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Tech Expertise Not Important In Google Managers

samzenpus posted more than 3 years ago | from the we-don't-need-to-talk-about-your-tps-reports dept.

Google 298

Hugh Pickens writes "For much of its 13-year history, Google has taken a pretty simple approach to management: Leave people alone but if employees become stuck, they should ask their bosses, whose deep technical expertise propelled them into management in the first place. Now the Economic Times reports that statisticians at Google looking for characteristics that define good managers have gathered more than 10,000 observations about managers — across more than 100 variables, from various performance reviews, feedback surveys and other reports and found that technical expertise ranks dead last among Google's eight most important characteristics of good managers. What Google employees value most are even-keeled bosses who made time for one-on-one meetings, who helped people puzzle through problems by asking questions, not dictating answers, and who took an interest in employees' lives and careers."

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298 comments

Thank goodness, I don't work at Google (-1, Troll)

leetz4 (2015654) | more than 3 years ago | (#35473702)

I once did read a horror ,a href=http://tinyurl.com/63avlna>story about one Google employee and his boss, and what that poor worker went through.

Re:Thank goodness, I don't work at Google (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35473776)

lol goatse fail.

So people skills win again... (2, Insightful)

cultiv8 (1660093) | more than 3 years ago | (#35473712)

most of the time I wish this wasn't true.

Re:So people skills win again... (2, Insightful)

Starteck81 (917280) | more than 3 years ago | (#35473754)

most of the time I wish this wasn't true.

The real trick is to fhttp://tech.slashdot.org/story/11/03/13/1856240/Tech-Expertise-Not-Important-In-Google-Managers?from=fb#ind someone technically skill who is also good with people. Admittedly this is a very rare combination.

Huh? you think successful teams just happen? (5, Insightful)

petes_PoV (912422) | more than 3 years ago | (#35473920)

Why denigrate people skills, they're much rarer than technical skills. Just look at the number of people with good technical skills - compare with the number of good managers. IME there are plenty of good developers, testers, coders, designers, tech authors, sysadmins, dbas. There are many fewer worthwhile team leaders and managers. Plus, most of the techies who do get promoted into management are pretty terrible at it.

The biggest problem is that you can't test for management skills. Either you have it or you don't. It doesn't appear to be something you can take a class in, or get a qualification in. Even worse: it doesn't show up at interview. It does appear to grow (or sometimes diminish) with experience: a poor manager can grow into a half-decent one, given the right supervision and advice (presuming they're willing to take advice) but you can't measure it or compare two managers to see which one's best - not without extensive and time consuming field trials.

So if you find a good one, keep hold of them.

Re:Huh? you think successful teams just happen? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35473984)

Are you serious? It is rare to find one person with good technical skills at an entire company. I worked at a nameless multinational software company for 4 years recently before I moved on to another company and I wouldn't trust most of my fellow engineers at that company to screw in a light bulb.

Re:Huh? you think successful teams just happen? (1)

mlush (620447) | more than 3 years ago | (#35474234)

Are you serious? It is rare to find one person with good technical skills at an entire company. I worked at a nameless multinational software company for 4 years recently before I moved on to another company and I wouldn't trust most of my fellow engineers at that company to screw in a light bulb.

Who was responsible for employing and retaining these less than apt people?

Re:Huh? you think successful teams just happen? (2)

Daniel Phillips (238627) | more than 3 years ago | (#35474300)

Are you serious? It is rare to find one person with good technical skills at an entire company. I worked at a nameless multinational software company for 4 years recently before I moved on to another company and I wouldn't trust most of my fellow engineers at that company to screw in a light bulb.

Who was responsible for employing and retaining these less than apt people?

Corporate America?

Re:Huh? you think successful teams just happen? (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35474128)

There is no surplus of good technical people and there is no surplus of good managers. You can test for both skills (what do you think Google is doing? and both categories have their fair share of posers. Both skills are necessary for success. The only difference is that managers set the salaries of both groups, because people with people skills will always rise above other people. That's also why techs get fired when they screw up and managers get a promotion if their mistakes become evident late enough (or the golden parachute otherwise). THAT's why techs don't like that people skills are so highly valued.

Re:Huh? you think successful teams just happen? (5, Interesting)

Runaway1956 (1322357) | more than 3 years ago | (#35474266)

The US Navy, and the rest of the military, would disagree with you. Uncle Sam taught me that few, if any, people are "born leaders". More, I was taught that "born leaders" seldom fit into a cohesive unit, being more interested in their own goals, than the unit or corporate goals. Leadership and/or management are learned skills, and the military spends a great deal of effort teaching men and women to be effective leaders and managers. And, yes, you can test for leadership skills. Put a person into a real life complex stressful situation, and see how they perform. Oh, wait - you meant a test that you can sit down, and fill in the answers with a pencil? No, not really - but it might be a start if you bother to ask your victim or subject if he can even define leadership or management. I've often found that merely defining a problem or a goal gets me a long way toward solving the problem.

Freebie for you: My leadership training defined leadership as the art of motivating people to do what they should be doing anyway. Does that help you at all?

BTW - my training wasn't strictly military. The courses that I took were jointly developed by the US Navy and Princeton University. Everything that I learned is readily available to people in the corporate and industrial world, if they bother to look for it.

Re:Huh? you think successful teams just happen? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35474410)

People skills are obviously important, but I don't think they should be top criteria for selecting and promoting a manager. If it were, then Silicon Vally would be hiring people with personalities similar to Regis Philbin and Oprah Winfrey (though with less telegenic presence) to run their companies.

I think the criteria for management boils down to:

  • personal values, which are reasonably transparent and socially acceptable
  • agreement and alignment with the (mostly business) mission of the company they're in
  • dedication, adaptability and resourcefulness in advancing the mission of their company in a way that is consistent with their personal values

Note that this does not prescribe the type of personality or skill set of the manager involved, although in a given situation, some will be better suited than others.

Re:Huh? you think successful teams just happen? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35474458)

It's pretty easy to test for both people management skills and people skills.
If someone claims that he has it he obviously don't.

