Monthly Archives: August 2007

Ann Arbor, Google, and Recruiting

Last night, Google presented the second of two talks, this one for the Ann Arbor Java User Group. The topic of the Java talk was "End-to-End Clustering" and it was presented by Ashok Banerjee, a Noogler  (he's only been with Google for a month or so).  He is an Engineering manager who used to work for BEA on the WebLogic team.  Ashok did a great talk on how to balance load and make software fault tolerant and highly available. He has an easy speaking style, and I really liked how he kept the audience involved, periodically checking to see if people understood, reminding them that if they shook their heads up and down (yes), their neighbors would see, but if they shook them side-to-side (no), only he would see, and he would further explain the topic.  This led to a nicely interactive discussion with points clearly stated.  There was some active audience participation as well, which is always great to see.

Ashok promised to share his slides from the talk, and once those become available, I'll link to them.

As with Thursday's talk on Test Driven Development, this talk was held at the Google Ann Arbor office. I had really pushed to have the meeting at the Google office, as had Susan Loh, who was coordinating the event.  Not only did having it there make things easier for her to organize, but it also exposed the company a bit more to the local developers. I, personally, hadn't had an opportunity to get up to the Google office, and I suspect others were in the same situation.  It's interesting to have a view into Google culture (it made me smile to see 2 high chairs in the cafe, and I can only surmise that a few Googlers bring in their small children once in a while for lunch).

Google really wanted this to be a tech talk, not a recruiting push, and Susan was fairly low key in her recruiting efforts, mainly just leaving some cards on a table and telling people that they were there. But I had an opportunity to talk to her in detail about Google and the way that the company does hiring and I thought that that information might be of general use.  I hope that I will accurately portray this, and I hope that someone corrects me if I don't.

  • Google doesn't hire based on experience.  They are really interested in getting good minds. 
  • Google also doesn't hire for particular jobs.  That is, when you apply at Google, you indicate preferences for a team that you might want to work on, but the company decides if they want to hire you first, and THEN determines what you will be doing.  I both like and hate that .  I like it because I think it's really cool that Google emphasizing hiring the right people.  I hate it because I see interviewing as a two-way street, and not knowing what position you're hired for seems like it makes that part of the process quite one-sided.  I would like to see that explored a bit.
  • Google has recently stopped emphasizing location when they hire.  It's easy to see how they have perhaps saturated the market in the Bay Area, and have to look outside that area.  They have engineering offices in Phoenix, Chicago, Boston, Boulder, Atlanta, Seattle, New York, and Pittsburgh.  They have sales offices in nearly every large city, including both Ann Arbor and Detroit.  There has been a lot of speculation that they might open an engineering office in Ann Arbor.  My conversation with Susan Loh last night did nothing to dissuade me from thinking that was possible, but over the past week, I did get a slightly different impression about how that might actually happen.

Originally, I had thought that at some point in the future, there would be a huge announcement that Google was opening an engineering office in Ann Arbor, and that the governor would throw a big party, SPARK would get all excited, the Ann Arbor News would notice, and then the hiring would begin.  But, I don't think that's how it's going to happen.  I mentioned previously my thoughts that Google is testing the waters a bit, trying to see who's here, to determine if a pool of developers is available to support such an endeavor. I still think that is basically true, and that these tech talks were a perfect way to start that. But, what I had missed was the location transparency that Google is now employing in its hiring. Basically, if Google is hiring irrespective of where someone might actually sit, then it's fairly easy to bring employees into an existing sales office.

That means that there's the potential that Google MIGHT be interested, even now, in hiring software engineers for the Google Ann Arbor office.

Susan mentioned that she was impressed with the local community and its response to these events (60+ people for each of the 2 nights), and with the number of user groups and other organizations that are active in the area.  The audience was lively, interested, and engaged in the presentations. I know that's what they want to see.  However, several people at Google (both in person and on podcasts) have mentioned that cold, hard data is the best way to make things happen.  If Susan, Ashok, and Russell go back and say we seem interested in having an engineering office here, that's one thing, but a nice array of resumes piling up on Susan's desk provides that data that Googlers like to see.  So, if you want to let Google know that you're here, send Susan your resume.  You can send it to her at sloh AT google DOT com.  Susan didn't do a strong recruiting pitch, but I'll do one for her, and for Ann Arbor. Let Google know that Ann Arbor is chocked full of technical talent. It's in all of our best interests.

