I'm Not Smart Enough to Work at Google

But I know what I would want to do there.

October 23, 2013

If I worked at Google I’d spend all my time pursuing one goal.  

That goal would be shift education from a scarce good to an abundant good.

That’s it. One goal. All my time. Nothing else. Education: Scarcity to Abundance.   

I figure that Google has done a pretty good job moving other things that we value from scarcity to abundance (such as information, but other things like productivity tools), why not take a run at education?

This would be very hard. Google would probably fail at reaching this goal. I’d probably fail at Google. But nothing worthwhile is ever easy.   

Would I ever get a shot to pursue (and probably fail at) this single minded goal at Google? Probably not.  

The reason is that I’m probably not smart enough to ever be hired at Google.

I’m in the middle of reading (actually alternating between audio and e-book with Whispersync), Tyler Cowen’s new book  Average Is Over: Powering America Beyond the Age of the Great Stagnation.

Tyler gives examples of 3 questions that are of the type that Google asks job applicants: 

“How many times a day does a clock’s hands overlap?” 

“You need to figure out the highest floor of a one-hundred-story building an egg can be dropped from without breaking. The question is how many drops you need to make. You are allowed to break two eggs in the process.” 

“The probability of a car passing a certain intersection in a twenty-minute window is 0.9. What is the probability of a car passing the intersection in a five-minute window?”

I have no idea what the answers would be to these questions.  

Thinking about these questions kind of makes my head hurt.  

Sure, I could work to puzzle something out - but I’m betting that the people that Google hires can figure out the answers both more quickly and with greater accuracy than I can.   

What I worry about is that Google’s engineer driven, analytical culture (I’ve heard that non-engineers are referred to as Muggle’s at Google), will limit Google’s reach.  

That Google’s hiring practices, which serve to reflect and reinforce the existing Google culture, selects against people with big ideas but little interest in analytical puzzle solving (or coding).   

If I were to interview at Google I’d want to talk about how we could reach this goal of moving education from scarcity to abundance.   

I doubt that I’d make it past the first round of interviews.

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Joshua Kim

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