The plastic world has won
A cardboard alarm bell triumphs
(Ugggh, it's too hard to find a good translation of Letov's songs. They are too Russian. )
What I want to write is about Google. I wanted to write something about it for a long time, but hesitated, cause I officially filled in the form when I told that I'll not tell bad things about this corp. But I think that since I'm not their employee for already half of a year, I should not care anymore so much.
Many prog folks imagine that Google is kind of heaven for programmers. And it is true. It is heaven.
Pink plastic heaven for ever-smiling Kens and Barbies.
Here we have a huge salaries, tasty free food, massage zone, gym right in the big, beautiful office in the center of the London. There are comfortable working conditions: no dress code, no need to sit on the work place during the whole day. You can take a laptop and go to the roof, to the kitchen or to the rest zone to make things from there. You can take all your favorite things at work: paintings, photos, souvenirs, lego constructors. Everything which raises your mood and makes you feel more comfortable. If you're tired, you can go and distract yourself by tabletop games or other fun stuff. Not saying that working computers are powerful, and amount of servers is huge: you can use thousand of cores for calculations when you need. The most of IT people around are high-level specialists, polite, helpful.
I knew, that I MUST to feel happy there. My acquaintances (those who weren't in Google themselves) were envious and didn't understand why I'm not entirely happy in such cool conditions. At first, I didn't even understand it myself either. Initially I thought that it is just my depression or stress. But when I thought more about it, I found out that there was deeper reason of my discomfort.
There was one very, very important thing, which was blatantly lacking in this heaven.
Of course, not all people in Google are insincere. I met some people, who were open with me, but unfortunately, they were from outside my team. And try to guess how these good people reacted, when I shared with them my complications with communication within my team or with writing my reports?
They made round eyes and told: "Never tell / write such things again". Or, more directly: "Do you want to be kicked off / refused in conversion on full-time?!" When I firstly saw this reaction, I was perplexed. I wrote my reports, using business language, describing everything honestly and clearly; I talked with boss and colleagues politely, on the substance. So I asked, what's wrong with it? Is it possible that I told something in disrespectful way without noticing it? And the answers boiled down to variations of: "No, the form of your speech is fine. The problem is in the containment itself. You told/wrote what you think, but THIS and what REALLY must be told/written are TOTALLY different things! Next time when you'll be in the same situation, ask me. I'll tell you what to write or say! Please keep yourself from troubles in the future!"
They sincerely worried about me, and I appreciate this. But do you see where is it going? Even those people, who sympathized to me and were fine with my openly-honest manner of speech, directly implied that I can easily been kicked out for it, because others will not understand. So I should be careful and re-check all my words twice before telling anything to people, from whom I directly depend at work. There were way too many restrictions of what and how can you say.
It was suffocating.
At normal jobs, which I attended in smaller (Russian) companies, I also felt somewhat stressed about need to censoring myself in the office. But the amount of things, in which I should censor myself there, was MUCH less, than the amount of things, in which I had to censor myself in Google, so the amount of stress was less, too (After Google, I realized that it was petty to whine about behavior boundaries on normal works, because I realized, how loose they were in comparison).
Simply saying: at those other works was not so necessary to recheck EVERY word which you tell to teamlead, boss or others...
As long as you don't tell blatantly NSFW / rude / provocative things and don't do anything which distracts others from work too much, you'll be more-or-less fine. Even if sometimes I still forgot that I'm at work and did or told something out of place, consequences weren't serious. The worst possible reaction was moderate irritation of colleagues or acid joke toward me. Most of people seemingly forgot about such occasions soon and continued to behave as usual after them. There, if I occasionally brought report, which didn't correspond job's normatives, to the boss, he just wrinkled his forehead and told something like: "Ahem... < Username >, listen, I can't accept this. Go and ask your colleagues to show you a normal report, then return to me with rewritten version". After it, I returned to colleagues, and they helped me to fix reports with laugh and jokes instead of panic, as it was in Google. I never met a scenario, when "bad" report was accepted without any comments, but instead of suggestions to sort things out with it, you just abruptly got kicked out. Sounds like insanity, but people say, that in Google it's a real threat.
