Kevin shared his experience as Google grew from 11,000 employees upon his joining to today's tally of over 47,000 employees. At one point he reported up through Marissa Mayer, who is now CEO of Yahoo! His career has progressed from managing web properties across various countries to his current role in cloud technology. He is strong on team formation and team leadership. His approach is to emphasize a diverse workforce, including females and minorities on teams and he has managed teams ranging from 20 to 80 members.
We asked Kevin about some of the things we read in the media about Google, especially the elimination of the famous 20% time, where Googlers were able to work on anything they wanted, using Google's resources. He explained that the media exaggerated its demise--Google merely realigned 20% time to projects that contribute to the growth of Google. If you have a hobby, you can pursue it on your own time, but if it contributes to Google's growth, it's fair game for the 20%.
He told us about the famous perks, but emphasized that these are not what makes Google great. What makes Google great are the employees who have a passion for their work--evidenced by early employees who stay on, even though they have many millions in the bank. Also, Kevin reminded us to not lose your identity. He constantly reminds people that he is a grad of Western Michigan University, but he is surrounded by Stanford, MIT, Michigan, Illinois, and grads from other higher-profile universities who need to be informed that there really is a Kalamazoo.
As Kevin noted, Google has such a flat organization structure that he is only 5 levels away from Larry Page, the CEO. Another interesting point: although we worry about how many GB our devices will hold, his concerns deal with petabytes (and beyond).