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I'm Feeling Lucky: The Confessions of Google Employee Number 59 Hardcover – July 12, 2011
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I’m Feeling Lucky captures for the first time the unique, self-invented, yet profoundly important culture of the world’s most transformative corporation.
Amazon Exclusive: A Q&A with Douglas Edwards
Q: Why is I’m Feeling Lucky different from other books about Google?
A: There have been many fine books written about Google and its impact on the world, but all have been told from an outsider’s perspective. I’m Feeling Lucky is a personal accounting of what it felt like to be part of the company as it grew from sixty people to tens of thousands. I was a forty-one-year-old middle manager thrust into an unfamiliar world ruled by two brilliant founders with a unique management style, and the book details how difficult it was for me to make the adjustment.
Personal anecdotes are interspersed with an explanation of the key events in Google’s technical development, largely told in the words of those who actually built the systems that made Google work as fast and well as it does. Many of these individuals have remained anonymous until now.
I’m Feeling Lucky is really aimed at those who are interested both in what Google did to ensure success during its formative years and how it felt to be an ill-prepared participant dropped into the heart of an exploding startup.
Q: What is it really like to work with co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin?
A: On a personal level, I found them to be pretty easy-going and approachable. Sergey has a wicked sense of humor and Larry always struck me as very sincere. They liked to surround themselves with intelligent, open minded, curious, and energetic people, who were not afraid to challenge their ideas. They always wanted people to think on a grander scale than they typically did and they didn't like people saying "no" rather than "here's a better way to do that." They didn't get hung up on titles, academic pedigree, or tenure at the company if an idea was a good one.
Q: What is the Google workplace like compared to other companies'?
A: Compared to every other place I had worked, it was pretty wonderful. We had free meals every day that were as good as any served by the finest local restaurants, great workout facilities, massage therapists and doctors on staff, and an annual ski trip for all employees. On the other hand, the stress and demands were constant and intense. I went through a couple of weeks at the Mercury News during a newspaper circulation war that really challenged me. At Google, it was like that every day for my five years at the company. We were expected to be available every hour of every day and lots of key decisions were made after midnight. If I wasn’t there for the discussion, the decision was made without my input.
Q: In the book, you relay some very heated discussions about how Google dealt with user privacy issues. What were the most significant problems, and how did you handle them as one of the chief marketing executives?
A: The biggest privacy issue during my time at Google related to the launch of Gmail and the fact that it scanned mail to insert content-related ads in users’ inboxes. That created a firestorm that engulfed the company and was very hard to extinguish. There were many contributing factors, but at its heart was the fact that engineers knew no person was reading user mail to insert ads and so insisted that there was NO privacy issue. While technically correct, this perspective denied the concerns of users who did not share the same trust and confidence in Google that its engineering staff did. The founders’ insistence on not acknowledging users’ fears made it difficult to respond to them in a sensitive manner. Eventually, we were able to get enough Gmail accounts out to journalists and opinion leaders to begin turning the tide, but the process was painful and damaging to Google’s brand.
Q: What was it really like behind the scenes of the Google-AOL deal?
A: The negotiations with AOL were challenging and unpleasant for those involved from the Google side. AOL had little interest in Google initially, other than as a weapon to wield against Overture—the leading supplier of search-related advertising at the time. Overture and Google fought a pitched battle to win the account, which was worth more than a billion dollars in revenue, and threw everything they could at each other as AOL stood above the fray, egging them on.
Even as AOL became aware that Google’s technology and ad relevance were superior to those of its competitor, and Google’s potential for revenue generation was greater, they demanded more and more in terms of outrageous payment guarantees and access to the company’s proprietary algorithms. When AOL ultimately signed the contract with Google, Overture tried one last desperate ploy to sabotage the deal.
AOL’s enormous traffic guaranteed the success of Google’s ad network, but as my book details, taking them on as a client was a high risk gamble that could easily have destroyed Google and driven it into bankruptcy.
Q: What do you regard as your most significant accomplishment while at Google?
A: From a marketing perspective, I would say it was creating and enforcing a brand architecture that put all of our emphasis on Google itself, instead of on innumerable individual sub-brands. Because of that, the Google name has not been diluted by competing with its own products. The only two exceptions during my time at the company were the social networking experiment orkut and the product search service Froogle. I argued against the latter name and lost, but ultimately Google recognized its mistake and changed the branding to "Google product search," which is what I had recommended.
Other areas I was proud to be part of included the company’s response to the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the formulation of Google’s corporate credo ("Ten things we’ve found to be true"), writing Google’s April Fools jokes, and launching a highly visible engineering recruitment campaign.
Q: What should people know about Google that they don’t already know?
A: People who only know Google as an omnipresent, omniscient online service should realize that the company began as a small group of well-intentioned geeks who truly wanted to make the world a better place. Along the way, the company was forced to confront the reality that the world didn’t always see things from the same perspective, but the strength of their convictions led Google’s executives to forge ahead regardless. The founders simply didn’t have the patience to wait for the rest of the world to figure out that they were right. This hubris was present from the very beginning and is the source of many of Google’s current conflicts. I’m Feeling Lucky helps readers to understand how that attitude was formed and forged by specific events that occurred early in the company’s history. That background will help readers better grasp why Google does things the way it does today.
-Bloomberg News "Edwards does an excellent job of telling his story with a fun, outsider-insider voice. The writing is sharp and takes full advantage of the fact that Edwards was in a unique position to gauge Google’s strengths and weaknesses, coming as he did from an "old-media’’ background...Part of what makes the book so rewarding is Edwards’s endlessly nuanced take on his former company and its employees"
-Boston Globe "Affectionate, compulsively readable. . . . This lively, thoughtful business memoir is more entertaining than it really has any right to be, and should be required reading for startup aficionados."