I think, things at these works were more acceptive because these employers and teammates were not so spoiled by a crowds of high-qualified IT job seekers, as over-hyped Google does. Unlike Google, for the most of smaller companies finding more-or-less qualified programmer is not easy. They can't afford to just kick out anyone whom they find complicated in communication, just because finding a replacement will take a time, during which the whole team will suffer from overloading. So, they don't aim to find a programmer of their dream. They aim to find just some programmer. As long as your qualification fits, they can go the extra mile to you to find common ground and at least somehow fit you into the team. So, as long as I did the job in acceptable level, such common employers continued to prolong my contract or to make new contracts with me and give me new tasks, despite of my personal flaws.
But for choosy Google it's not enough. Since it's not a problem for them to find a good programmers, they can afford themselves to demand more, than just ability to do the job well. They require you to seriously fit their code of conduct and corporation culture, which you learn from special books and courses inside of the company. (Yes! Believe or not, they really have several special courses on tolerance and behavior rules, mandatory for all employers. What the Fuck )
But unfortunately, this corporative culture is deeply hypocritical (you can guess).
For example, they tell that they "encourage" and "celebrate" diversity and claim that they create accepting environment for everyone. Which sounds good until the moment, when you'll learn the methods, by which it's "achieved". You can already guess, that the main method is to just kick people out for anything, which raises suspects on being intolerant. Yes, as simple as that.
Additional "method" for "encouraging" diversity is artificially positive corporative events, where speakers from different minorities share their experience. Which sounds good at the first glance: you can suppose, that there unusual people share experiences from unusual perspectives, you listen and learn to look at things wider... But no, it's not the case. Because speakers are frightened by the previous method, they rarely say anything meaningful, in 90% of cases they just repeat the same cliches over and over again. And people who listen, either just claps or tell/ask another safe cliches. No real discussion, just because the fear to tell something wrong is too strong.
And then they say in their propaganda: Here in Google, we all are tolerant and respect each other despite of the differences! Black, white, gays, straight, men, women, healthy, disabled, we all are one big family!
Sure thing you are. Those people, who didn't learn to imitate respect in the right ways, are just gone, LOL.
Another problem with their interpretation of "tolerance" and "encouraging diversity" is that it has absolutely nothing to do with individual approach to each person. This "tolerance" is applied only toward strictly defined label, not toward person. To be tolerated, you must proof that you're a part of some minority from approved list of "Minorities, which are forbidden to discriminate". After it, they assign you a label, put you into a box with this label and make your colleagues to read guidelines, how to behave with this box. This is what they call "inclusion".
When one my friend learned my complications with people at work, he told: "You have some features of Asperger. They can be one of reasons of misunderstanding. You should diagnose and then show this diagnose to your host. We are inclusive toward mental disabilities, so your after it host will read guidelines how to deal with mentally disabled and become more acceptive toward your behavior". That was the moment, when I felt very bad. Why they can't understand, how to deal with me just during interaction with me, using their common sense? Isn't in what true "acceptance" would look like? Why I must call myself "disabled" and put a label on my forehead to deserve "understanding" (or it's imitation)?
As I told, at previous works people also disliked some of my Asperger-like features. But nevertheless, those people gradually learned to deal with me somehow. You know, I also found some of them hard to communicate, but I also learned to deal with it. In general, people at those works just learned individual peculiarities of their colleagues from interaction, remembered them and after it behaved accordingly to avoid unnecessary conflicts or misunderstanding. Each individual is unique, and you adjust to them in degree, which is enough to work with them. But for some reason, in Google it didn't work in such natural way.
The most of people in Google tend to be friendly and are glad to help. But you can never guess what hides behind the "friendliness". Their smile and their desire to help may be truly sincere, but it also may be Barbie's smile and lifeless help of bio-robot, who's just performs the algorithm. You never know.
For example, in my first day as Intern, I was very discouraged. There were too many people, talking in the same time. I didn't understand anything and re-asked things for several times, feeling myself stupid. Networking sessions were especially stressful, I always hated them. I was so stressed, that at lunch break, I sit in distant chair in the cafe and cried. When I returned with clearly exhausted tear-stained face, reaction of some people from those, who helped us to set up for a job, didn't change even a bit. They continued to look at me with the same frozen Barbie's expression and asked to do all these super-uncomfortable things, which clearly exhausted me so much.
