former Google colleagues should find their voices online. Why? Because if you’re going to attract the best talent, it helps if they know who you are.
In my first years at Google we had no problem recruiting the most talented young product managers. Their friends were already working for us. The responsibility they were given was large. The opportunity for financial return significant. And the competitive space from 2004-07 was lacking solid alternatives. Then Facebook arrived. Then Y Combinator debuted. Then Web 2.0 accelerated. All of a sudden the most entrepreneurial talent wasn’t deciding between Google and, um, Microsoft, but between Google, pre-IPO hotness and starting their own thing. No longer such a clear choice, especially when the ecosystem is encouraging everyone to be a founder.
But these were still the product managers I wanted to hire/acquire at YouTube, or encourage to transfer from the Mountain View Mothership. You know how people say that employees don’t leave companies, they leave managers? Well I needed to try and make the inverse happen – give some sense of what working at YouTube could be like. There are multiple reasons why I blog – some very personal – but during my years at Google I was certainly trying to become credible to potential hires. To give them visibility of who I was and what I believed. To make my name recognizable enough that maybe they’d open an email from me. To put some weight behind the statement, "Look, work with me for a few years and if you want to start a company after, I’ll help make the right introductions."
Did it work? Mixed. Mostly it was having a large enough set of friends that most people we were interviewing could reference me via someone they knew. But I do believe that every once in a while I’d write something interesting that at least got someone thinking, or even believing they might learn something from working with me.
Showing yourself beyond the corporate PR-sanctioned faces gives people the chance to like, or dislike, you before they’re making the decision whether to show up for work everyday at your company. And I’d love to see more of my talented former colleagues sharing their thoughts with the broader tech community.