As many of you have heard already, after 9 months working as a contractor in internationalization testing at Google Kirkland, I've joined the Webmaster Central team as a Webmaster Trends Analyst. I've been doing i18n testing for Webmaster Tools for awhile, but I'm really excited to join the team full-time and to take on a role that lets me interact directly with our users and webmasters. My mission (should I choose to accept it) is basically to facilitate communication between Google and webmasters: to make sure that we're hearing what webmasters have to say (about search quality, Webmaster Tools, you name it), and to communicate out as much as possible so that Google doesn't feel as impenetrable as it used to.
As I make my way around the blogosphere I see a fair amount of posts on interviewing at Google, so I probably don't need to rehash that whole process (quick synopsis: I actually enjoyed most of my interviews for this position, which probably means it will be a good fit).
My first week was an interesting romp. One's first week as a full-timer is spent at the main Googleplex in Mountain View, CA, going through various trainings and learning about some of what makes Google tick. Having already been around for awhile, some of this was interesting to me and some was old news. The best part, I thought, was meeting new people down in Mountain View and seeing what the campus feels like. It certainly has a different feel from the Kirkland office: more collegiate, more bustling, more people working late, more people randomly wandering the halls or playing pool. Just more, I guess. Kirkland is a great location for anyone who wants to strike a sane balance between work + home life, but Mountain View certainly has that famous Googley feeling that everyone loves to talk about (ball pit, anyone?).
In Kirkland there are banks of snack bins in the hallways—cookies, chips, gum, etc.—free for the taking. In Mountain View they've left the healthy stuff out (fruits, granola bars, carrots + hummus) and put all the really good goodies in a vending machine in which the prices are based on how unhealthy each snack is for you: 1¢ for each gram of sugar, 2¢ for each gram of fat, etc. How clever is that?? It's like a double-deterrent from eating trash (it costs you, and it makes you conscious of how unhealthy what you're about to eat is).
I continue to be seriously impressed with my colleagues, especially those running the webmaster communications circuit (conferences, blogging, forums, etc.). And I'm talking about the Googlers you've never heard of, as well as those who have become mini-celebrities in the community. Most of them are just as amazing offline, if not moreso: they're engaged, they're thoughtful, they're smart, and they seriously care about what we're doing and about the impact that we (as a team) and they (individually) can have on people. I just hope that I can help continue to convey this to the outside world. How can a handful of people make hundreds of thousands of webmasters feel like we're listening and responding to each of them? (For anyone with an answer, by the way, that's not entirely a rhetorical question.) It's a big challenge and an incredibly important one.
Final note: unfortunately, my tenure w/ Webmaster Central begins just as Vanessa leaves us; but we'll be carrying on with the things that were important to her, and have big plans to continue growing the Tools and contributing to the community in ways that I'm sure she'd be proud of. Best luck, Vanessa, I hope you find what you're looking for at Zillow!