I know, that nobody is obligated to console me or find out what's my problem. But the fact that their facial expressions didn't change even a bit when they looked at my clearly suffering face, was... scary. At other works people show at least some reaction, if they see that someone feels very bad. For example, their faces will change or they may start to feel awkward. If they're empathetic, they may also suggest you to go home or to try to cheer you up (even if, again, they're not formally obligated to do it). But Google Barbies didn't even bat an eyelid, like I didn't had feelings at all. How could I perceive their help sincere after it?
And after it, I was asked to receive anonymous feedback on the event, where I was asked: "Did you feel welcomed and included?". I felt this question... insulting in such context.
When I later told about it to friendly person, they also told about Asperger shit: "Look. The most probable explanation of your complications is Asperger. If you remember, before event, they asked employees to tell about their disabilities. How could they be inclusive to you, if you didn't warn about this disability before the event?". How? Maybe by the common sense and simple humaneness?
They encourage to have and discuss unusual hobbies, but how can it make you feel better, if, when you tell about them to your colleagues, you'll never learn their true thoughts about it? They encourage you to keep your favorite things on your table, but these things can't save you from immersive plastic atmosphere. These encouragements of "individuality" are just one more formality and part of company's image. When I saw interesting stuff at other people's tables, I tried to discuss it with them friendly and find a common ground to talk, but it didn't work. It just turned into boring dull cliched talk very soon. Besides, nobody showed interest in my stuff too, aside of a friend.
Eventually, this pink plastic heaven was inhabited mostly by deeply closed people, who did their best to not show any inaccessible emotions and talked only on the following "allowed" topics: Google itself (only good things, of course), work, office, weather, their houses and cars, families and pets, food, hobbies, mostly imitating interest mechanically.
On my previous jobs, many people also wore masks, and hypocrisy existed in some degree, too. But never reached such extreme form. Even those ones, who were distant, closed or unfriendly, still looked like people, not like a bio-robots. In Google hypocrisy went into whole another level. It was grotesque and pervasive. I didn't see anything like this in other jobs.
Again, I don't want to insult those people from Google, who behaved like normal people with feelings. I appreciated even glance of sincerity there, not saying about my gratitude to those who really helped me. But the system in general and the most of other people looked lifeless. At Google I really deeply understood expression "To be the cog in the big lifeless machine".
P.S. Among other things, in this company I also met deeply neurotics harassment-paranoia...
According to Google behavior guidelines, any talk or joke about sex-related things can potentially be considered as harassment. Any touch can be endowed by such context as well. And if your colleague will interpret it like this and report it with such interpretation, it may lead you to be kicked out.
So many of my male colleagues were seemingly afraid to touch a woman at work in any way. When they were passing any item to me, they avoided touching me by all means, even if it made passing the item inconvenient. When one man didn't manage to avoid touching me during it, despite of all his efforts, he apologized anxiously as if he did something very wrong. 0_o Another time, when I sit near another colleague and accidentally pushed him with my elbow, he immediately put himself into weird skewed position, just to avoid touching my elbow by all means. Oh my... Russian guy would just push elbow away, and that's all.
Of course, respecting personal boundaries is cool and important to make people comfortable at work. But when it comes from a fear instead of a common sense and consciousness... how the fuck can it make anyone feel good?
For comparison: at my previous works people learned to understand personal boundaries of each other by common sense, by interacting with each other and seeing each other's reactions. At those collectives, if you find something intrusive, you just tell and people adjust calmly without panic. There people restricted themselves in discussing NSFW just to avoid awkwardness, not because anyone was seriously afraid to be accused in harassment and kicked out with shame.
Do you see the difference? If you're doing/not doing something because you yourself don't want to cause people feel awkward, it feels like a conscious choice. But in Google it didn't feel like this. At Google, I re-checked all my words, which could be interpreted as even distantly related to sex, twice, not because I cared about others feelings, but because I was scared that I'll be kicked out for it. Do you see, how much more hurtful for psyche is it?