He joined Google in 2003, and was one of the early product managers for AdSense, helping grow that business to over $2B in annual revenue. He is the recipient of two Google Founders’ Awards for extraordinary entrepreneurial achievement. He was previously a strategy consultant with IBM and McKinsey & Co. He holds a B.Sc. in Computer Science from the University of Western Ontario and an M.B.A. from the MIT Sloan School of Management.
mym: What is your role at Google?
Shuman Ghosemajumder (SG): I am a member of the product management team. I am Business Product Manager for Trust & Safety, where I help create our product strategies to protect our advertisers, partners, and users. One area that I have spent a great deal of my time on is our systems which protect against click fraud, which is a type of fraud attempted on pay-per-click advertising systems such as Google AdWords. Google makes most of its revenues from AdWords advertisers, so protecting them and their return on investment is very important to us.
mym: People in the industry and even members of the general public believe that technology always wins. Clearly it doesn't. Someone once said that the success of Google is largely a result of some brilliant marketing decisions early on, (some perhaps not so intentional), that allowed you the freedom to create cool technology. Do you agree with that statement?
SG: I think most great success stories are a result of both skill and luck. We are fortunate to have some of the best talent in the industry, but we've also had our fair share of good luck. We're technology and product-focused as opposed to being marketing-focused; we think about how to design great products first and foremost. I think our low-key marketing approach has helped us because it lets the products speak for themselves. This is of course a general business trend, as companies are realizing that in the information age, slick advertising isn't a solution for bad product design. Companies like Apple, for example, have a similar approach. The new iPhone ads are essentially just product demos, but they're incredibly compelling.
mym: What's your take on the popularity of social networking sites and user driven sites like Youtube and ebay?
SG: The Internet has always been about access and interaction, so I see it partly as a continuation of a general trend which began when consumers first started using the Web in the '90s. Obviously the tools are getting better. Social networking sites like Facebook and Orkut let you interact with your friends more frequently and more effectively than email alone. The difference now is that everyone is becoming a publisher as well, as the content they create is public or semi-public by default.
mym: Google Adsense has been a big factor in fostering small business on the web where anyone can start up a website and earn money. Is this changing how the next generation will view work and money?
SG: I think so. AdSense let publishers monetize their work by matching it with the most relevant advertisers automatically. It allows content creators to focus on creating more content instead of running an advertising business in parallel to pay their bills. AdSense has traditionally been focused on web-based text content, but we have been expanding into many other areas such as video ads as well. Creators of high quality or popular content obviously make the most money from advertising, just as in any content-driven industry, so some folks will make more than others. But the great thing is that anyone can sign up and take their shot at creating great content (usually in an area they are passionate about) and see if they can build a business around it.
mym: What do you do to maintain the balance between work and your private life? Silicon Valley (the tech industry in general) is notorious for the "crunch time" of long hours where employees have sacrificed their health and relationships for projects. What does Google do to ensure a healthy work environment for their employees? Especially given that most of their employees are probably recent graduates who have yet to take on families and responsibility. Is it a difficult transition to go from a kid working 60 hours a week to a person with a family, a home and responsibilities outside the workplace?
SG: Great questions. I find that stress is to a large extent about your context. If you are forced to work long hours on something you don't enjoy, you feel stressed out. I think that a lot of the folks working long hours in Silicon Valley do so because they're excited or passionate about what they're working on and so they choose to do that. Many entrepreneurs here certainly fall into that category. Google does a number of things to ensure a healthy work environment. Flexible hours are common, with some folks working more traditional hours and others coming in later and leaving later, and working from home when needed. Recent graduates often structure their work schedules differently from those who have family obligations, and there is official support for everyone's individual needs. For example, Google runs its own Child Care Center just five minutes from our main campus. You might have heard about the food. We have a fantastic team of chefs who prepare healthy gourmet meals for all employees for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, all for free. We also have extensive exercise facilities on-site and employ more than thirty massage therapists. I try to maintain balance between my personal life and work by structuring my time and doing simple things like getting enough sleep, exercise, and non-work related reading. During periods where I travel frequently, sticking to a routine becomes even more important. Everyone has individual needs when it comes to work/life balance, so I think it's just about finding a system which works for you.