You're in luck (2, Insightful)

MarkusQ (450076) | more than 3 years ago | (#35473996)

most of the time I wish this wasn't true.

You're in luck. This is another case of #statisticsfail.

If all of their managers are selected to have deep technical expertise, it isn't going to correlate with success any more than "having two ears" will. This is a well known phenomenon called "sample bias" and is dearly beloved by everyone who wants to lie with statistics.

-- MarkusQ

Re:So people skills win again... (1)

phooky (645) | more than 3 years ago | (#35474190)

What do you mean by "win"?

Managing programmers is a difficult job. There's not a lot of glory in it, it's not well understood, and it can often be very stressful. It's not anyone's dream job.

If you're worried about compensation, you'll be happy to know that managers in tech companies often make about the same or less than the engineers the manage.

Re:So people skills win again... (2)

epyT-R (613989) | more than 3 years ago | (#35474250)

no they don't.. in theory, google has been benefiting from this first-generation crop of technically minded management.. if this study means they're going to move away from that, then expect to see a lot of the reasons to work for google over say, microsoft, fade away real quick. while a certain amount of people skill is important, what really gets the job done at the end of the day is someone who can code algorithms. those types tend NOT to be people people, and a management that cannot tolerate or understand such a crowd will create that typical antagonistic environment that google has up to now been able to minimize. they wont retain their best people if they go this route.

Re:So people skills win again... (3, Interesting)

Daniel Phillips (238627) | more than 3 years ago | (#35474336)

Laszlo just demonstrates that by selling the value of technical expertise short, he is part of the problem. But I already knew that. In all fairness, Laszlo is really the reason for the majority of management dysfunctionality at Google because he spent way too many years looking the other way as frontline managers make a mockery of the systems that were put in place. Eric having his head in the clouds didn't help.

Re:So people skills win again... (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35474372)

I think you're totally missing the point. Of course, as a first-level manager at a tech company, I've got my own biases here :)

I assume we can agree that in the end, progress is made by individual contributors -- in programming, these would be the people who can code algorithms; in my field (systems engineering) it's the people who can figure out how to, say, manage systems well and efficiently. Basically, really smart individual contributors.

All other things being equal, one could make a pretty convincing case then that, basically, managers don't directly contribute to a company's bottom line. I think so far it sounds like we generally agree.

However, saying that the people who make progress are the code writers doesn't mean that progress is measured purely in your ability to go into your desk/cubicle/office/palace and write code by your lonesome. Your stuff has to work with other people's stuff.

At its most unstructured, then, a reasonably complex environment requires engineers to work with other engineers to figure out how their stuff will work together. In the worst case, this is ad-hoc and tactical; at the best case, this is how SOAs are designed and APIs are agreed upon. You could argue, of course, that this sort of negotiation work should be done by managers -- and I'd then argue you're wrong because this is the core of what being really good technical engineers is all about.

As I see it, my job as a manager is very simple:
1. I get to deal with people problems, so engineers don't have to. Our (internal) customers are sometimes as prone to peopleskill deficiencies as our own engineers are, and this sometimes leads to a situation where an interaction leads one (or, typically, both) sides feeling like something's not quite working. I get to help;
2. When an engineer is stuck on what the best way to solve a given problem is, they may (but don't have to) ask me for an opinion (not directive or decision, unless that's how they want to see it). I can probably express an opinion without knowing the very lowest level technical details of how a particular solution would be implemented (at least, in my experience). If I come up with something useful, they'll use it. Otherwise, they won't;
3. When there's a question about priorities and what direction fits with our overall larger goals, they can ask me.

But it's important to note that:
A) Me having people skills doesn't mean I have a problem working with people who don't have the same level of people skills (I don't agree with the standard logical fallacy that you can either be technically brilliant or socially adept. That's one of the reasons I love working in a company with a "no brilliant jerks" rule);
B) If I hired people whose knowledge was a subset of my own, the smartest we'd be able to be is as smart as I am, and these people would essentially just be extensions of my own capabilities. Pardon the language, but fuck that -- I want to hire people who are way, way, way smarter than I am.

Did they limit this to techs? (0)

khasim (1285) | more than 3 years ago | (#35474252)

Or did they include things like the HR / Accounting / Sales managers and such?

Doing so will skew the results.

It takes a different skill set to manage a group of coders than it does to manage a group of accountants. Despite what is taught in the MBA classes.

But the same NEGATIVE characteristics have the same negative effect no matter what group you're managing.

I think this research is more about identifying the negative aspects. If you remove/reduce the negative aspects, then people will tend to lose the negative opinions.

Which, unfortunately, is rare enough in business that it will be seen as unusual.

Scott Adams would love this. (1)

steeleyeball (1890884) | more than 3 years ago | (#35473732)

The only difference between this and Dilbert is that the name of the company isn't constantly changing.

Division of labour. (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35473740)

So in other words bosses manage people and technologists manage technology. Who knew?

Re:Division of labour. (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35473958)

So in other words bosses manage people and technologists manage technology. Who knew?

In other words, programmers will continue to stay at lower pay scales and be treated like drones even though they do the hard work.

Re:Division of labour. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35474134)

...even-keeled bosses who made time for one-on-one meetings, who helped people puzzle through problems by asking questions, not dictating answers, and who took an interest in employees' lives and careers."

That is hard work as well, just in a different arena. Especially when it comes to dealing with people who are convinced that they are getting the shaft. Having a boss as described above is a rare thing.

Re:Division of labour. (1)

RoFLKOPTr (1294290) | more than 3 years ago | (#35474196)

So in other words bosses manage people and technologists manage technology. Who knew?

In other words, programmers will continue to stay at lower pay scales and be treated like drones even though they do the hard work.

In other other words, programmers who have no management skills will continue to stay at the level where they perform their job best: programming. The rare few that DO have both programming AND management skills will be treasured and move up the company ladder faster than any person who possesses only half of the equation.

