Disclaimer: The following is the experience of one individual who worked indirectly at Google Inc. through Adecco Staffing, a third party agency. This story is a reflection of one person’s experience. Others employed at Google via Adecco may have had a positive experience, this is my personal story.
I got my first real job when I was 17 years old. I was hired as a bank teller by accident, the Human Resource representative told me she thought I was 18, older than I actually was. She ended up making an exception for me due to labor laws pertaining to being underage. I used my employee discount from my second job at Gap Inc. to fill my wardrobe with dress pants, chiffon tops and cable sweaters. From then on, I dreamt of a job in corporate America that entailed wearing business clothing and being a part of important meetings. My High School acting teacher told me during my senior year something that I will never forget, “You’re going to be a CEO one day.”
When choosing a college major I flip flopped between Business and Engineering. I decided to settle on Business since my math skills were non-existent. My third semester of college I switched to the IT program and decided my corporate America dream job involved coding and solving problems, while being part of important meetings of course, don’t forget, I was destined to be a CEO. And that’s when the dream began, I wanted to work for The World’s Largest Search Engine, Google. Who didn’t? But as someone as passionate about technology as I was, this was the dream. It didn’t help that a movie about working for Google came out right after my last year of college. Not only was it a giant company, controlling literally the entire internet and breaking into new tech spaces on the regular, but they also had bikes to parade around their “campus” on and free food available at the disposal of their employees. A-mazing! My peers and professors would constantly tell me that if anyone could get a job at Google- it was me. And you know damn well I was going to make sure I did just that.
After graduating college I spent two and a half years working for Unilever, a giant global FMCG organization. Ever heard of Klondike and Dove? These products were at my disposal for a hefty discount at the company store and it was heaven. Still, it wasn’t Google bikes and free food. A lot of my colleagues were set in their ways, so far from the evolving space of technology or software which is what really peaked my interest. I ended up visiting the Google Mountain View campus in 2014 for a meeting related to Unilever and I fell even more in love. I spent the next several months dreaming of the West Coast and the possibility of moving away from the frigid cold winters in New Jersey to the rolling hills of Silicon Valley.
After two and a half years I left Unilever to consult for a software company owned by Microsoft and Accenture. I spent a year traveling city to city, from Seattle to Miami to St. Louis and Memphis. I got to sit in the room with clients solving their software needs and seeing my contributions come to life in a customized platform built by the team I was on. I found satisfaction in being involved in important business decisions and my hard work was being recognized. I was in the running for a promotion with the backing of my manager, her manager and my project lead. The reason I took this consulting job was because my mentor told me that consulting experience is well-respected in the tech industry, especially at Google. So consulting it was.
Then one day, a year into my consulting career, while in line at Chipotle talking on the phone with my cousin I got a call from a California zip code, my colleague who worked with me was from the Bay Area, maybe it’s her house phone? “Hang on a sec, I think my coworker is calling me.” I switched to the other line, “Hi, this is Hoda.” I mindlessly answered expecting my coworker on the other end. “Hi Hoda, This is Emily* from Adecco Staffing, do you have a few minutes to chat?” My initial thought was it was a mistake, I hadn’t applied to jobs, but she said my name, must not be a mistake!
She went on to explain to me that she was a recruiter and had come across my resume, she was filling Project Manager roles for Google. Wait. What?
I was so shocked that I completely missed the part about this being a staffing company, hence, a contract job. Then it hit me, Why would I ever leave a guaranteed job, where I am about to be promoted for something not guaranteed. Then I found out the job would be at the Google headquarters in Mountain View, CA. I had always dreamt of living on the West Coast and knew that was where technology was budding and where I could really catapult my career! One year contract with possibility of getting a full-time job, it’s just one year, I thought, maybe this is the change of scenery I am looking for, imagine the doors this will open? I knew it would be easier moving to the West Coast with a job lined up even if it wasn’t as a proper Google employee, I was still one step closer!
