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Learning to be a programmer in a complex organization: A case study on practice‐based learning during the onboarding process at Google

Maggie Johnson (Google Inc., Mountain View, California, USA)
Max Senges (Google Inc., Mountain View, California, USA)

Journal of Workplace Learning

ISSN: 1366-5626

Article publication date: 6 April 2010

7483

Abstract

Purpose

This paper seeks to analyse the effectiveness and impact of how Google currently trains its new software engineers (“Nooglers”) to become productive in the software engineering community. The research focuses on the institutions and support for practice‐based learning and cognitive apprenticeship in the Google environment.

Design/methodology/approach

The study uses a series of semi‐structured interviews with 24 Google stakeholders. These interviews are complemented by observations, document analysis, and review of existing survey and statistical data.

Findings

It is found that Google offers a state‐of‐the‐art onboarding program and benchmark qualities that provide legitimate peripheral participation. The research reveals how Google empowers programmers to “feel at home” using company coding practices, as well as maximizing peer‐learning and collaborative practices. These practices reduce isolation, enhance collegiality, and increase employee morale and job satisfaction.

Research limitations/implications

The case study describes the practices in one company.

Practical implications

The research documented in the paper can be used as a benchmark for other onboarding and practice‐based learning set‐ups.

Originality/value

This is the first research that gives insights into the practice‐based learning and onboarding practices at Google. The practices are assessed to be state‐of‐the‐art and the insights therefore relevant for benchmarking exercises of other companies.

Keywords

Citation

Johnson, M. and Senges, M. (2010), "Learning to be a programmer in a complex organization: A case study on practice‐based learning during the onboarding process at Google", Journal of Workplace Learning, Vol. 22 No. 3, pp. 180-194. https://doi.org/10.1108/13665621011028620

Publisher

:

Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2010, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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