Seniority is bullshit. I don't care if you've been with my company for 20 years. If your boss is a 25 year old kid that just started here, it's because you don't have the skills to be in his position, and he does.

Re:Division of labour. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35474416)

Seniority is bullshit. I don't care if you've been with my company for 20 years. If your boss is a 25 year old kid that just started here, it's because you don't have the skills to be in his position, and he does.

Yeah, let's create a world where nobody ever has the least bit of job security and where people can be replaced on a whim's notice because some newly hired personnel manager thinks some new person is better than a old person. Let's create a world where you'll get dismissed from your job --- wreaking havoc on the rest of your life --- just because you some normal life event affected your affected your work during a grieving or recovery period. Thinking seniority is "bullshit" only shows you have no idea what the consequences of eliminating it would be.

Re:Division of labour. (2)

hedwards (940851) | more than 3 years ago | (#35474074)

If you want a more effective company, get rid of as many leeches, er managers, as you can possibly lose. Then just pay the employees something that resembles their value. Most of the time when companies complain about poor management, what they're really saying is that they don't really feel like paying for or otherwise investing in their employees, but can't figure out why the managers can't get any quality.

Well, of course you can't get quality if you're managers are incompetent, but managers have never been the source of production. At best they're coordinating things so that the employees can focus as much on production as possible.

Re:Division of labour. (4, Insightful)

Baron_Yam (643147) | more than 3 years ago | (#35474264)

"At best they're coordinating things so that the employees can focus as much on production as possible."

Managers exist to ensure employees work cooperatively instead of chaotically following their own whims. Managers exist to ensure the cooperative work being performed is on track with corporate expectations. Managers exist to ensure that expectations are reasonable so that deliverables can actually be delivered. In a perfect world, they also do what they can to ensure the people they manage are happy, not just because that's better for the bottom line, but because they're decent human beings.

I mean, it's RIGHT THERE IN THE NAME - they 'manage' resources. They are useful and necessary on any sizeable task.

No shit (5, Insightful)

drsmack1 (698392) | more than 3 years ago | (#35473746)

News Flash: Non-Autistic spectrum people better at dealing with people!

Be honest with yourselves Slashdot - would you *really* want the average slashdot commenter managing *you*? An autocrat who only can see things in black or white and cannot work with other people - well, that is last on my list of wanted bosses.

Also, I would not want to be "modded down" in the workplace for my political views. Slashdot people love free speech - as long as it agrees with theirs.

Re:No shit (5, Funny)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 3 years ago | (#35473854)

would you *really* want the average slashdot commenter managing *you*?

"Finish by 3pm or I'll make Goatse your desktop wallpaper!"

Re:No shit (1, Funny)

hduff (570443) | more than 3 years ago | (#35473884)

Also, I would not want to be "modded down" in the workplace for my political views. Slashdot people love free speech - as long as it agrees with theirs.

You are wrong again.

-1

I hate people who are good at handling people (3, Insightful)

mangu (126918) | more than 3 years ago | (#35473890)

Be honest with yourselves Slashdot - would you *really* want the average slashdot commenter managing *you*? An autocrat who only can see things in black or white and cannot work with other people - well, that is last on my list of wanted bosses.

I've worked with both kinds, and I'd rather have a boss that understand how the business works than a boss who has a great ability to manipulate people.

The absolutely worst type of boss is one who's always demanding I do something in the most ineffective way because that's the consensus that was reached by everyone in the meeting, a meeting where no one understood what it's all about but a smooth talker convinced everyone that it must be done that way.

The best kind of boss is one that was promoted due to his technical skills and hates managing people, so he lets everyone work the way they know how to.

Re:I hate people who are good at handling people (1)

drsmack1 (698392) | more than 3 years ago | (#35473950)

Maybe the distinction here is the difference between technical managers and people managers. Large projects have both.

Re:I hate people who are good at handling people (1)

hedwards (940851) | more than 3 years ago | (#35474104)

Typically if you run a business where the managers set the course and standards and the employees are free to go about it however they like to finish their piece you don't have much trouble getting things done. Provided the manager has the sense to actually ask about how realistic the plans are from a technical standpoint.

There's no reason why a manager needs to understand the industry, provided he's smart enough to recognize when subordinates are more informed and can focus on getting things coordinated so that things run smoothly.

Re:I hate people who are good at handling people (3, Interesting)

mikael_j (106439) | more than 3 years ago | (#35474194)

There's no reason why a manager needs to understand the industry, provided he's smart enough to recognize when subordinates are more informed and can focus on getting things coordinated so that things run smoothly.

Well, this is generally the thing that people who manage IT or development teams fail at.

My suspicion is that it's especially common in managers used to environments where there is always a bit of "flexibility" (if an employee says "it can't be done" it means "it will be hard to do", if an employee says "three weeks" it means "two weeks with less time in the break room") who end up managing developers and IT people and don't understand that when their "The decision has already been made by management, we will [foo]" gets a "That's not possible, not just with the current state of computing but most likely not with our current understanding of the laws of physics" that's generally not negotiable, it really means that it's impossible.

I've heard outright demands that developers figure out a way to write code that computed things that can't be computed, that they somehow invent a report for a backend system that can't be generated because there's no way to get the data without involving actual magic and of course the order to build a website that could do XSS by exploiting browser bugs in IE, Firefox, Safari and Chrome (no, that last one never got completed, and this was a perfectly legit company, it was just that management had decided they wanted things to work a certain way and they just couldn't work that way without exploiting XSS bugs).

Re:I hate people who are good at handling people (4, Insightful)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 3 years ago | (#35474362)

You seem to be equating 'having interpersonal skills' with 'being good at manipulating people', which probably says more about you than about any managers that you've worked with. Interpersonal skills are very important for a manager, because a big part of their job is ensuring that their subordinates are communicating effectively with each other, not working against each other. In any project involving more than half a dozen people, it's very easy for communication between the workers to become the bottleneck. The point of management is to avoid this, to ensure that all of the employees have what they need to maximise their productivity (including things that need to be delivered by other employees).

