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  • BEN: Welcome back to Chicago.

  • FITZ: I'm Fitz.

  • BEN: And I'm Ben.

  • FITZ: And we're here to answer your questions.

  • BEN: What's the next question, Mr. Fitz?

  • FITZ: Let me check on my gPad right here.

  • You know I've got some new apps for this, actually?

  • One's called a pencil, and the new one's called--

  • BEN: Paper app?

  • FITZ: --Paper App.

  • Yeah, the paper app is fabulous.

  • It really feels like real paper.

  • BEN: Calendar's a little rough, though.

  • FITZ: Yeah, the calandar's a little rough.

  • Especially when you make a lot of changes.

  • But anyway, on to the question.

  • The first question we have here is from Mayank.

  • I hope I pronounced that right.

  • And it is "how much time do you give to your family and

  • friends?"

  • BEN: "How much do you give to your family?" Well--

  • FITZ: That's a personal question.

  • BEN: I think maybe what he's really asking is do people who

  • work at Google have time for family and friends?

  • I think that's the implicit question.

  • I've seen other questions like that.

  • FITZ: You have a family and I have friends.

  • So together, I think we're-- no, I'm just kidding.

  • Absolutely is the answer.

  • I mean, Work-life balance is something we talk about a lot,

  • and it's really important, I think.

  • We talk about long term and hiring people for the long

  • term who are a good match.

  • BEN: Ah, the Blade Analogy.

  • FITZ: The only way you're going to keep people for the

  • long term, I think, is that if you have a

  • good work-life balance.

  • BEN: Keep them happy.

  • FITZ: Right.

  • Well, the Blade Analogy actually has to do more with

  • ongoing learning, I would say.

  • BEN: OK.

  • But also just burning out your engineers is another way to

  • think about it, right?

  • FITZ: Yes, so we'll talk about that.

  • Most companies are out there looking for the sharpest blade

  • in the drawer.

  • That's the recruiting program.

  • We're looking for a very sharp knife, so that we can use it

  • to cut things, right, to cut through hard engineering

  • problems. And a lot of companies will take that sharp

  • knife, and they will grind it against the sidewalk.

  • BEN: 80 hours a week.

  • FITZ: Right.

  • When you do that, and then a couple years you're like, hey,

  • I have a dull knife.

  • I want to get rid of this knife, and get a new knife.

  • And then you go and they spend a lot of time to find a new

  • sharp knife, so to speak.

  • BEN: Not a sustainable strategy.

  • FITZ: Right.

  • So having a good work-life balance is part of a way of

  • sharpening that knife, and I think the big part of it, is

  • ongoing education, right?

  • We have a lot of tech talks here.

  • We have a lot of interesting people come in and talk about

  • what they're doing in computer science.

  • A lot of, I think, just interesting talks about what

  • we're doing project-wise.

  • BEN: We share.

  • It's very academic internally, very academic community.

  • But beyond that, as managers we are encouraged to be very

  • aware of work-life balance, and to see what

  • our reports are doing.

  • Do they have a life?

  • Are they spending too much time at work?

  • I know there's a lot of rumors.

  • I've heard rumors, oh, if you work at Google, you're going

  • to work 80 hours a week.

  • You're going to be burned out, blah blah blah.

  • They expect you to live there.

  • And I have not seen that ever in the five

  • years I've been here.

  • It's really just--

  • FITZ: There are times, I think, when there's a little

  • bit of a crunch, right?

  • Where you're--

  • BEN: That's true of any company.

  • FITZ: You're going towards a goal, and so it's like we have

  • a deadline--

  • not necessarily a deadline, but we're trying

  • to launch on Friday.

  • BEN: As long as it's an occasional thing.

  • If it's an occasional crisis, an occasional deadline, then

  • sure, everybody works a little harder.

  • But it's not the norm, say, like in the gaming industry,

  • where you really are expected to work 80 hours a week all

  • the time, and If you don't like it, there's 20 people

  • lined up to take your job.

  • At Google, the theory is if you are working more than 40

  • hours a week all the time, then something is very wrong

  • with that team, and it will get attention,

  • and it will get corrected.

  • And we even have a case sometimes of engineers getting

  • so enthusiastic that they'll work too hard without

  • realizing it.

  • FITZ: I think that's the biggest challenge, because

  • you're working with a lot of exciting technology, with

  • really big, scalable systems. And it's tempting, I think, to

  • continue working on stuff, just because it's so

  • fascinating and so much fun.

  • BEN: Right.

  • We've seen examples of folks maybe who are just out of

  • college, they have no spouse or kids or anything, and they

  • just get so excited, they just stay at work late, right?

  • And no one's stopping them, because they're so

  • excited about it.

  • But the truth is, certainly as a manager, if that person

  • keeps doing that over and over, they will burn out, and

  • you have to stop them and say wait, relax, take a vacation.

  • FITZ: We've seen this happen before.

  • BEN: Yeah, we've stopped it.

  • FITZ: Ourselves included, right, burning ourselves out.

  • I think it's important to maintain the balance, to keep

  • a focus on the long term.

  • BEN: The message I've heard from upper management is if

  • people work too long and too hard and burn themselves out,

  • it's not worth it.

  • Maybe you get more hours out of the person, but you get

  • very bad code.

  • The quality of the work goes down.

  • It's just not worth it.

  • FITZ: I think you can do that sort of grind if you're not

  • doing anything necessarily creative.

  • If you're just cranking out just really simple, boring

  • assembly line type code--

  • BEN: That's not Google.

  • FITZ: --You can do that.

  • That's definitely not Google.

  • I think writing really good scalable code is a very

  • creative endeavor, and it takes a

  • lot of creative thinking.

  • And if you're not rested, and you haven't had a minute to

  • step out and look at different things, I think then it's hard

  • for you to really get into that creative mode.

  • BEN: Yup.

  • So the answer is Google is actually quite aware of the

  • tension between work and life.

  • We focus on it, and we try to find that balance very well

  • FITZ: And Googlers do have family and friends.

  • BEN: Yes.

  • FITZ: All right.

  • BEN: All right, we're done.

  • FITZ: That's good for today.

  • Thanks a lot.

  • BEN: Bye-bye.

BEN: Welcome back to Chicago.

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Ask a Google Engineer - Fitz and Ben from Chicago - Work-Life Balance

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    ABbla Chung posted on 2013/09/10
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