Learning to be a software
engineer in a complex organization: A case study focusing on apprenticeship/practice
based learning for getting new engineers productive in contributing to the Google
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.
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.
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
The case study describes the practices in one company.
The research documented in the paper can be used as a benchmark for other
onboarding and practice-based learning set-ups.
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.