Re:No shit (2)

Damek (515688) | more than 3 years ago | (#35474034)

This isn't biological. When you have a society where people think money defines who you are, and all social studies are basically done on white, educated folks, no wonder all our conclusions on "human nature" are f*#@ed up.

Slashdot can't be "honest" with "itself." That'st just too much to ask.

Re:No shit (0)

drsmack1 (698392) | more than 3 years ago | (#35474268)

I'm not sure what message you were replying to. My intention was not to provide you with still another opportunity for you to try to insert your socialist world-view into the conversation.

Although I do find it humorous that you - a socialist - has chimed in on a discussion about autistic people not understanding human nature.

My Favorite quote about socialism:

The inherent vice of capitalism is the unequal sharing of blessings; the inherent virtue of socialism is the equal sharing of miseries.

Socialism is a failure. It has failed everywhere it has been tried. You cannot change the fundamental need of the individual to strive to improve his and his families situation anymore than you can teach a cat to be a dog.

Socialism works great in the autistic's imaginary paper world. It fails in the real world that in run by non-autistics.

Sorry.

Re:No shit (0)

vux984 (928602) | more than 3 years ago | (#35474200)

Slashdot people love free speech - as long as it agrees with theirs.

Its fine for people to have opinions that differ from mine.

But I do expect them to be rational and logically consistent, without being factually incorrect, or hypocrites.

But even then I'll defend someone's freedom of speech to say something idiotic, but I'll exercise my own right to that same freedom of speech to make sure as many people as possible know that it was idiotic... :)

Freedom of speech doesn't mean I have to let someone say idiotic things without commenting on how idiotic they are.

Re:No shit (0)

drsmack1 (698392) | more than 3 years ago | (#35474308)

I think it is possible that you have intentionally misunderstood my comment.

Replying to someone you disagree with is completely consistent with the principles of free speech.

Modding someone down however, is Stalinist censorship at it's most insidious.

That is what happens as a matter of fact here. It is quite revealing and consistent.

Re:No shit (0)

SeaFox (739806) | more than 3 years ago | (#35474370)

Also, I would not want to be "modded down" in the workplace for my political views. Slashdot people love free speech - as long as it agrees with theirs

Yeah, because you never hear about people being fired because their personal lives "reflect badly" on the company. At least on Slashdot the political views are ones you express here "in the workplace", and you're not being punished for how you live your own life outside of work.

Re:No shit (1)

drsmack1 (698392) | more than 3 years ago | (#35474460)

Also, I would not want to be "modded down" in the workplace for my political views. Slashdot people love free speech - as long as it agrees with theirs

Yeah, because you never hear about people being fired because their personal lives "reflect badly" on the company. At least on Slashdot the political views are ones you express here "in the workplace", and you're not being punished for how you live your own life outside of work.

I imagine that you only see it in one direction - say a situation where you are gay or smoke pot.

How about if you are a known conservative in a university and unaccountably you cannot get tenure, or a conservative at say ABC news.

The same people who in 1970 were agitating for their views to be aired on college campuses are they same people suppressing conversation on abortion (too inflammatory). They are quick to try to silence people with labels and personal attacks if they don't agree with global warming as a political movement.

A large percentage of people in this country believe that abortion is a horrible thing that should not be legal. Without considering the merits of their position - ask yourself: When has that position been voiced by a favorable character on any mainstream TV show?

The vast majority of people in the USA support the 2nd amendment. Without considering the merits of their position - ask yourself: When has that position been voiced by a favorable character on any mainstream TV show?

I miss the days of Archie Bunker - although the liberals always "won" on the show, at least both side got aired. That does not happen anymore.

Re:No shit (1)

Beuno (740018) | more than 3 years ago | (#35474378)

Also, I would not want to be "modded down" in the workplace for my political views. Slashdot people love free speech - as long as it agrees with theirs.

I don't think they meant it in a "Democrat vs Republican" sense, but rather internal company politics (ie, focusing on certain aspects of the project because it's good for a promotion).

Re:No shit (1)

drsmack1 (698392) | more than 3 years ago | (#35474400)

Also, I would not want to be "modded down" in the workplace for my political views. Slashdot people love free speech - as long as it agrees with theirs.

I don't think they meant it in a "Democrat vs Republican" sense, but rather internal company politics (ie, focusing on certain aspects of the project because it's good for a promotion).

I don't know what you are talking about. Who is "they"? Google?

Duh. (4, Insightful)

Oxford_Comma_Lover (1679530) | more than 3 years ago | (#35473752)

Well, yes. Being a good manager is like being a good engineer--you help people solve problems they come across, encourage good work, discourage shirking by inspiration and competitiveness more than by punishment and threats of recrimination, etc...

It's good to have an expert to go to when I have a problem. It's better to have someone who knows ten experts and can understand or walk through the general problem.

Re:Duh. (5, Interesting)

Daniel Phillips (238627) | more than 3 years ago | (#35473980)

And I can tell you that the general quality of Google managers is very poor in spite of supposed systems for filtering, training and guiding them. This is in fact the worst thing about working at Google: self important, self absorbed managers who only care about milking their own situation for everything they can get. Often nonexistent or weak technical skills just pours salt on this bleeding wound.

The few guidelines that Google puts in place tend to be unmonitored by anyone who matters and are widely and cynically ignored. Peer review is very much one of those. There are of course good managers at Google, I know a few. But they are badly outnumbered by facetimers and soulless climbers.

Re:Duh. (5, Interesting)

Daniel Phillips (238627) | more than 3 years ago | (#35474040)

Another thing: managers at Google widely believe that they are better than engineers simply because they are managers, in spite of a supposed explicit ban on this attitude. For that matter, so do the sysops, because they are in control of the facilities engineers need to do their work, and because they get first dibs on any shiny new equipment that arrives. I got the distinct impression that Google sysops think of themselves as managers, or at least, very important people, and in particular, more important than engineers. By the way, I was a Google sysop before I moved to engineering so I saw this from the inside.

Re:Duh. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35474152)

While I agree with most of what you've said... nobody really cares what the sysops believe. Most of the sysops are people that couldn't cut it as developers/engineers, and their pay almost universally reflects this. What the managers think matters to everyone.

Fair enough (2)

starfishsystems (834319) | more than 3 years ago | (#35473766)

Given the choice between (A) a manager who listens to me and takes care of all the organizational overhead so that I can focus on my work, and (B) a manager who challenges me or competes with me on every technical decision, I'll take (A) any day.

Yeah, sure, I'd like the best of both worlds, of course I would. A mentor would be very nice. But we're talking about a list of priorities. If I really wanted to be in a mentoring environment, I'd be back in academic research. You don't find people of that calibre in industry, not most places, and if you do, they're narcissistic jerks most of the time. That's been my experience, anyway. Maybe a few of you have been luckier. If so, count your blessings!

Re:Fair enough (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35474360)

Then, what you are looking for is a friend not a manager...

All this survey shows is that Google employees don't have friends enough, and are wishing for more.

Re:Fair enough (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35474366)

Whoever you are- nice post.

Leads versus managers (1)

br00tus (528477) | more than 3 years ago | (#35474412)

For my first five years or so in IT I had managers, not team leads. So I was not in competition with my boss in any real way, and I was more or less the technical lead for things.

From five years on, I have been under a lot of team leads. As they are the lead, and I am not, it is usually "their way or the highway". They ask me to do something, I spend hours (or days) on it, then I comeback and they want it done in a completely different way. Which makes me wonder why they didn't just say so to begin with and save me all that time. Also, I am in competition with them if there are layoffs or the like, so they hog the most profile, best projects and give others low-profile, less glorious work to do. On top of all of this, for the first five years of work, I could have used a team lead mentor, but five years on, I have no need for it, as I learn nothing more from them than I can learn from another co-worker. When I go on job interviews I ask who will assign my work, if they are a lead or manager or the like, if them team has a lead I am less likely to join.

Re:Fair enough (1)

mooingyak (720677) | more than 3 years ago | (#35474418)

Completely agreed. I've got one of those right now. While he's not clueless on the tech end, it's not what he spends most of his time on. I go to him when the requirements from finance don't make any sense, he comes to me when he can't remember exactly which shell command does what he wants. His lack of technical expertise hasn't lessened my respect for him. It's simply not what he's there for. In exchange, he doesn't argue with my design decisions. He may sometimes question or make suggestions, but he leaves me with complete decision making authority in the technical realm. I don't think I'd want it to be different.

Google is maturing (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35473780)

Just like the maturation phase of every other technology focused corporation in history...

1. Founded by engineers
2. Rapid growth
3. Founding engineers become wealthy and retire early
4. Sales, marketing and management folks take over
5. Bureaucratic creativity sucking shithole

Re:Google is maturing (2)

Daniel Phillips (238627) | more than 3 years ago | (#35474070)

Just like the maturation phase of every other technology focused corporation in history...

1. Founded by engineers
2. Rapid growth
3. Founding engineers become wealthy and retire early
4. Sales, marketing and management folks take over
5. Bureaucratic creativity sucking shithole

You nailed it precisely. So sad, I expected better of Google.

Re:Google is maturing (2)

Blymie (231220) | more than 3 years ago | (#35474348)

I might add, just because I have to (my angst and anger requires it). You've just described Volkswagen.

Prime example: most modern Volks don't even have a real hardware differential. Do you really think any engineer would ever design a car that way?

Yes, there is EDL (electronic differential lock). It is absolutely not the same as a real diff. I've seen people unable to get out of a steep grade, gravel driveway, because of EDL.

Pfft. EDL is only one example of the sadness of modern VW. I'm not going to say it's all bad ; hell, I still drive one.. and love it. However, when Ford has caught up to the same build quality / hardiness of VW, that shows something.

Thats is awfull. (-1, Troll)

leetz5 (2015656) | more than 3 years ago | (#35473790)

I worked with a dumbass manager many times, and I know friends that do (That happens like in 90% of cases). Just look at this blog entry [tinyurl.com] A poor guy was fired because of irresponsible demands of his boss. 'nuff said...

Parent is a Goatse link (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35473858)

Nice hemorrhoids.

Re:Thats is awfull. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35473860)

His boss demanded he stretch his ass to ludicrous dimensions?

Seriously, give up the link-shortener trolling -- these days everyone has a browser extension to resolve them on hover, it just makes you look pitiful.

goatse; ignore (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35473932)

Link to goatse

Self-reporting. (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35473794)

Breaking news: Self-report data not a good indicator of anything.

Google: INT 18 WIS 7 (2)

Mark Atwood (19301) | more than 3 years ago | (#35473826)

It has taken Google ten years, a huge study, and suffering under what is their #1 cause of employee turnover, to learn something that is in nearly every good book on management? Most other companies can't do it because they are too stupid to be wise. Google can't do it because they think they are too smart...

Re:Google: INT 18 WIS 7 (0)

hduff (570443) | more than 3 years ago | (#35473914)

Google only took it this far because they wanted 'their way' to be true.

The dream is for geeks to be ruled only by geeks because only geeks 'get it'.

Sadly, the truth is that people skills are always important when working with other people.

At Google, they just forgot to read the People HOWTO first.

Just a little bit of history repeating (3, Insightful)

joebagodonuts (561066) | more than 3 years ago | (#35474262)

You could be commenting on the culture change at DEC after Ken Olsen or hp after Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard.

Why don't they just google for an answer? (2)

nick357 (108909) | more than 3 years ago | (#35473840)

I didn't RTFA but if google is known for hiring some very smart, technical people, perhaps when they run into a problem, its not purely a technical issue. Probably the individual workers know their field pretty good (and are capable of simply googling for answers if they need a technical answer). I would think they need a manager for the other stuff that isn't just finding the best algorithm for a given problem.

