Sep 14, 2011

[Books] I'm Feeling Lucky: The Confessions of Google Employee Number 59

I'm Feeling Lucky: The Confessions of Google Employee Number 59When I started the Geeky Guide five years ago, a large part of my initial focus was Google-watching. And could you blame me? Google is THE company to follow for geeks such as myself, and is pretty much the place that any geek would kill to work for. Well, now there's Facebook too, but Google still represents a particular idea of tech-geekdom that is hard to match.

There's a large segment of the blogging world that's dedicated to following the comings and goings of Google as a company and in time I realized the Geeky Guide would have more of an identity if I branched out into other avenue. However my core love for Google remains just as strong and I've continued to act as a sort of Google advocate to my friends including trying to get people on Google Apps and things like that.

So when this book came out, I knew I had to get it. As much as fellow Google fanboys know most of the company history as based on what had been previously published on various websites, this is the first time an insider has published his observations of the tech giant during its early start-up days.

I'm Feeling Lucky: The Confessions of Google Employee Number 59 is the personal account of Douglas Edwards, who was Google's first director of consumer marketing and brand management for Google. The book covers his time with the company between 1999 to 2005.

The book starts in the very early days of Google - those golden days when every new hire had been given stock options as part of their signing packages and the founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin still interviewed every single employee. What starts Doug's account as a unique story as a marketing guy among all those engineers is the fact that the founders themselves seem to have a fairly negative concept when it came to traditional marketing practices. Thus we follow his efforts to educate his peers but at the same time try to innovate new ways to build the Google brand in a manner that worked with the Google concept.

But this isn't just some factual account of events in Google's history. After all, Doug has been known as "the voice of Google" given his involvement in most of Google's user interactions and communications. Thus the book is written in that particular voice - a narrative that is able to address even the most technical concerns related while still making it approachable to the average user. After all, Doug is a marketing guy at heart and never claimed to be an engineer. Some have found the language to be too simplistic at times, but I found it vibrant and refreshing in tone and thus a pleasure to read even when discussing the more stressful situations Doug had to deal with.

Thus the book flows along two lines. On the one hand, it provides a striking inside look at Google's early history including milestone events such as their first search deal with AOL and the development of AdWords. But at the same time it's really just the tale of a marketing guy trying to redefine the job based on the technically-driven and data-obsessed engineers that were fundamental to growing Google to the company that it is today.

The book has certainly given me a lot to think about in terms of both my own marketing job and Google as a company. While Doug makes sure to tell all sides of the story and not just the warm and fuzzy stuff, he does seem to have a particular slant here - one last message as Google's voice that he has to deliver. If anything, this feels like Doug's last message to us users - an attempt to explain how Google operates at its core and thus presents a different view of the company given the big decisions it makes that get splashed all over the news. Google isn't quite the information monster and privacy villain that many present it to be. But it is moving solely to the beat of its own drum and its own concept of what they feel is in the best interests of the user.

At the same time, it's an amazing exploration of marketing and how the old concepts may not quite work in the increasingly product-aligned world that we live in. Branding goes beyond just thinking of the company as a whole but building images and ideas around individual product lines, especially in a tech world.

I'm Feeling Lucky: The Confessions of Google Employee Number 59 is a great for any marketer trying to make his way in these web 2.0 times that we live in and for anyone who wants to better understand the innovation engine that is Google. I strongly recommend it to every geek who continues to use Google's many products and those who just want to better understand why this company is so different from all others. Thus it clearly gets 5 crazy stories about various Google engineers out of a possible 5.

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