Book Review: Gayle McDowell's "The Google Resume"

I'm not here to waste your time, especially since I feel like my time's been wasted. With that on the table, here's my short review.

This book is great for:

  • Giving you an idea of what tech companies are looking for.
  • Making sure you have no misconceptions about how screwed you are if you've decided to major in something non-STEM.
  • It's a Gayle McDowell primer. Yes, you will be an expert on how well Ms. McDowell (the author) has done throughout her career. She'll walk you through it from the painful beginning -- how she temporarily rued her opportunity to work with Microsoft at a young age; how her 'unimportant-to-the-networking-process' Ivy League diploma worked out for her (in her opinion); etc...
  • Providing your pride with just enough of a harsh beating to keep you where you are. You won't quit that job at the promising start-up you just landed in lower Manhattan, but you'll realize just how useless you seem to the engineering community shortly before finishing this book!


This book ISN'T great for:

  • Getting you a job. (Although, reading any book won't get you a job anyway.)
  • Giving you the tools you need to land an interview with a top company. Instead, you're provided with a BROAD option with regards to your overall direction. What that option is: well, you won't know when you're done with the book, but you'll know there's some underlying option...somewhere. Essentially, you will NOT know what to do with yourself specifically in order to even start your resume.

Want some project ideas to get you started? Don't read this.

Want a mildly attractive, active look on sites like GitHub? Don't read this.

Want to know exactly what interviewers at companies like Google and Microsoft are thinking? Read this. If you're like me, you'll be surprised by the pomposity. Just imagine what Steve Urkel ("Family Matters"), David Lightman ("WarGames") or Chris Knight ("Real Genius") would be like as real people, but instead of being humble, they're openly supercilious because of their school-related accomplishments.

I will not blame Ms. McDowell for her snootiness. Aren't we always (or almost) products of our environments? It's clear that she's been around those with lavish opportunities and nurturing environments for most of her life. There's no wonder this book managed to unearth a significant disconnect with the commoner's reality.

Code, code, code. Code some more. That's the best advice anyone's ever given me. While Ms. MsDowell does manage to get this message across sometimes, she tends to beat a few dead horses of superior breeds: She doesn't seem to understand that 90% (not literally) of STEM graduates don't know what a compiler is, let alone what an SVN is to a software development community. Of course, she makes some realistic assumptions about her audience, but the bottom line is that she constantly circumvents the fact that HER resume isn't something one can so easily fake.

I once bumped into Sanford Dickert (really cool guy) and he stressed that I think practically and have something to show for it. Greatest advice ever. Ms. McDowell attempts to instill the same value (Great!), but instead of spending 200 pages on examples of how to do that, she drastically generalizes the process of becoming seemingly competent on paper.

I think she should have attempted to provide the reader with extremely specific examples -- online portfolio? List your projects in 'this' fashion; Built something? Cover 'these' aspects of that project in your project description in 'this' fashion; ... The depth just wasn't there.

The Verdict

Good for those with projects and notable accomplishments to list. For those people, I imagine it's a great confidence boost.

For the commoner who just needs their foot in the door somewhere, this isn't what you should spend your money on. I'm being brutally honest with you. You can find every piece of advice Ms. McDowell's offered throughout this piece in online blogs, comment listings, and by reading the news (check out articles on the tech job market -- you'll pick up the same ideas).

I can appreciate the attempt, nonetheless.


Software Engineer

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