Re:Why don't they just google for an answer? (3, Informative)

Daniel Phillips (238627) | more than 3 years ago | (#35474106)

Google is known for hiring very smart, very technical people, then abusing and humiliating them. There are exceptions, if you are one of them then count your blessings, but this is the prevailing climate at Google today. I don't know how many truly awe inspiring, highly educated people I saw stuck in crap jobs there doing things like rebooting servers while their managers are off running around the countryside getting drunk at offsites and stroking each other about what smart people they are.

Re:Why don't they just google for an answer? (5, Insightful)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 3 years ago | (#35474408)

Google is known for hiring very smart, very technical people, then abusing and humiliating them

You've posted something similar a few times in this story, but that doesn't reflect my experiences with them. Admittedly, I've not worked there, but I know a few people that do and I've visited their London and Zurich offices a few times. I'd definitely say that Google has problems, but those are not the ones that I've seen. Their biggest problem is that their hiring process is focussed entirely on finding people who are good at solving problems, but doesn't find enough people who are good at determining which problems are worth solving. Their second problem is that they're falling into the same trap as Netscape, and hiring people who are there because it's a great place to work, not because they want to build something exciting. Netscape and Google both started with employees from the second category, but gradually became filled with ones from the first. We all know what happened to Netscape after that...

Wait, what? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35473872)

"[...] whose deep technical expertise propelled them into management in the first place."

Stunned. Just stunned.

Plagiarized (3, Informative)

jbrodkin (1054964) | more than 3 years ago | (#35473874)

Looks like the article was ripped out (i.e. plagiarized) from the NY Times. original article, with better formatting, is here: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/13/business/13hire.html?hp [nytimes.com]

Re:Plagiarized (2)

Hugh Pickens writes (1984118) | more than 3 years ago | (#35474008)

Plagarism is taking credit for something someone else has written and claiming to have written it yourself. But this cannot be plagarism because the article clearly states that it comes from the NY Times and credits the original authors of the article. Perhaps it is infringment, but plagarism it is not.

BTW, the reason the link isn't to the original story in the NY Times is that registration is sometimes required to access articles in the Times and slashdotters don't like it when they have to register to read an article and complain about it in the comments.

Just for laughs, check the link in my original submission.

Best Regards,

Hugh Pickens

Re:Plagiarized (1)

jbrodkin (1054964) | more than 3 years ago | (#35474084)

Yes, you're right. It is copyright infringement, not plagiarism. Unless the site is owned by NY Times.

Re:Plagiarized (1)

Hugh Pickens writes (1984118) | more than 3 years ago | (#35474206)

It is possible that the two newspaper have some sort of reciprocal agreement. Maybe the India Times provides the NY Times with reporting from Central Asia.

But it's not the first time I have seen articles from the Times posted on this web site, and if they did it consistently without permission I think the Times would go after them.

Best Regards,

Hugh Pickens

Re:Plagiarized (1)

jbrodkin (1054964) | more than 3 years ago | (#35474326)

Sure, that's possible. It does look unauthorized to me, though. All the time I see my articles reprinted on sites we have no agreement with, and they put the whole text with a mention of my website's name, but no byline, no link back to the original article, and the formatting is screwed up. I could be wrong but that's what this one looks like to me.

I agree (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35473888)

My manager for the past 5 years has very little technical background, he however is amazing at keeping this organized and understanding the business needs of the company. So he talks to the VPs picks the projects and lines up the budgets. Then he leaves the technical work to us.

I think the key is that he doesn't try to be a tech. He doesn't care about the gritty details of how a solution works. He trusts our skill and when a project is done he just evaluates it based on the simple criteria of " does it solve the problem it is meant to solve?" So at the end of the day I get to spend my time implementing solutions the way i see best without having to deal with things like meetings. The key here is that my manager respects and trusts my technical skill while i respect his management ability.

Not quite (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35473908)

Posting anon as I'm currently a Google employee. The main problem in engineering is that many brilliant engineers get promoted to management positions and, while they are very good engineers, they don't know shit about people management and, most of the times, lack the necessary skills. That is the main reason for attrition. Can't comment on the muggle side (sales, hr) as I'm not familiar with that part of the company and nobody in eng cares about them anyway.

Re:Not quite (2)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 3 years ago | (#35474440)

This is such a well-known phenomenon, it has a name. The Peter Principle [wikimedia.org] (In a hierarchy every employee tends to rise to his level of incompetence) was first stated in 1969. It's simple to model - in most corporations, employees who do a good job are promoted, but ones who do a bad job are not demoted. Therefore, each employee will keep being promoted until they are in a position where they are no longer doing a good job.

Shocking... (1)

sjbe (173966) | more than 3 years ago | (#35473924)

Managing people requires a different skill set than writing code. News at 11...

Some had their worst career years at Google (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35473936)

Posting as a coward since I've worked as a full time engineer for a few years. And I've had the worst manager of my career over there. I've had a few managers, some good, some bad but the incredibly horrible one was at Google.

I've seen managers with over 40 direct reports. I do not care how 'good' the manager is there is no way the manager can have a clue what his employees are doing or how much hard work they are putting. Every quarter the manager has to put them on a scale for an 'anonymous committee' to rate the employee (just 'meeting expectations' is quite an accomplishment), which is later used as a base for a potential promotion or raise. I think the average raise was probably less than 1% per year for the average employee. No wonder they had to do the +25% 3 months ago (10% + 15% of bonus converted to raise).

Moving from one team to an other is completely at the whim of your manager, they've even added a rule that you should not even dare to ask until you've spend 18 months in the team. Then you basically have to find your own replacement: you can't leave until you find an other engineer that is as good as you and willing to work in the team you are trying to run away from !!! Managers rarely get the boot because it is very hard to find a manager willing to manage indecent amounts of direct reports.

