Former Google VP tells WashU How Google Works

If you are hired by the most valuable company in the world, you are expected to know how to manage a business.

But when Jonathan Rosenberg arrived at Google in 2002 to oversee the company’s product and marketing organization, he and then-CEO Eric Schmidt realized they needed to learn business rules that make companies successful in the Internet age.

Rosenberg, now adviser to Google’s new CEO Sundar Pichai, recently came to Washington University to share what he learned during his 13-year stint at the tech giant.

In his speech, titled “How Google Works: The Rules for Success in the Internet Century,” Rosenberg described how Google grew from a startup with a few hundred employees to one of the most recognized companies in the world whose products and services are used by hundreds of millions of people every day.

Using many entertaining anecdotes, Rosenberg provided insights into how Google attracts smart creatives, how to create an environment where talent can thrive and what being “Googly” really means. Working closely with then-CEO Larry Page, for example, Rosenberg said he quickly learned to adopt moonshot thinking after Page told him, “You have failed by virtue of small thinking.”

Because of the nature of word of mouth online, the success of Angry Birds, Instagram and other startups proves that products and services can get traction without a lot of marketing due to the ubiquitous nature of word of mouth online, Rosenberg said.

“Marketing can accelerate people’s existing belief,” Rosenberg said. “What it can’t do is convince people that a crummy product is worth buying.”

The David R. Calhoun Memorial Lecture was a joint initiative of the School of Engineering & Applied Science and the Olin Business School.

View the full lecture: