Thursday, May 26, 2011

Joining Google

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So, it's official. As of July this year I'll be joining Google.

Why Google? Why now?
Well, it's sort of a long story. I co-founded Onsite Solutions back in 1999 while I was still CTO for Scandianvia Online (SOL). After we got tired of working in an increasingly corporate environment, and wanting to get our hands dirty and to develop some great software again.

Great Software
And we did; We created a great web application framework, much like Ruby on Rails, with Ajax and a universal Object/DOM structure (that didn't suck). All well before any of these where invented (remember, this is still 1999/2000).

In addition - we created a real time analytics software, capable of scaling to accommodate some of the largest sites in world, with real time reporting, 11 years before Google Analytics could do the same. (Both of the products are alive and kicking today.)

IT Bubble
And then the IT bubble hit.

We where about 15 people when it hit the hardest. We had to lay off some of our best friends. It's probably one of the hardest things I've ever had to do. At the same time - looking back, the period leading up to that point was also probably one of the craziest times of my life.
I remember my co-founder called out from his office - "Hey, there's 2 million on our bank account that I don't know where they came from. Do you have any idea?".

I also remember receiving our first bid for our company - 3 months after starting it - for 80 million NOK paid in dodgy stocks from Luckily we didn't take it. It did, however, make us believe we where worth that much, which was not a good thing - we turned down several other offers in the 35-15 million range, each declining as the bubble trickled on.

In retrospect, the whole thing felt pretty unfair. A bunch of opportunists created a bunch of ludicrous ideas, delivered them as powerpoint presentations, got incredible amounts of money thrown after them by unskilled investors. It was indeed crazy times, but the really great companies also had to take a pretty hard rap.

Survival mode
We survived. Emptied of all of our cash reserves and trying to stay alive in a completely busted market. Our hired CEO at the time fled the scene, so did my co-founder. It was a streak of extremely hard years with 100 hour+ workweeks and lots of focus-stealing, soul-sucking consulting to stay afloat. But eventually we slowly managed to pull through.

After a while, we rebuilt our analytics engine from scratch and our web framework started to gain real traction. We had some of Scandinavia's hottest names on our customer list and everything seemed booming.

Global Financial Crisis
Summer 2007, I got struck with viral encephalitis, which strictly prevented me from working for a few months. Our chief sales officer at the time had aspirations to become a CEO, so he stepped up and took over as CEO while I was out.
He did a great job: Ramped up the company to record high revenues, had over 20 people fully engaged and a huge and expensive remodeling of our funky downtown offices on it's way.

And then the GFC hit.

Our customers fell over left and right, and we had taken on huge obligations.
Luckily, we also had some pretty huge cash reserves.

I decided to roll up my sleeves once more and help the company through the crisis.
I also decided that this would be the last time.

And we all rolled up our sleeves. We managed to turn the ship around. Once again, we burnt through most of our cash reserves. And once again, we had to lay off people.

Something completely different
After we came through on the other side, leaner and with depleted cash reserves, I decided it was time to do something completely different. I had always been on the software side of the industry, so I wanted to get more experience with hardware.

I got a job at Oceaneering, a high-tech company building advanced technology for harsh environment (deep sea and space). The job allowed me to stay on as CTO for Onsite, since it involved working only 2 weeks with 4 weeks off (a regulatory anomaly for Oil-related businesses at sea in Norway).

After 2 years of doing two demanding jobs in parallel, having a family with three kids and building our house and garage pretty much by our selves, I had to make a choice on where I wanted to focus.
I wanted to stay on in hi-tech, but the job in Oceaneering didn't provide me with the challenges I was seeking.

The challenge
Then suddenly a fellow Norwegian was posting on Twitter - "Hey! Looks like Google is hiring big time!". The comments that followed went pretty much like this: "As if any Norwegians would stand a chance getting a job there". You can probably guess what this triggered in someone overly competitive...

Google and New York
So, I applied and after initial phone interviews, I was invited to their New York offices for full day of interviews.
The hiring process is indeed as thorough as rumored. Everyone has been very nice and professional, and you get a lot of respect for how efficiently the machinery is organized.
The people seemed extraordinarily bright, but apparently I didn't make a complete fool of my self: Come July 11th 2011 - I'll be joining as a Developer Advocate in Sydney, focusing on the APAC market.

Wish me luck!