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Talya Bauer Reflects on Google Visiting Faculty Experience

Each year, Google invites more than 25 academics from universities all over the world to participate in its Visiting Faculty program. The visiting faculty work closely with research and engineering teams, and have the opportunity to explore projects at industrial scale, work with state-of-the-art technology, and experience Google culture up close.

I recently caught up with Dr. Talya Bauer, Cameron Professor of Management in the Portland State School of Business Administration, to chat about her experience as a participant in Google's Visiting Faculty program last summer. 

Dr. Bauer's academic research is in the areas of new hire onboarding, recruitment, selection, overqualification, mentoring, and leadership. She was the first Management academic to work at Google through the program.

Q: When did you work on the Google campus, and what area did you work in?

 A: Google had hosted Visiting Scholars in Engineering, but not in Management before I visited. The visit was over the summer of 2011 and I was there from June through September 2011 on site in Mountain View, CA.  We started to discuss different needs Google had and found a great fit for me coming to focus on academic research working within People Analytics (Google's term for the more traditionally titled Human Resource Management function) and especially closely with Google's PiLab.

Q: What type of work were you doing while you were there?

 A: While I was in Mountain View, I worked on several specific projects, attended all of my team's regular meetings, and consulted on practical Onboarding issues with the Google Onboarding team. Because the role was a new one for all of us, some time was devoted to learning what was available in terms of data, key questions of interest, etc. Other times, there were specific goals that I worked on while I was there. Our relationship is an ongoing one and I continue to work on several research projects. I will be back to visit and report back on some research findings this May.

Q: Aside from your research, what are some interesting things you learned while there, either about Google or in general?

 A: It was a very exciting and inspirational experience. I've been in Academia for 22 years and at PSU for 18 years. While I've taught students Best Practices and even written textbooks which I hope contain Best Practices regarding management, it was amazing to live in a world where so many things are being done right. At Google I really felt that individuals were living out Best Practices on a day to day basis and that it was being supported through positive peer pressure. Many people noted — and I felt — that the worst thing you could do was something lazy or unethical because you would never want to risk not being allowed to work in such a great environment.

Q: Did you meet any famous/interesting people while there?

 A: While I was there many famous folks came through — Lady Gaga, Taylor Swift, George R. R. Martin (author of the HBO series King of Thrones is based on). It was mainly just very cool to work with really smart, dedicated, hard working people every day.

Google has a company wide meeting every week on Friday afternoon, complete with beer and food, and there are open chairs at the main event site as well as virtual attendance around the world, including on the Mountain View campus (since not everyone would fit into one room). The first all-company Friday meeting I attended in person was run by Google co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin. My first day at Google was the day they launched Google+. The last day I was there was when they opened Google+ up to everyone.

Q: What is it like working at the Google campus?

A: Google's campus feels a lot like a college campus. It is a huge complex and to get around you can walk but it'll take awhile so there are bikes available as well as a campus shuttle and a car service that takes you from door to door. You can also drive but given the other options, it isn't necessary. There are dozens of cafes across the campus and each one has a different theme and type of food. Every once in awhile you'll see a truck pull up and it might be the library which comes to Google, a food cart with free food for Google employees, or a mobile haircut truck. You name it and you might see it. But, most of the time, you're working so it makes sense that the times you are free, taking a break would be attractive.

Q: What was the highlight of the experience for you?

A: The highlight of the experience for me was working with such great people. I enjoyed every day at Google and it is truly because of the famous adage: "The People Make the Place!"  This was the title of the first talk I gave at Google and it really turned out to be true there as well.

 

By Bret Perkins: Bret aspires to both innovation and entrepreneurship, spending his time between work in digital and social media marketing and operating a small wine export company. Bret will graduate from the Portland State MBA part time program in June 2012. Connect with Bret on LinkedIn.

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Tags: Google, google human resource management, Google visiting faculty, onboarding, Portland State MBA, Talya Bauer

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Portland State's MBA program has earned numerous accolades, including a 2011-12 Beyond Grey Pinstripes Report rating of #1 in the world — for small schools — for its emphasis on environmental stewardship.

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