I joined Google almost exactly 3 years ago. I had just graduated from Stanford with a degree in Computer Science and was all set to become an engineer at Intuit (makers of Quicken and Turbotax sotware). I had never heard of the role “product manager” but I was intrigued when Google called me for an interview.
I remember being really impressed by some of my interviewers. I thought to myself that it would be cool to work at a place filled with people who were as smart and interesting as my interviewers were. In particular, I was impressed by Marissa Mayer (then a director, now a VP) and Bret Taylor (the product manager who launched Google Maps and the Google Developer Program).
Bret just seemed like a fun, cool person and I could tell he loved his job. When I interviewed at other places, I always got the sense that their job was just a job –something they *had* to do. Bret exuded an energy and passion that made it clear he woke up every morning excited to come to work, because he actually enjoyed it. No wonder he was excited, since he was working on Google Maps, which was a pretty revolutionary product when it came out. It had slick, draggable maps and was one of the first web apps to demonstrate the power of AJAX.
In my interview with Marissa, I confessed that I already had an offer as a software engineer with Intuit and wasn’t sure if being a product manager was what I wanted to do. She gave me some advice based on her own experiences. She told me to take the job that I thought would be more challenging and that would push my comfort level the most. Reflecting back on her own life, she said that all the best decisions she’d ever made were ones where she had chosen the harder, more personally challenging path.
I compared my 2 options — engineer at Intuit or product manager at Google. Engineering definitely felt more comfortable and familiar to me. I was pretty confident in my problem-solving skills and had just spent 4 years at Stanford learning how to write code. Product management felt unfamiliar and uncomfortable and there seemed to be a high possibility I would suck at it. I wasn’t sure I had enough leadership skills to lead a team. Would some of the world’s smartest engineers really listen to a stupid inexperienced kid like me? I loved to draw and design, but did that mean I could design good, shippable products that other users would like? Could I really hold my own in a press interview when I was terrified to do any public speaking or presenting at all? The answer to all of these questions seemed more likely to be no than yes. But I decided to take Marissa’s advice to go down the more challenging path. I joined Google.
3 years later looking back, that turns out to be some of the best advice I’ve ever gotten. Joining Google was definitely one of the best decisions I’ve ever made in my life. I now have the job that Bret used to have as product manager for Google Maps, and I love it as much as he did back then. I still feel like a stupid kid every once in a while and I’m still a little terrified of doing press interviews, but all in all it’s the best job on the planet.
Thanks for 3 awesome years, Google.