What I learned as a Product Manager at Google

tl;dr — While no longer as nimble as a startup, Google’s scale, strong culture and awesome people make it the ideal place to learn the nuts and bolts of product management and offers incredible opportunities to create products for millions/billions of users across the globe.

If you find my career development blogs interesting, you might also checkout:

I was a Product Manager(PM) at Google Health for the last ~2 years, launching health features on Search and Maps (like these features that help users find telehealth options on Search). I’m leaving Google to pursue an opportunity at a startup (more to come here). It’s a bittersweet moment since I loved my time at Google, so I decided to reflect on what I’ve learned as a Googler.

1) The “Googley” ethos is real and awesome

Everyone that interviews at Google is assessed for “Googleyness”. This includes being ambitious, humble, and doing the right thing. In addition to being whip smart, the large majority of Googlers I’ve met are so incredibly nice and helpful (every employee having the ability to give cash “peer bonuses” multiple times per quarter also helps :P). It makes working here a joy. Google corporate does everything it can to make our work environment as safe and comfortable as possible (e.g., the food, money to buy wfh accessories, lots of working hour flexibility, “face time” isn’t really a thing). An especially great part of the culture, is the “zero-blame” aspect. This transforms the company as it allows people to feel safe taking risks and when something does go wrong, teams can have transparent retrospectives and implement useful processes to prevent the mistake from happening in the future. Side note: imposter syndrome is real here — I constantly felt very lucky but also hopelessly unqualified to be surrounded by smarter/better people that I could learn tons from. Example, my manager was CEO of a Series B startup before coming to Google — so many ex-CXO examples like this!

2) Google is a large bureaucracy, launching something takes a village

Google is a $180B+ revenue company. The downside of doing something that harms its golden goose (ads, search, maps, etc.) is extremely high. Thus, there are very extensive processes in place to rigorously check/limit any potential user harm, production defects, PR risks. PMs need to be patient as this process can take months. As a result, things take a long time at Google. This is not unlike other large companies and I’d imagine Google is likely more agile than other companies of its size. These processes are important for the user experience, whether it’s making sure the search experience stays whip-fast or that user privacy is meticulously preserved according to various state and country-level regulations.

3) Core PM skills

  • How to own and launch products made for millions: PMs at Google (for better or worse) serve as the nexus of dozens of functions (eng, ux, bd, legal, etc.) and own product roadmaps. I learned aspects of everything including running a cross-functional process to define a product vision/roadmap, conducting user research studies, designing using a scalable/thoughtful UI, engineering production to support billions of pings, pitching and signing partners, and crafting a nationwide marketing campaign. Especially fulfilling was a project during early COVID when my team launched features to help users find telehealth options — this was a huge learning opportunity. At Google, everything is Google scale, and that’s pretty cool.



Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
Lucy Yin

Lucy Yin

Passionate about #health #tech and changing things. #Circulo#ex-GoogleHealth #DDMF