Friday, November 09, 2007
In my first month at Google, I complained to a friend on the Gmail team about a couple of small things that I disliked about Gmail. I expected him to point me to the bug database. But he told me to fix it myself, pointing me to a document on how to bring up the Gmail development environment on my workstation. The next day my code was reviewed by Gmail engineers, and then I submitted it. A week later, my change was live. I was amazed by the freedom to work across teams, the ability to check in code to another project, the trust in engineers to work on the right thing, and the excitement and speed of getting things done for our users. Engineers across our offices (and across projects) have access to the same code; I didn't have to ask for anyone's permission to work on this.
Since then, I've done my best to use my 20% time on other projects. A few weeks ago, I noticed that our engineering team in India had launched an on-screen keyboard for several Indic languages on Labs. I speak Farsi, and thought it would be useful to make one for myself and ham-zaboonam (that's Farsi for 'people who speak my language'). After launching my latest project for Google Maps, I emailed M. T. Raghunath, the engineer in India who built out the keyboard Gadgets, to learn how I could make one for Farsi. He had already worked with several language experts to create keyboards in 14 Indic languages and had recently included right-to-left support for Urdu and Arabic, which he created with the help of Googlers from our Hyderabad office. He was excited and pointed me to the code. After a week of iteration, you too can now use the Farsi Gadget.
Google has many engineering offices around the world; I currently work in Seattle and M. T. works in Bangalore. We have a lot more engineers than a few years ago when I made the changes to Gmail, but I'm happy to relive the same magic I shared with the Gmail team with a Googler across the globe. By the way, a Kashmiri Gadget is also available, thanks to help from Sarwat Nisa, a Hyderabad-based Googler.