Playing the ‘when I worked for Apple|Google|Facebook|…’ Card

We often fall into the trap of reading into the wrong side of the data.

One of the pieces of faith and understanding that I seem to run into more and more, is the belief that:

This guy worked at Google, so he must be perfect for us. I mean, he passed the crazy Google hiring bar!

As a (proud) ex-Googler, I admit to having played this card myself. I try hard not to utter the words “At Google we used to….” as I cringe when I hear that kind of thing. I did learn a lot of things while at the company, and from the great people at the company, so it would be cutting off my nose to spite my face if I didn’t think and surface some of those things at the right time.

If I was being cynical, I could see recommending that someone join an “in” company, even for a short time, just so they can latch onto that fact. This is just like saying “get a fancy MBA at a fancy school as a way to get into great jobs”. This would be missing the real point. The benefit to the schooling, or working at the great company, is the learning and the network that you will build.

I was driving by a JC Penney store (a rather empty looking one I might ad) and I wondered how Ron Johnson was doing there. Oof. Not too good. I started to picture him in meetings “this is how we did things at Apple.”

I then started to picture the thousands of people who are saying the same thing. Viruses spread from mother ships.

When I first saw a St. Patricks day in the US I was surprised by the number of people who considered themselves “Irish”. Their great-grandfather schtooped someone who’s 2nd cousin was “Irish”. This is how I feel about the people using their cards from Apple, Google, Facebook, Twitter, Square, [insert other great company here]. I wasn’t the reason that Google became the company that it is. Not even in the tiniest way.

Interestingly, the success of a company can be the Achilles heel. If you are working at a great company it is often hard to question things. It is hard not to shake the “this is the fastest growing company in the world… who am I to question X?” Bold people need to be around, and leaders at the top need to keep shaking things up, else you stagnate and lose the edge that got you there.

If you play your cards right you can get amazing workers from amazing companies, and have them bring a lot to your table. If you play your cards wrong you get randoms from a company that you put on a pedestal.

(Based on some feedback, I have clarified some things and brought up some issues that I have seen that blocks the ability to purely “trust in people”)

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