Archive for August, 2012

Book Reviews: Google These Books!

Monday, August 27th, 2012

cover images courtesy

Poundstone, William. Are you smart enough to work at Google?. Little, Brown & Co., 2012.

Edwards, Douglas . I’m feeling lucky : the confessions of Google employee number 59. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2011.

Admission to Fuqua (or anywhere at Duke) certifies you as being smart.  Very smart.  But are you smart enough to outcompete other graduates of top tier business schools to win an ideal position with an A-list employer?  Yes, of course, but first you must survive a difficult interview process.

In a new book, Are you smart enough to work for Google? William Poundstone discusses the interview process at innovative companies like Google, Microsoft and Apple as they try to identify and hire the best candidates. He reveals dozens of brainteasers and bizarre interview questions, with over 100 pages of answers and explanation.  He also covers the interview process and preferences at key employers like Google, and shows how to decode an interviewer’s hidden agenda.  All this makes for interesting reading, but even at the last page, readers still will not know if they are smart enough to work in The Plex.  A trip to Mountain View is required for that.

One person who was smart enough to work for Google was Douglas Edwards, author of a new book, I’m Feeling Lucky. In 1999 just after Google had secured $25 million in venture capital funding, Edwards quit his steady position at the San Jose Mercury News, an old style newspaper organization, to join Google, a start-up with only 60 employees, no revenue and an unlikely business plan. His book is about what it was like to transition from a unionized, tradition-encrusted organization to an environment where all the old rules no longer applied.

Edwards revealed Google as a company founded by two Stanford engineers who valued superior technology, efficiency and frugality. The goal was to establish a company that would build a search engine for websites on the internet and for corporate extranets, one that would eventually become the center of global knowledge transfer. All employees were expected to work long hours under constant pressure. With no organizational chart, job titles were generic and the environment seemed status-blind. Everyone contributed what they could, yet it was clear that the engineers were the keys to success.  The emphasis was on developing a superior product, while marketing was relatively unimportant and branding was suspect.

This is one employee’s view of Google from its second year of operation through 2005, when Edwards lost his job in a reorganization, a year after the company went public. This personal story is a light and easy read.

© Reviewer: Meg Trauner & Ford Library – Fuqua School of Business.
All rights reserved.

New Movies for August

Wednesday, August 15th, 2012

Our latest titles for this month are:

Breaking Bad, season 3
Friends with Kids
Get the Gringo
Hatfields & McCoys
Let It Shine
Nurse Jackie, season 3
Salmon Fishing in The Yemen
The Three Stooges
Safe House
Treasure Island
The Lorax

Book Reviews: Branded!

Monday, August 13th, 2012

image courtesy CBS television

Post, Karen. Brand turnaround : how brands gone bad returned to glory and the seven game changers that made the difference. McGraw-Hill, 2012.

Gaalen, Anneloes van. Indie brands : 30 independent brands that inspire and tell a story. BIS Publishers, 2011.

In the mid-60’s, a popular Western on television used a theme song that was more memorable than the series.  “What do you do when you’re branded …”   Yet the negative connotation of the word brand would soon change.  By the 1980’s businesses were involved in branding, developing positive  impressions about their products and companies in the minds of customers.  Organizations put their focus on  managing users’ experiences in the marketplace.  By the end of the millennium, even people and careers became brands.  Self-improvement at work no longer meant enhancing one’s abilities or upgrading one’s skills.  The emphasis changed to “personal branding,” which is largely self-packaging.

As living entities, brands grow and thrive, or they stumble and fall.  If they are damaged, they recover or die.  For brands in trouble, Karen Post (Branding Diva) shows how to stage a comeback.  In her new book Brand Turnaround, Post examines 75 individual brands that experienced meltdowns, including public scandals, product recalls and deadly accidents.  She then provides 7 specific strategies for recovery.  She includes examples of once beleaguered brands that became stronger after their crises, such as Tylenol’s cyanide scare in 1982 and Martha Stewart’s conviction in 2002.  She also discusses missteps and mistakes made by companies, such as BP during the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010.  She shows that organizations that embrace change are the best poised for recovery.

Brands with personality are the subjects of Indie Brands by Alleloes Van Gaalen, a quirky little book that showcases 30 brands that are owned by autonomous young people from (mostly) Europe and North America.  These brands are independent in that they are not supported by corporate funds and they embrace an alternative lifestyle.  Each brand features the story of the entrepreneur and the product, with a generous supply of photographs of the advertisements, the owners and the company’s workspace.  A number of products are sustainable, organic or fair trade, including OAT from the Netherlands, creator of the world’s first biodegradable sneaker and NU from France, producer of “green” blue jeans.  Brands from the food industry include Fritz-Kola from Germany, the “most wide-awake” cola in the world with 25 mg of caffeine per 100 ml.  Contrast that with 9 mg per 100 ml of Classic Coke.

Both of these books are well worth reading.  Brand Turnaround would be especially useful to entrepreneurs as well as to marketing students.   Indie Brands is just for fun.

© Reviewer: Meg Trauner & Ford Library – Fuqua School of Business.
All rights reserved.