Complaining to HR is useless and will just antagonize your manager further. You will get managed to quit over a very long time, and once you do quit being honest about why you leave will put you on a black list (say an other team find your resume and wants you in, HR will stop the interviews). I've heard of experienced employees crying in the upper managers offices about how badly they were treated. I have seen several coworkers skipping on vacation and maxing out they vacation allowance and still not taking vacation since. HR does not see any problem with this, if you are sick and dare to take sick days your performance should be lowered because you performed less work. This situation of fear is not good and lead to many resignations for greener, better paid, pastures in the past few years. Add to that a founder (Sergey) saying that employees should pay for the privilege of working at Google, and not as a joke (there at least one internal video about it).

Note that the above is not the 'rule' and plenty of Software Engineers will have had much better experiences. Some have just a reputation of doing amazing work on a project years ago and only need to show up to work once in a while. The aura is not rubbing off and if you criticize them it is bad for your own reputation.

I am very happy where I work nowadays, if you get an offer from Google take it if the salary cut is not too bad, hang on for a year or two. It will be a big plus for your resume, you will learn a lot of technical good practices, but do not expect to have a long good career over there unless you are a very skilled politician.

The hardest transition (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Cowar (1608865) | more than 3 years ago | (#35473938)

The hardest transition that most techies have to make is being bumped up into management. A good manager will absorb and deflect politics, paperwork, issues, and other items that will get in the way of a tech doing a technical job. When you first get pushed up into management, it's a surprise just how little your technical skills are valued. Even if a "technical" answer is asked by your new bosses, having a big picture view is more important than being able to click your way through aduc. A general technical knowledge is important because managers need to support the needs of those under them, but knowing how long and what it will take to create the right piece of code is more important than being able to do it. If you can get your people the time and resources they need, you are doing a far better job than if you're doing their jobs for them.

It depends (1)

NoSig (1919688) | more than 3 years ago | (#35474046)

If your boss does not understand what it is that you do, then that can work out fine, but it requires much more of his leadership skills and of your professionalism to make it work well. If either side is lacking, it'll be a disaster. For one thing, it is difficult for him to know what he can reasonably expect of you, or when you have performed better than could be expected. If both sides of that are excellent, then sure you can have a captain of a ship who doesn't know what a sail is, and it can even work great, but it'll be better if he does know what a sail is. Of course, if you've got someone going "the beatings will continue until morale improves" then hell yeah I'll take another captain even if he doesn't know what a sail is. The distinction is not as sharp as an intelligent person will be able to figure out what a sail is in short order.

good managers offer complementary skills (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35474138)

... to the default, expected skill set and mindset of the employees of a particular company or location.

If the employees were mostly all pre-screened to have 140+ IQ's and work really hard at creating elegant technical solutions, then you need managers who can enforce business goals and get people to work together. Jerks need not apply.

If the majority of employees are of rather average in terms of intelligence and motivation for college graduates with a career focus in IT and hardware or software (which is common in older companies that are publicly traded), then good managers would be those who can hire and motivate better than the rest, and provide technical coaching where necessary. Some butt-kickers can be effective in these situations, as long as they are given air cover by senior management.

Good Coaching (4, Insightful)

Frightened_Turtle (592418) | more than 3 years ago | (#35474150)

Essentially what is being described in the article is good coaching. A good coach doesn't necessarily have the skills or abilities of a star athlete, but he knows how to manage his players to get the best performance out of them. The best manager I ever worked for summed it up in one glorious line: "You're the expert, that's why I hired you." He would basically tell us what he needed done, and then would get out of our way so we could do it. He was technically savvy enough to understand the basics of what we were trying to do, so we could discuss a given project with him if we were stuck. He would simply ask questions on various aspects until we began to bring light on why things were stuck. He also had a great attitude that went with "Do what it takes to get the job done." As long as we were getting the work done, he had no problems with us sitting around and shooting the breeze when things were slow. To be quite frank, some of the best ideas that went on to become products came out of those bullshit sessions. For the record, his background was Marketing.

Another company where I was employed, Lechmere, originally had a great management style. The mantra of managers was, "It's my job to manage the environment in which you make money for the company." The company was doing great. So well, that a buyer popped up and bought them. Well, the new management's mantra was, "You are mindless, idiot drones are a bunch of pions who are only good enough for boxing or selling the crap this company sells, and you clearly aren't as qualified as we are—being MBAs—for the pittance we are paying you." That company is now out of business. They went out of business after two years of doing everything they could to get rid of long term employees with expertise whom they thought were overpaid. By the time they were done with the company, it was so worthless it wasn't even worth trying to sell it—not that they could have found any buyers for it. If anyone came to my company and their resume showed they had mid- or upper-level management experience with Lechmere, I would drop their resume into the shredder.

Respect (1)

merlock18 (1533631) | more than 3 years ago | (#35474212)

I thought a major point was made recently in a slashdot post about techie employees. They dont respect ignorant people. This often would be people ignorant in their field. I personally would hate my boss if I couldnt talk to him about my work. Argument: Well, he understands about how to manage people. Drawback: He doesnt understand how to manage the project, though.
Am I right?

Seems about right (2)

Jagungal (36053) | more than 3 years ago | (#35474216)

One of the biggest problems I have ever run into is the Manager who came from a technical background and tries to retain some kind of technical information lead over the staff. Often they can't be across day to day things so they become an information hider or feel threatened by technical staff around them.

In IT, information hiders in a team are pain, when they are the manager they are a nightmare. The best managers I have had were people managers who used to team and what it achieved to make themselves look good. In some ways, they best managers are those that accept that they might not be as technical as some staff, get over it and get on with managing the team.

In other words (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35474248)

Technical expertise ranks eighth among hundreds of variables.

What a ridiculously biased summary!

In Other Words... (1)

martin-boundary (547041) | more than 3 years ago | (#35474298)

In other words....

Technical expertise ranks among the top ten most important qualities to look for in good Google managers.

Statisticians, eh?

I disagree (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35474310)

This study is nonsense.

The study reached its conclusions by reading the feedback from *employees*, not senior management. If I'm an employee, *of course* I want my boss to refrain from second-guessing my technical judgments. And to help my career. And to be interested in my personal life. And to be even-keeled and not yell at me. And bring me coffee in the morning. But does any of this help produce better software? No.

