Urs Hölzle on Work and Culture at Google

Your own motivation, your drive to
accomplish something, is what actually drives projects forward. People are more
important than technology. I’m Urs Hölzle and I’m the SVP for
Technical Infrastructure. I’ve worked at Google since 1999. In a way I’ve been
doing the same thing for the last you know 19 years, namely infrastructure. You
know that was my first thing but what surprised me is actually how much that
question has changed and I don’t feel I have the same job even for two years in
a row because it very much changes over time because you get to apply your
technical skills to new problems and problems that are surprising. Cloud
for example is really materially different from what we used to do and
that keeps it interesting, and sometimes frustrating of course, but rewarding more
often than frustrating. Infrastructure is not just about the
technology, it’s actually about creating an outcome that matters for customers or for end-users or for someone internal. On pretty much any area of infrastructure, our network is something like a quarter to 30% of Internet traffic that’s
delivered to user comes from Google. So clearly with our network we have to do
things that weren’t done before because there isn’t an existing one that
works for that problem. To some extent the craziest idea was really the
original index all the world’s information and make it universally
accessible and useful. Then it was kind of crazy and it still is, except that today the
expectations of the user are much higher. Literally when we launched people were
super happy that you could type in Stanford or IBM or Coca-Cola and
actually get Stanford or IBM or Coca-Cola because that was actually new
at the time. The product leads a user to expect more and more and it’s very
challenging to keep up with that but often when you fail you still solved a
very important problem halfway. So it’s much harder to fail completely. If you
are ambitious versus when you’re not ambitious you’re trying to do something
incremental and any fail, you really fail. Like you did nothing, and that is
much worse. It’s an interesting job but at the same time we’re really trying
hard to make it a fun job, to make it a job where you actually like
to hang out because people are your friends and not just your co-workers in
that keeps lots of people, here including myself. Transfers are very easy inside of
Google. Google isn’t really one company. You can go from a very business facing
thing like advertising to something like Gmail that’s very user focused, and that
way you can kind of change your career without changing the company. You can go to a different team or to a different challenge in a very very low overhead
way and that’s why we’re actually spending a lot of time trying to really
make people feel empowered and free to take risks and you know respect
risks but not fear them. If you’re passionate about infrastructure this really is an
awesome place because we have some of the best infrastructure everywhere and we really work, and we have to work, on the problems that are
leading edge. I mean, ten years in the past basically almost nothing that you
care about today existed and so ten years from now I think the things that
we’re going to be most excited about are things that we’re not really thinking
about, and yes, you know I hope we have a big hand at inventing that so to
speak but I have no idea what it will be. I have absolutely no idea, that’s why you
should apply!

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