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5 Lessons from 15 years at Google

October 20 2021


Marc Verhees is our Head of Product, and before joining Snapfix he spent 15 years working with Google in a variety of roles. In this deep-dive he outlines 5 lessons he learned in Google, including an explanation of why ‘culture eats strategy for breakfast.’



Fresh out of University with a Product Design Masters under my belt, I joined Google in 2005. The Dublin location was roughly at 400 Googlers, and the mood in the office was a perfect continuation from University with the majority of my new colleagues relocating to Dublin. At that time, Google was still a small media darling surrounded by hippie lava lamps and buddha bags. 

Lesson 1 : In start-ups and scale-ups, the job you get hired for is not always the job you end up doing. You need to be open to pivot and-or wear many hats, be scrappy and entrepreneurial, using all the skills you have. The only constant is change.



The AdSense product in those few years was evolving quickly. As it turned out, I’m good at translating technology to benefits for users or advertisers. At one point, I was the go-to person for Remarketing - explaining to large customers how to utilize this new way to target ads. Cumulating in a roadshow across all of the Benelux and Nordic markets presenting to brands like Booking.com and many ad agencies.


Lesson 2 : Continuously learn, adapt and share your knowledge. It is invaluable for any company if you have a skill where you can understand new systems fast, exploring their maximum capabilities and then translating that in understandable ways for the audience. Because this means that you can build business models, you can build sales pitches, you can create product requirement documents, etc. in a language that the audience understands. 



Good work gets you noticed. Through my network I got a role as Global Product lead. As a choreographer between the product and engineering team, sales and support team and marketing, I was tasked to expand AdWords Express internationally. Over the course of 4 years I worked on enhancing the automated targeting, and worked on the first ad product App at Google.

Lesson 3 : Launching something does not mean it has landed. Any part of the product ecosystem can be a reason for failure, even if just one part of it is out of sync. Any brilliant product can fall flat by an unsupportive sales team, or by forgetting to put customer support in place, or simply by getting the marketing positioning wrong



Google by now had grown to a large company, with all the fun benefits including a gym, multiple cafes, and a swimming pool - but an often forgotten benefit is the opportunities that are available. As a manager, the development of the team, the culture, the career paths and opportunities are just as important as setting goals and delivering on them. A happy team will deliver, even when the situations are tough, and my team got reorged 4 times in 5 quarters. Corporate reorgs were the worst part of the large Google Sales organization that is largely run by former consultants.  

Lesson 4 : Culture eats strategy for breakfast. I’m a firm believer that culture and belonging is the single most important part to both recruit and retain team members. They will deliver more than what is expected from them because they feel they belong, they can be themselves and get rewarded for their hard work.



After the fourth reorg I ended up in the internal support tooling team for the Ads organization. Again I was working across a multitude of teams that needed alignment on priorities, technologies (for example, deploying a new VOIP phone system for 6000 support agents across the globe), SOPs and business success metrics. At this point, Google Dublin had well over 8000 employees.

Lesson 5 : Know when it is the right time to leave. I believe that you need to do what gives you energy or as the Japanese call it, Ikigai, something that gives a person a sense of purpose, a reason for living. When that spark of energy is gone, it is time for a change.

Leaving a place like Google is incredibly hard. Of course I looked at opportunities within Google, but I knew that to satisfy my scrappy entrepreneurial energy I’d needed to be a full owner of a chunky deliverable again. While at Google I did monthly start-up mentoring sessions and a few start-ups stood out. One of them was Snapfix, where I spotted a huge opportunity of monetizable use cases that would help businesses and people. I was doing free-lance UX work for Snapfix for nearly a year before I was hired as Head of Product. I’m excited to further develop the technology platform, shape the team culture, and share my knowledge of 15 years at Google.



To learn more about how Snapfix can be used in your hotel, check out our latest case study on The Plaza Hotel here.

If you are interested in booking a demo, contact our sales team here.

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