From the company's perspective, what should matter is whether the managers were producing high-quality projects, creatively and on time.

And to do that, a manager needs to be able to assess whether the employee is writing decent code or not. And if not, fix the problem, and if necessary not be very nice about it.

We know for a fact that the best sales managers are frequently jerks. They are demanding and don't put up with poor results. And while creatives need to be handled differently from sales people, it's just as necessary to call bullshit when necessary and discipline or remove the poor performers.

Non-Techie MBA Deems Tech Skills Least Important (1)

theodp (442580) | more than 3 years ago | (#35474312)

Yale School of Management [yale.edu] : "Laszlo Bock leads Google's people function globally...Laszlo earned a bachelor's degree in international relations from Pomona College and an MBA from the Yale School of Management."

google ads (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35474334)

> who took an interest in employees' lives and careers
via google ads?

Wow. Not amazing at all. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35474356)

Um...no shit?
"What Google employees value most are even-keeled bosses who made time for one-on-one meetings, who helped people puzzle through problems by asking questions, not dictating answers, and who took an interest in employees' lives and careers."

This obvious. Sure managers with technical skills & knowledge are needed, but the things in that quote are no brainers.

Umm... Obvious? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35474358)

Managers need to be good at their own job before yours. They should only have to know just enough to be able to relate to you on a professional level. IE: Know when you actually need help, when you are just dicking around, when you are stressed out and how to deal with it, relieving and working political pressure, understanding how funds and resources should be requisitioned and allotted to reach realistic goals, know when to let you drive in addition to when not to, organizing teams, how to feed it all into the big picture, etc... None of that means being able to do your job for you, nor should it.

I have had supervisors that insist that because they are above me, that they have to be better at my job than myself. For example, it is aggravating when someone that is essentially a filing clerk that was promoted due to hard work and years of service insist that she has to know more about IT than I. I have had to hide my work because she would go nuts if I figured out a way to fix something she wrote off. She would automatically deny proposals I came up with simply just to show and protect her dominance, leave me out of critical projects and then expect me to magically fix the aftermath with no knowledge, resources, contacts, etc...

The two most important of the eight rules (4, Interesting)

br00tus (528477) | more than 3 years ago | (#35474364)

From the eight rules:

"Empower your team and don't micromanage" and "Don't be a sissy...help the team prioritize work and use seniority to remove roadblocks".

This is all I need. As far as micromanaging - the two best managers I had, one I would talk to twice a day about work-related stuff - at the beginning of the day and the end of the day, the other I would talk to every few weeks about work-related stuff - the latter one was so hands-off that I would pop in of my own accord once a month and tell him what I was up to. Of course, for both of them, if something came up on their end or my end, we would talk about it. They did not micromanage, and they were the two best bosses I've had.

The other rule is more political - help us prioritize work. What, in the office politics of the company (aside from the needs to protect ourselves, and make our stuff stable) is the most important work to do? I expect managers to run interference for me. I don't want them to be insecure, incompetent boobs who get pressure from their manager, and then come in and yell at us to do whatever their manager, or some powerful manager in another group wants. They should not be a sissy. They should be confident of themselves and their abilities, and not get to be a nervous wreck by a little management pressure or small bumps along the road. As there are only 24 hours in a day, a manager's main resource is his team's time - 24 hours times the number of their team members. You can not schedule more time than that, and humans have the need to sleep and the like. A manager who says "yes" to everything his manager, and powerful managers in other groups want, and where every request is a priority, eventually can run into a situation where he has promised more than the 24*x number of hours he has to give away. People will keep asking as long as he keeps saying yes. I myself am unhappy if I'm required to work more than 40 hours a week, unless there is a crunch time or emergency or the like, which is fine from time to time. But if I am consistently working crazy hours, and where emergencies and everything becoming a priority is the norm, I'm soon looking for another job. Bad, weak managers say yes to everything, the good managers who help a company in the long terms are the ones who have the confidence to sometimes say no.

This worries me a lot (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35474394)

There is an old saw that is accepted by professionally trained managers: "A good manager can manage anything." That then becomes an excuse to hire some MBA who knows nothing about the business or industry.

There is a growing body of opinion and evidence that the MBA is Public Enemy #1. http://www.arifanees.com/featured/mbas-public-enemy-no1.html [arifanees.com]

MBA education rewards aggressive people who can BS better than anyone else in the class. http://www.fastcompany.com/magazine/83/mbamenace.html [fastcompany.com]

Professional managers are a one way ticket to doom. If Google wants to survive and prosper, it needs to promote clueful people.

Suppose I'm hiring a driver. I could hire someone who is a good driver with an unblemished record, or I could hire someone who actually knows where they're going. I really care more about getting to the right place more than I care about the quality of the ride.

My favorite example of the damage that can be done by professional managers is Toyota. Toyota used to be run by people who cared about the product. Then it was taken over by professional managers. Quality was sacrificed to short term profit and Toyota's good name was shot. The long term damage to its reputation won't soon be undone.

There are no pointy-haired bosses at Google (5, Insightful)

rosciol (925673) | more than 3 years ago | (#35474430)

What everyone seems to be forgetting is that this is Google's data. What I mean by that is that the data does not even remotely imply that you do not need technical expertise to be a good manager. All of the managers at Google had good technical expertise, or they wouldn't have gotten there (because, remember, Google valued technical expertise in their managers). There are no pointy-haired bosses at Google.

What the data is really saying is that after you have passed a threshold level of technical competence, how you manage becomes more important than how good you are at coding. In other words, if you're technically competent enough to apprehend what's going on and make informed decisions, it matters more what decisions you make and how you arrive at those decisions, not that you're the best coder in the room.

How is that surprising? As soon as you start hiring hundreds of pointy-haired bosses, then the data will rank technical competence as the first priority. The data is only a reflection of existing conditions. People are saying, "technical competence is good enough, but here's what isn't". Don't take this as a sign that technical competence is not important.

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