Russell Whitaker: Test Driven Development in Python: A Quick-start Approach (Review/Recap)

Russell Whitaker, a software engineer at Google came to town last Thursday, August 2, to do a tech talk for a special joint meeting of the Michigan Python User Group and Ann Arbor Computer Society.  While the topic mentioned Python, it was pretty generic and could/should be applied across all languages so I hope that people didn't stay away because Python was in the title. It sure didn't seem like people shied away from the talk; the turnout was great, probably about 60 people or so.  The meeting was held at the Google Ann Arbor office, so I don't know if some people were coming just to gawk, but I think most people were interested in the topic.

Test Driven Development is one of those blessed technologies that has been getting a lot of buzz in recent years.  What I find interesting is that everyone SEEMS to think that they know what it is and certainly some people do, but it's always refreshing to have a talk like Russell did on Thursday, where we don't assume that we're all doing it the same way. One subtlety that Russell stressed that I think is often overlooked is the emphasis on driven, that the goal is not only to test the software, but to drive development forward with the tests that you write.

Russell is a natural speaker.  He did an engaging talk, and even recruited an audience member (Jay Wren) to pair program with him. That was a little stroke of genius as well, in my opinion.  For those people who haven't had exposure to pair programming, I think that the demonstration was particularly effective.  It's important to see how interactive the process is, that it's not one person banging on the keyboard with another back-seat driving.  And, they did their ping-pong programming while sitting on bean bags, which was entertaining as well.

One comment I got after the talk was that part of the purpose of the talk seemed like a recruiting plug to attract Googlers. As one of the people who was in close communication with the organizers of Thursday's event from the beginning, I can really say that wasn't the objective.  The stated objective from the Google organizers was a technical talk, not a recruiting event.  So, I think that two things are in play here.  One, Googlers like where they work, and it really does come across when they talk.  And two, see my previous post. I really do think/hope that they may be checking out the local tech community to see if they can attract talent to staff an engineering office.  I 'm confident that they can. Google just needs to see it.  As an employer in the area, I will admit that it makes me a bit nervous, but raising the bar for creating good places to work is a GOOD thing, for all of us.

Russell's photos are at

Winston Tsang (local Rubyist) also took photos:, including a few good ones of Russell and Jay pair-programming.

I'm always curious about how people find out about events, and so I asked.  Python user group was the biggest, AACS, AAJUG, Ruby group, and a2b3 were good conduits as well.  Others heard by word of mouth (including a few who read my blog, thanks guys).

Ruby, Java, and Castle! Oh my!

It's the first full week of the month, so lots o' user group meetings going on. 

There's a Ruby User Group meeting in Ann Arbor tonight, Monday August 6.  It's from 7:00-8:30 pm on the University of Michigan campus, 1670 CSE. Details at their website:

Tomorrow (Tuesday, August 7) is the second Google tech talk in Ann Arbor, this one for the Ann Arbor Java User Group.  It's being held at Google Ann Arbor, 201 S. Division (Floor 5), from 6-9 pm.  Registration (required) and more info at  I'll definitely be there, since the talk is on enterprise level clustering solutions. 

Don't burn out before Wednesday (August 8).  Jay Wren (who I'm thrilled to say is the most recent addition to the SRT Solutions consultants!) is talking at the Ann Arbor Dot Net Developer Group, on Inversion of Control and Dependency Injection, using Castle's Windsor IoC.  That meeting is being held at Ann Arbor SPARK, 330 E. Liberty (Lower Level), from 6-8:30 or so.  More info at




Ann Arbor, Google, and Why You Should Submit Your Resume

Last night, Google, the Ann Arbor Computer Society and the Michigan Python User Group met at Google Ann Arbor for a Tech Talk.  About 60 people showed up for the talk by Russell Whittaker  Whitaker (Google Software Engineer) on Test Driven Development, and were also treated to appetizers and beer and wine.  Demand was high for the free event, with registration filling up quickly and those who weren't able to sign up ahead of time were active in their attempts to figure out how to get in (showing up at the door didn't work, trying to take someone else's place didn't work either; Google checks photo ids).