—Publishers Weekly "Although there have been many journalistic examinations of the world’s most valuable Internet brand, this is the first to capture the process and the feeling of what it was like to be there in the early days."
-Booklist "[Edwards's] perspective as an early employee is valuable and unique...the former 'voice of Google' provides a detailed, quirky and expansive half-memoir/half-historical record."
"I’m Feeling Lucky is funny, revealing, and instructive, with an insider’s perspective I hadn’t seen anywhere before. I thought I had followed the Google story closely, but I realized how much I’d missed after reading—and enjoying—this book."
—James Fallows, author of Postcards from Tomorrow Square "Douglas Edwards is indeed lucky, sort of an accidental millionaire, a reluctant bystander in a sea of computer geniuses who changed the world. This is a rare look at what happened inside the building of the most important company of our time."
—Seth Godin, author of Linchpin "This is the first Google book told from the inside out. The teller is an ex-employee who joined Google early and who treats readers to vivid inside stories of what life was like before Google became a verb. Douglas Edwards recounts Google's stumble and rise with verve and humor and a generosity of spirit. He kept me turning the pages of this engrossing tale."
—Ken Auletta, author of Googled: The End of the World as We Know It
More About the Author
Top Customer Reviews
I was pleasantly surprised then to see it as a refreshingly unique and non-techie/non-geeky take on Google by a marketing guy who hit upon his motherlode with what was then yet another tech startup from the valley. Douglas Edwards, a marketing guy from the Valley who gets into Google without knowing much about the technology or where it would take him, makes an interesting person's eyes to view Google from.
There is some amount of technology covered here but more of the Dummies style where the author assumes the reader knows nothing. There is also a fish out of water element pervasive throughout the book that is alternatively funny and overdone. The other fun part about the book is the plethora of anecdotes from Google's early days from an insider. Some of these nuggets give a human tone to the massive entity that is Google. Some of the otherwise unknown and background characters from the early days of Google get their share of their limelight here. As someone who has read every decent book on Google out there, I came to know of quite a few such early day champions from Google.
Geeks might not find a whole lot of new stuff here but I liked the book for what it tries to be- an non-engineering insiders view of Google. Its fun and worth a read.
This book is a not an account of how the founders grew the company, nor is it an expose on Google business secrets. Rather, it is more of the story of how the writer went from a job in journalism in the Silicon Valley to working for what would become a major player in the Silicon Valley.
Through 400 pages, the book describes this journey in not unpleasant detail. Along the way, I learned that a lot of the supposed beliefs about Google were probably more the product of misinformation then malignant intent (such as the "Do No Evil" meme), and that Google operated like many technical companies in that the supposed well considered plans were often the product of haphazard planning and organization.
This is certainly not a bad book by any stretch, and some parts are compelling and interesting. However, those parts aren't coincident with the whole of the book. I found myself as a casual observer of Google often thinking that there was more that could be told. I think this book doesn't know what to be exactly. It isn't a technical primer, nor is it really a memoir as much as it is a pastiche of pieces written about an organization that grew exponentially in a way that the author, and probably the founders, never anticipated.
A good, but not great read. For a casual observer, there aren't really great moments of insight here, and for the technical geek, your definitely looking in the wrong place. Decent reading, but to my mind, no more. Worth the effort, but not a great read in the end.
2) The book is pseudo chronological. As you finish one part that strolls along for a set period of time, you may have to regain your temporal bearings when he starts the next part chronologically *before* the last part ended. It doesn't detract from the story telling, but it's something to watch for. It's kind of like when people didn't have automatic panorama cameras and instead would take several shots along the horizon... then try to physically piece all the prints together with varying degrees of overlap. The overall picture is still fantastic, so don't let this bother you too much.
3) Marissa Mayer. He really, really seems to dislike her. I'm surprised I haven't seen more about this in the reviews so far. The first thing he says about Marissa in the book and the last thing are both framed positively. But in between she is the one topic he comes back to over and over throughout the book; with a lot more bad than good. He describes how she tried to use all sorts of manipulative and deceptive tactics to outmaneuver him, keep him out of key meetings, directly block his access to the founders and possibly lie about what they were saying, belittle his role in the company, go over and around him at every possible opportunity... and even that her relationship with Larry Page was strategically leveraged against him. Without ever actually putting it bluntly he also said that Marissa did more harm than good in just about everything she worked on. Every time he and Marissa disagreed it turned out he was right... this all according to Doug. He handled the topic of Marissa Mayer in what felt like such a casual, although repeatedly occurring, manner that as I was reading I wondered if he was even conscious of what he was doing or whether we are witnessing the work of a literary mastermind getting his ultimate revenge.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I've gone on a biography kick recently and really enjoyed biographies of Elon Musk (Ashlee Vance), and Steve Jobs (Walter Isaacson). Read morePublished 26 days ago by Steve
Fascinating insight into the early days of the early days of one of the greatest companies of our time.Published 2 months ago by M. Zanko
I enjoyed this book given the important account of Google's early days. I found myself rolling my eyes at times due to the self-serving, self-absorbed aspects of the author...... Read morePublished 4 months ago by RJP
I loved hearing about the early days of the company and the philosophy that drove them. As a geek myself, I would have loved working there.bPublished 4 months ago by Kindle Customer
I really enjoyed the book. An amazing story of the early days of Google and the priorities of the founders.Published 9 months ago by Jere Stahl
This book is basically the journal of a non-tech early Google employee. Douglas Edwards is employed in marketing and corporate communications, and documents the rise and challenges... Read morePublished 9 months ago by Frank T. Rothaermel, Georgia Tech
Interesting background story from the early days of the company that has formed so much our world today.Published 11 months ago by Forssell Miia A