▲ Industry Head of Google Kim Tae Won, Photographed by Baeg Hawon
“Think the unthinkable? Challenge the unchallenged!” Kim Tae Won, the young managing director of Google, advises people to think creatively and progressively through his book, The Letter of the Young Googler (2009). Kim, who tells people to just "do it," emphasizes that passion that does not move is merely a mass of passion. The Granite Tower (GT) met with Kim to hear the story of his life.
GT Google is the dream company of many students. Tell us about how you entered Google.
Kim At first, I dreamed of becoming a journalist, which led me to experience being a reporter in College Tomorrow. While I was a reporter, I met so many people enjoying their lives. These people made me think again about my dream and inspired me to seek a job that is related to the future. This naturally led me to have interest in Google.
When I was first contacted by Google for an interview, I was going through a training program for new employees at another company. Based on my desire to work at a futureoriented company, I left that company and decided to prepare for my interview with Google. This was the first time that I made a choice which everyone opposed, and at the same time, the first choice I made which I was totally responsible for. I went through ten interviews over three months, which enabled me to fully show who I am to the interviewers. Also, during the interviews, I thought that I want to work with the people I am taking the interviews with, which made my aspiration to work at Google stronger.
GT Your process of finding your dream seems quite clear. What do you want to say to students who are concerned because they do not have dreams?
Kim I think life is like a journey. Nobody travels anxiously. The problem is that people view life in terms of competition. The incentive structure of our society only rewards people who win the competition. Therefore, students think they should decide what they should become, prepare for it, and win the competition. If students view the world in terms of traveling, their impatience towards the future will diminish. The process of finding one’s dream does not have to be scheduled. The authenticity of a certain experience will guide you to another experience. A plan for one’s life will be created by itself. Thus, I want to tell the worried youth to just relax and experience various things.
GT Your college extracurricular activities career is impressive. What was the most meaningful activity you did? Tell us how it influenced your life.
Kim I would easily pick the reporting activities in College Tomorrow, as the most influential activity of my life. I once interviewed a college broadcasting club. When I talked to them, I thought they were crazy. That day, I wrote that this club is crazy, and I reflected on myself who until then had not ever been crazy. The club members who were passionate about what they really like made me think about what makes me happy. The first step to becoming a happy person is to find out when I am happy. The members of the broadcasting club became the motivation for me to think deeply about when I was really happy.
GT Is there any particular experience you recommend college students to do before graduation?
Kim There are two main things I think college students should do. The first is dating. Becoming caught up in jealously and waiting nervously for contact from one’s lover will let one see the bottom of oneself. Seeing the bottom of oneself is the toe in the door of self-objectification, enabling one to discover the real self. The second thing I recommend is to do something you are fully responsible for. A good example may be to start up a business. Taking full responsibility for something will make one think deeper.
GT How do you think Google, as a global firm, is differentiated from other corporations in Korea?
Kim Google is not just a firm to me. I think of Google as a person. To me, Google is a 19-year-old kid that changes the world. I learn a lot from this young child named Google. Now, Google is a big company with more than 70 thousand employees. However, Google still changes fast like a venture. An organization becomes rigid when it has too many rules. While most firms are based on rules, Google focuses on philosophy. As long as the way one chooses to work accords with the group philosophy, how the work is done is a matter of one’s choice, meaning less regulations. I think this is the driving force of the ongoing innovation of Google.
GT Many students are curious about the organizational environment of Google. What is the group vision of Google, and how does it influence the working environment of the company?
Kim As many people know, the group vision of Google is “Don’t Be Evil.” Based on this group vision, Google works to solve worthy problems quickly through technology. In other words, Google thinks about how to make a better world as fast as possible. Nowadays with the development of technology, the most crucial matter is how to apply Artificial Intelligence (AI) to existing products in a better way. Google Photos is a good example of how Google applied AI to make a more convenient product for its users.
The members of Google take Googliness as an important qualification in their work life. The meaning of Googliness may differ for each person, but I think Googlinesss is the ability to freely think and cooperate to create value. To make a beneficial change, selecting the best way to make the change is the Googliness that Googlers pursue.
GT You have won big success that many students look up to. Do you have any future goals you want to achieve?
Kim Most importantly, I want to be a person who contributes to society. Especially, I have a lot of interest in education. Contributing to educational innovation is my next goal. Thus, I try to meet many students and teachers. Many people question whether meeting students and delivering talks is more valuable or working in an industry is more valuable. I answer that my time working in a firm will help me say more valuable and helpful things to students in the future, so the time I spend at Google is equally precious.
GT Lastly, is there anything you would like to say to the students of KU?
Kim The time in college is a period full of opportunities. I want to emphasize to the students to enjoy these opportunities. Through these chances, I hope students will find out when they are happy. Lastly, I wish students realize that there are many places in society that are in need of KU students. I want to emphasize to them to prove their value of existence by leading other people into success. The ultimate goal of the students should be helping others succeed and becoming an inspiration to others, rather than concentrating on their own success.