After little hesitation I decided to move forward. Before I knew it I was on my second round of interviews and being offered a job and pressured into making a decision. Literally, pressured. I had about 48 hours to verbally accept the offer. This is what I always wanted, why did I feel so hesitant? After praying and asking Allah (SWT) for guidance I decided to accept the offer. Within four weeks I had flown to California with my mom, signed a lease on an apartment and was packing all my things into my coupe to be shipped across the country. I left behind my family, all my friends, a new relationship (which didn’t withstand the test of distance) and everything I have ever known. I decided the high risk would be worth the reward.
My dream was about to finally come to life.
What instead ended up happening was a complete nightmare. They pressured me into accepting this verbal offer but I stood my ground and refused to do so until I had a written offer in my inbox. I couldn’t just quit my job without at least something in writing to ease my mind, mama didn’t raise no fool. Except I did get fooled, bad.
While negotiating salary I was informed that the Google hiring manager felt that my salary was adequate considering, “the perks Google offers that other companies don’t.” Mind you, at the jobs I had previously I was pretty damn spoiled, from hefty discounts to accruing enough travel rewards from work travels to take two free vacations I was feeling the rewards of perks from my jobs. I was then told that at six months I could get a review and upon positive feedback I would be eligible for a raise closer to the salary I wanted. I decided, again, to move forward under the premise that I would be granted this opportunity in 6 months. Challenge accepted I thought, I know I am a hard worker and will prove myself quickly to get that raise!
This never happened. I asked when I started if this was still the agreements because my manager changed as soon as I got there. I asked again at 6 months and then again at 9 months when the manager who hired me led the team I worked on again. And when I left after a year, I was still making the salary I made when I began and never had any reviews past my 3rd week on the job. My calendar invites and emails were constantly ignored and the Google manager would ask the staffing company to have me cancel the meetings I put on his calendar. I literally never knew how I was doing but I could assume from the remarks the manager made that he didn’t like me very much.
What is ironic however, is that Google itself is currently undergoing a wage discrimination investigation by the US Department of Labor. Simply put, it turns out that women are generally paid less than their male counterparts in similar roles. Because sharing wages sometimes ends up happening at after work gatherings I quickly learned that several of my male counterparts in the same exact role as me, were being paid significantly more. Not to mention that I had more experience in the specifics related to the job description we were hired for. When I brought this up, to more than one person, they always tried to argue things like, “well they have more experience on this particular project.” As if they really mattered in the grand scheme of things. Simply put, I was getting paid less despite my prior experience or that I held an actual Project Management certification.
Another discrepancy, after quitting my job I found out that the position I would be starting was actually based in San Jose, CA and not at the Google headquarters in Mountain View, CA. Okay, fine, it’s a satellite office, I was promised that I would still have access to all Google buildings including the gyms, cafeterias etc. Later down the line the Google manager who interviewed and hired me told me and my entire team that we were not allowed to use the Google facilities unless there was a “business need.” Simply put, the same perks that I was told were the reason for my compensation being non-negotiable were now being taken away from me.
What else could go wrong? After moving my entire life and setting up my apartment (it’s rent was half my salary in case you’re wondering) I was eager to start work. I got a call at 3pm on the Friday before I was supposed to report to the office to be told that my background check didn’t clear in Santa Clara County and that I would need to wait at least one whole week before I could start. They only conduct new hire orientation on Mondays. Here I am, jobless, 3,000 miles away from everyone I know and chipping away at my savings every single day.
To make matters worse the reason the background check didn’t clear was because the staffing company input my address incorrectly and there was no record of me being a resident in California. Well duh, I hadn’t moved yet when they submitted the background check! The one week turned to two weeks and I ended up getting fed up and going back to New Jersey for a week to sulk. I couldn’t bear sitting at home alone any longer, it happened to be the rainiest two weeks California had seen in a really long time. Perfect reflection of my mood. In that moment a thousand thoughts were racing through my mind, the first being, did I make an awful mistake? Followed up by, this is a freaking nightmare!
When I finally began working I learned on my very first day that the possibility of getting a raise and review at six months was something I could kiss goodbye. I was told by numerous people on my new team that empty promises were often made like that to get people to just fill open spots on the team. I felt defeated on more than one occasion. Not to mention that I learned fairly quickly that the possibility of getting a full time Google position were essentially slim to none.
Remember how the recruiter said it was a Project Manager position? Yeah- no. They took that title and morphed it so many times that I can’t even remember what it ended up being when I left. From Project Manager to some sort of Analyst to Program Lead to Project Lead, I was basically flip flopped so many times I stopped paying attention. As far as I’m concerned my resume still says Program Manager. Not to mention I was informed Google contractors could not have the word “Manager” in their job title, and by the way, we had a different color badge to go with the the second class treatment we were dealt. The “red badge” jokes were endless.
One of the first questions I asked when the recruiter first spoke to me was if I would be getting PTO, health insurance and a 401k. I am an adult after all and all these things are really important. I was told that there were a few sick days allotted by the staffing company but that I had to work a certain number of hours, after calculations it was something like 6 months of 40 hours per week. There were no official paid holidays but she told me that, “some Google managers pay their contractors for Google holidays anyway.” I quickly learned this was false, zero paid holidays so that salary I had calculated based on an hourly rate, I could kiss that goodbye. It was actually even lower than I thought. The health insurance plan was a joke with a $6,000 deductible that I didn’t know about until after I started working, and the 401k plan was too confusing and difficult to vest in and wasn’t matched by the employer that I didn’t even bother vesting in it. By the end of my first week I felt like I was a fool for accepting the job without doing my due diligence.
Despite all these things I decided to try and keep a positive attitude. I would volunteer for projects, ask for more work, anything to keep me busy and feeling fulfilled. I went from working 12 hour days as a consultant to barely feeling like I had enough work to consume the 8.5 hour days. My mood and attitude suffered. I went from being positive to always complaining, feeling helpless and trapped and just completely unappreciated.
Not only did I feel put down as a professional because I went from having a career to simply having a job but I also felt put down as a person, especially as a female.
I went from doing functional designs of software for some of the biggest Pharmaceutical companies, being respected and valued by my team to being asked to clean and organize the stock room. I was even asked about my “progress” for cleaning it as if it was a real project. I somehow ended up in retail stores fulfilling orders instead of solving complex business problems, like I had been doing for the previous four years of my professional career. Basically, I felt played and nothing more than a glorified note taker. I felt like I lost my creativity and passion, whenever I got excited about a project I would be put down or ridiculed for my work. I started to truly think that I was not as smart as I had felt before. I felt belittled, mocked and under appreciated almost every single day.
Then there were the demeaning remarks and actions from my Google manager. “Why did you bring cupcakes in today, are you trying to show everyone what a good house wife you’ll make?” and “If I let you babysit my kid will you teach him Arabic and how to pray?” or mockingly stating “you were a consultant, you should be able to do this quickly but not well” or being asked sarcastically in a demeaning manner, “Do you even know code?” Why, yes, I did learn to code in college, I could certainly speak to technology better than you can though.
The story I always laugh at, thinking back on now but in the moment felt my face flush and I held back tears, I was trying to explain something to him only to be met with his palm in my face, a motion for me to shut up and stop talking. Not matter what culture you come from, being met with a palm to your face is disrespectful.
Another time while on site at a merchant I was trying to explain how the feature I was testing was working on a group chat with engineers and another project manager, instead of letting me finish he told me to “stop” and to “relax”. I got so flustered and embarrassed that my colleague could see me visibly upset and told me to ignore him and that he was not very well respected in the company because of his unprofessionalism. She happened to also be one of the people who interviewed me and constantly told me that she felt bad I took this job because she knew what I did before coming here and wouldn’t be challenged on this Google project. The worst part was that I had volunteered to test this feature because the person who worked on it was on vacation, instead of any positive acknowledgement I was instead put down and humiliated.
What was more frustrating was that earlier that week on a Sunday night I had gotten a flat tire and one of my coworkers and his wife came to help me. When I called around to find places to replace all four tires I found Costco had my tires in stock. I emailed my manager asking if I could work from the campus next to the Costco since I could walk to campus from there and come into the office once it was done. He responded saying that I wasn’t allowed to work on any other campus unless there was a “business need” and wished me “luck”. I sat in my car crying because I felt so helpless. Not only did I have no family nearby but I also didn’t want to miss out on hours of work to get my tires fixed.