I'll write more about the talk itself later, but I have some ideas about what was happening here that I want to express.  I want to talk about what Google's plans are for an engineering office in Ann Arbor. Isn't that really what all of us want to know?  Are they going to do one, and when?

First of all, Google is an engineering-driven company.  In many cases, they have set up satellite sales offices only to follow with engineering offices later. Google Ann Arbor is the AdWords headquarters, so there is a lot of speculation and hope that an engineering office will follow.  But, in order to set up an engineering office, they need to know that they can attract talent in the area and to the area. The first step toward that, in my opinion, is to see who's here. 

Last night's meeting was a good indication that we have a vibrant tech community, full of people who are passionate about software development, people who would make great Google employees.  There's another meeting on Tuesday, August 7 at the Google Ann Arbor office.  That meeting is on end-to-end clustering.  Not only is that an interesting topic, it's also an opportunity for the Ann Arbor tech community to get together and to demonstrate our passion for software, both to one another and to Google.

So, if you want a Google engineering office in Ann Arbor, let Google know that you're here. If the Ann Arbor community sends resumes of highly qualified people, I think that they will come.  Work with Susan Loh (sloh AT google DOT com), who is a UM grad and is in town for the talks all week.  Get her your resume.

In the meantime, see you Tuesday?  Registration for that event is at  Seating is limited and preregistration is required.  Don't miss out.

P.S. Even the local community needs to know "who's here".  I know that I met new people last night: people from Zattoo, a tv-to-internet startup here in Ann Arbor, and people from the Ruby user group, as well as some guys starting up a local Ubuntu LoCo team.  I hope that I can encourage everyone in the local community to go to user group meetings and become involved.  Jay Wren, the Ann Arbor Computer Society program chair, has been soliciting talks from the different groups in order to expose the diversity that we have in our user groups.  We need to learn from one another, and we need to know who's here.


Google Tech Talk for Ann Arbor Java User Group on Tuesday, August 7

Registration is now open for the 2nd Google Tech Talk in Ann Arbor. If you missed out on registering for the Python User Group/AACS Tech Talk, then register early for this one.
Google Ann Arbor is excited to host a special tech talk event in tandem with the Ann Arbor Java User Group. Join us for food, drinks, and a technical talk with Ashok Banerjee, Engineering Manager at Google.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007
6:00 - 9:00 PM

Google Ann Arbor
201 S. Division St., Fl. 5
Ann Arbor, MI

About the talk:
End to End Clustering

Ashok will discuss enterprise-level clustering solutions for
production systems. He will explain how at each level one can avoid a single point of failure. He will explore the mechanics, tips and traps, and ramifications for performance and throughput at each level.

He will discuss clustering at the following tiers: Global Load
Balancing, Site Level Load, Balancing, Web Server Plugins, SSL Accelerators, J2EE™ Application Clustering, Caching
HA Database, SAN/Veritas Volume Manager.

He will also focus on some protocols like HTTP, HTTPS, RMI, Protocol Tunneling etc.

About the speaker:
Ashok Banerjee, Engineering Manager at Google, works on the Google Billing Server. Prior to Google, Ashok designed and implemented Clustering (Load Balancing and Failover) on the Oracle Application Server and worked on the internals of the WebLogic Server. His interests include distributed computing, distributed transactions,
high performance messaging and persistence.

NOTE: Seating is limited, so registration is required for this FREE event. 

SRT calendar link

Since we don't have the calendar on the site right now, I thought I would post a link.  This calendar contains information about events in the area (and some outside of the area) that we think software developers might be interested in.


New Community Server based site up and running

We're still waiting on our facelift, but the technology is in place, at least.  We'll be bringing in new content along with a new look very soon. We'll be looking for feedback on the new site once it's running.  For now, we know that this format is ugly. 🙂

In other news, I'm still waiting on the registration link from Google for the Ann Arbor Java User Group meeting to be held next Tuesday.  I'll post it here, when I get it.  You can also check