In October 2019, I left my position as a VMware Solution Engineer and joined Google Cloud as a Customer Engineer. This post is a description of the process of onboarding and my early days at Google Cloud.
Google onboards employees in-person (before Covid-19) at one of a few rally points around the world. At the time, new employees were either flying to Mountain View or New York City. And that was going on almost every single week.
I was local enough to Mountain View to ride the famous Google Bus in. It was a bit of a hassle to figure out the closest stops to me and the schedule. The morning came and I calmly got on the bus. The wrong bus. It turns out there’s one that goes to Sunnyvale and one that goes to Mountain View. Fortunately, there’s a transfer that goes between the campuses, and I got where I needed to go with plenty of time to spare.
A few hundred of my closest friends and I were led through getting badges, laptops, and a hot breakfast before the main event started. I met people from all over the world headed to many different parts of Google (Legal! Treasury?!). Early process focused on most of the Human Resources functions you’d expect (benefits enrollment and the like). Then we got a serious dose of how Google’s culture differs from the outside world. We walked through a high-level structure of Alphabet and the component organization. Of course, just the various parts of Google were too much to hold in my head.
The third day was just the people who were joining Google Cloud. One of the first things I found out is that I’d been referring to the organization incorrectly. I thought it was called “GCP,” but the organization is Google Cloud and Google Cloud Platform is one of the products. Who knew? Even more cultural discussion followed; Surprisingly little time was spent on the actual products in the Google Cloud portfolio.
After Google and Google Cloud orientations, I visited the office I’d be working in for the first time on the Thursday of my first week. During my evaluation of Google Cloud, the work conditions were something I’d had to think about seriously. I hadn’t had a desk in an office for the previous 6 years, and I knew it would be an adjustment to come into the office most days. A colleague working in a different part of the company told me that the first year would be the most important, building relationships and replacing the web of connections I’d walked away from at my former employer. Perhaps after that I could calibrate how often I’d be in the office to the needs of my position.
Unfortunately, the San Francisco office didn’t have a Google Bus route from where I lived, so I experimented with a few different methods in the early days. At first, I tried the ferry from the Oakland/Alameda area. It was relaxing, but involved about 20 minutes of driving and 20 minutes of ferry time.
There was a benefit of beautiful views, but a downside of less flexibility in arriving and leaving. I eventually standardized on riding BART, the Bay-Area Rapid Transit light rail system. It’s crowded, but reasonably quick, cheap, and had a stop 5-10 minutes away. It also had trains every 15-20 minutes, so offered lots more flexibility.
Learning the Portfolio
My manager gave me some clear training and certification objectives and told me to maximize the first few weeks of training, as I’d probably never have another block of my Google career where I’d wouldn’t have someone else trying to get some of my time (so far, he’s right!). As a younger technology portfolio, Google Cloud hadn’t seemed to be looking for people who had previous experience with the technology; Rather, the emphasis was on learning new things quickly. So, I spent the next block of weeks studying Google Cloud’s product portfolio, and getting my architecture certification. That process was eye-opening; The only exposure I’d had to Google Cloud was hosting this WordPress site on Google Compute Engine. Almost every solution in the portfolio sat at a higher level than infrastructure.
I had to learn a lot of things about a lot of product categories that I’d been glossing over in my career. Analytics suddenly became a key product instead of something that someone else was delivering to me. An Enterprise Data Warehouse is something that I’d had problems defining before coming to Google Cloud. At VMware, we’d been involved in the infrastructure that something like a Data Warehouse would run on top of, but not in the solution itself. Suddenly, I found myself needing to become way more knowledgeable in analytics solutions.
I was excited to dig into the app modernization portfolio as this was one of the areas that I thought could be directly relevant to customer lines-of-business. However, I soon realized that almost everything we were delivering fit that description. Most customers were intrigued by analytics, app modernization, AND how Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning could help them.
My new team was great, with a bit different professional background than the colleagues I’d had at VMware. Again, as a newer organization, there just weren’t that many IT veterans with years of Google Cloud experience to pull from. They were and continue to be extremely supportive in my exploration of the Google Cloud organization and portfolio.
Google as a company is fairly famous for its perks, serving 3 meals a day at various cafes at the various campuses. On the other hand, I was on campus almost every day instead of working from home 90% of the time. That worked to my advantage, as I worked and socialized with my peers throughout the day, constantly (and probably annoyingly) picking their brains. It was still an adjustment to become a regular commuter.
Coming into the 2020 calendar year, I was assigned some sales territories to cover, mostly residing in the Healthcare and Life Sciences. It was an industry vertical I hadn’t had much experience with other than a few medical equipment manufacturers. It was also a set of customers without much commitment to Google Cloud; Most of my career had been spent with customers with a large pre-existing relationship which I was trying to expand in either different lines of business or in different product lines.
The biggest challenges I’ve faced are learning about the new industry, customers, and product portfolio at the same time. On the other hand, it’s been very exciting to face the challenge. There’s no growth if one’s perfectly comfortable, right?! I’ve had the benefit of a lot of internal training about the industry, many veteran salespeople who have covered it before, and an organization supportive of exploration and growth. It’s an ongoing process, but one that’s been extremely rewarding. Hopefully I’ll share some of what I’ve learned in future blog posts!