What I do at Google

In my last post I asked for suggestions for what I should write about here on my little emigration blog. To facilitate this I created a page on Google Moderator where you could enter your suggestions and also vote for other’s suggestions. All to make sure that I focus on writing about the most popular and globally requested topics. The page is still open here. (This is actually the same system that we use internally at Google when we have big meetings with Q/A sessions at the end.)

Needless to say this has been a huge success and there has been a torrent of suggestions pouring in day and night. All in all three of them! Every suggestion that gets posted get one automatic vote from the author. Counting those votes there has been a total of, well, three votes. This means that it is a very tight race at the top of the suggestion list. So I’m going to start with the first topic that came in.

It is Dennis (the master tenor from Drivved I assume) that asks: “Tell us, as much as you are allowed to, about what you do at Google! Also, what do you do on your own project time (is it 20%)?

I work on the product called AdWords. We are the ones who make most of the money for Google. Since I guess most of you who read this have never paid anything for using Google services (Search, GMail, Maps etc) the money has to come from somewhere else. And that somewhere else is advertising. When you search for something on http://www.google.com there is usually a couple of ads at the top and a couple on the right side. (They are marked as ads, the regular search result is never paid for.) Those ads come from AdWords.

AdWords ads are displayed in other places than Google Search as well. Anyone who has a web site can sign up to something called AdSense. With AdSense you can put ads from AdWords on your own web site. And when someone clicks on an ad you will make a bit of money. AdSense will scan your site and try to figure out what it is about so that ads that are related to it are displayed. An example is this site that has AdSense ads on the left side.

I work in the AdWords API team. There are several ways that an advertiser can manage their advertising campaigns. Most advertisers are pretty small and use the web at http://www.google.com/adwords. This website doesn’t store the campaigns directly in the AdWords database, instead it talks to the AdWords API that in turn will talk to the database. The really big advertisers have their own systems that talk directly to the AdWords API.

So what I do all day is developing new things for the AdWords API, in Java. Sort of.

Then there is also the concept of the 20% project. All engineers at Google have the possibility to spend 20% of their working time on something that they choose themselves. It can be a brand new idea of the next product that will take over the world (GMail started as a 20% project) or it can be something much smaller that most people will never hear about. It can also be something like arranging a charity, so it doesn’t have to be all technical. Not all Googlers have a 20% project, and not all have it all the time. It’s up to each and everyone to get themselves a 20% project if they want to. No one will come and give one to you if you don’t do anything yourself.

So far I haven’t gotten myself a 20% project but I have some ideas. I am currently talking to a product manager on a totally different project from AdWords about an idea. But for the time being, I think I’ll keep it a secret!

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