I ended up getting up really early and waiting on line before Costco opened, I walked to the nearby campus, took a shuttle to my campus that took around an hour. As we pulled into the parking lot I got a call from Costco that my car was ready to be picked up. Later on that week he told me colleague he could work from home to be closer to the merchant he was testing a feature at. The same feature I later had to go test, I had to drive an hour each way to get there by the way, with the tires I had fixed earlier that week. And by the way, not only were we not permitted to work on another campus, we were also not permitted to work from home. Unless of course, you were in the good graces of the manager or it was a “business need” according to his standards.
I had tried more than once to transfer teams and even had a Google manager from another team ask to have me transferred only to be denied. Here I was, asking to be moved to another position and being requested to be moved and not given the opportunity. If my manager didn’t want to give me more work why was he denying transferring me? It turned out to be a politics game, having a contractor move to another team could poorly reflect on the current Google manager.
I felt like a pawn in a losing chess game.
One of the first projects I was tasked with, and given barely any information on, set the scene for how the rest of the time I would spend at Google would be. Another contractor was promoted to the team “lead” which really only meant that she had to get her information from all of us and report it to the larger audience as her own work. Having no information about my project and being fed conflicting details from someone else came over to my desk and demanded answers about something completely unrelated to what I was doing. Her and another contractor, instead of letting my explain kept saying I was doing things wrong, wasting other people’s time and impacting the merchant. At the end of the ordeal I ended up walking away from my desk and barely making it to the bathroom before I burst into tears. The team lead later asked to talk to me privately after she realized she had made a mistake, she actually was crying and apologizing that it was her first time managing other people and just didn’t want me to screw up and make her look bad.
I couldn’t find it in myself to accept her apology because in that moment I still felt so humiliated. That ended up being a huge mistake. This set the scene for the next months, she would avoid giving me projects, task me with irrelevant things to do and tell others on the team that she “just didn’t trust me” to get things done properly.
I can’t count the number of times I felt trapped and hopeless, finding a quiet place to cry because of a comment or email that pushed me over the edge. Or the number of times I went home after work, mentally drained, only to collapse on my couch with no desire to do anything productive. I stopped doing the things I loved such as writing, reading, cooking, working out or doing yoga. I counted down the hours to the end of my shift and the days until the weekend. I took frequent trips back to NJ to escape the toxic environment at work. It is one thing to be under-worked and under-appreciated and another to feel the career you spent years dreaming about and building crumble away. I applied to more jobs than I could think of in the first 11 months there than I did in my entire career. Nothing felt like a good fit or a match.
And then one day I came across a position at a startup on angel.co that I felt aligned with my experience and was for a software company, I loved working with software. Not too long after I applied I heard back, the stars aligned and my dua’s (prayers) were answered, the CIO who interviewed me told me that I was better suited for a position they were trying to fill that wasn’t posted online. Within two weeks I had an offer in my email. After I got my offer I was more than ready to give my notice. I first told the staffing agency and then the Google manager who didn’t even look up from his laptop when I told him, “Really? Good luck,” was the only response I got. I do often hear from my old colleagues that he still asks about me. I find that eerily ironic.
I walked away from the nightmare at Google with a handful of amazing friends and much tougher skin. I also learned that when you set high expectations or really think you want something it won’t always be what you envisioned, and that’s OK. In the year I was at Google as a contractor, I learned so much about myself as a person but more importantly as a professional. I learned what I truly loved doing and what I hated to do. I learned that I hate working at a big company, from the politics to the stringent rules, my visions and abilities are crippled by their boundaries. I learned to always, always look for the positive in every situation no matter just how shitty it could be. I also learned that there is so much value in showing your employees that you appreciate them and that most people leave a company because of bad manager and not a bad company. I sometimes wonder if I worked for a different team, even as a contractor, if my experience would have been different.
I will say this though, Google can keep its bikes and free food, it’s full of sodium and oil anyway, the 15 pounds I gained can prove that. For me, Google was a resume booster and a place I took a stop at in my professional journey, it was certainly not the destination though. I would much rather work somewhere that my contributions come to life, are appreciated and a place where I am respected. It’s not all about the perks or a big company name, it’s about being able to put your head on the pillow at night knowing you earned your spot at the table with the boys.