I had the opportunity today to sit in on a group lunch/informal conversation with Google’s VP of Search Products & User Experience, Marissa Mayer.
Not only was she incredibly well-spoken and technically-grounded (she is, after all, an engineer) she was also Google employee number 18!
She had great insights on search and technology but her real strengths, and the reason we were assembled to hear her speak, were her insights into corporate culture and innovation, two areas where Google is the envy of most other companies.
We also got the straight dope on the genesis of the phrase/guiding principle/corporate tenet “Don’t Be Evil”. I’ll be updating Wikipedia (or at the least engaging folks on the talk page) post haste.
Basically, Marissa shared an office with Amit Patel, another engineer, back in the early days of Google. On the eve of Google meeting with WashingtonPost.com to discuss site search (a google search box on WashingtonPost.com), Patel was very concerned, from an engineer’s perspective, that the sales person would promise WashingtonPost.com work that he didn’t want to do because it would be divergent from Google’s goals and personality.
Given that Google was and still is an engineer(ing)-driven business, he took it upon himself to devise a solution. The night before the meeting/presentation, he left a small note in “Patel Sans-Serif” in the lower right corner of a whiteboard visible only to the sales person. The message: “Don’t Be Evil”.
Two standout quotes/thoughts:
- Trusting people/employees is the first step to innovation.
- Good (consumer) products stand on their own two feet.
Two questions I didn’t ask (but should have):
- Given other entertainment companies are suing Google (Viacom v. YouTube), what should our networks do, short of giving you all of our content to sell ads against, that we aren’t already doing? What are the opportunities we’re missing?
- Since Google recently de-llisted some sites from it’s index and lowered the pagerank of many others, how much SEO is good SEO and will you ever just tell site owners how the algorithm works so we’re not guessing and “being evil” ourselves?
Truly one of the more interesting folks I’ve heard speak. I could fill up a dozen blog posts highlighting every single part of her speech.