Life @ Project 402, and beyond, by Shiwei Zhang

Key words of life at SVP -- 402.

What is Project 402? I walked in Google’s San Francisco office with the same question on September 19th. “402 is the http response code for payment required”, I got the answer from one of the founders of our product, “we just named it 402 when we started the project.” Still confused? Well you must have seen “404 Not Found” before, same thing. And you heard me right, the founder of our product.

Project 402 stands for Google Consumer Survey (GCS). It has been a startup within Google. Googlers have 20% of the time to work on just any project they are interested in, and 402 started off as one of these projects (in case you don’t know already, Gmail came from 20%, too).  It was first launched end of March this year, only 7 months ago. If you are not aware yet, Google is now in market research industry!

Google Consumer Survey, the name pretty much explains itself ...... but wait, not quite.

We don’t run surveys, those lengthy questionnaires you may be thinking in your head. We run micro-surveys, one or two questions at one time. If you are market researchers and want to ask just about anything to your customers (of course, not literally anything, we have review policies), we are the cheap yet fast and scientific way to do it. GCS runs your surveys on our publisher networks across nation ( and now Canada and UK, too!) so that you can get a representative sample of your target audience. For an ordinary user browsing the internet, taking a couple of seconds to answer a question will give you access to premium content which otherwise may require login or subscription. (Win Win Win!)

The team has achieved amazing stuff in the 2 months since I joined. The product is constantly developing new features and getting new deals done. Everyday is an exciting day.

  • We launched customized polling with Harris Poll to survey on people’s satisfaction with banks they are dealing with.
  • We got endorsed by Pew, Pew Research, one of the most respected research organizations in the world.
  • “Perhaps it won’t be long before Google, not Gallup, is the most trusted name in polling.” -- Nate Silver.

Personally the most exciting thing, look below. Nate Silver mentioned us in his blog in New York Times. We came up top among all online polling for Presidential Election, second if you include live phone polling, etc. The article was printed in the actual paper NYT as well! Pretty amazing for a product that’s been out there for barely more than 6 months!


  • Launched many more features in the product itself!

When you get free lunches, free massages, free shuttles with WIFI and all kinds of other perks, you know it’s Google. When you get email updates on bug status late in the night or sometimes even weekend, new features rolled out and deals signed every week, everything going on in a very fast pace, you know it’s a startup. You know where I’m going -- 402 has the best of the two.


Oh, I forgot to mention my role in the team. I do hypothesis testing using A/B test tools on our website, a little bit of imagination (or, critical thinking), a little bit of Photoshop, a little bit of understanding of statistics, and a lot of collaboration. I also work to understand user behavior by going through each transactions. Sporadically I take on side projects like election results analysis and Excel programming.

Hmmm, what else have I left out...

Yes I live in Mountain View. Commute 3 hours everyday to and from work on my bike and the Google Bus. Yikes!

Bay Bridge -- look below. It was a casual breakfast on 6 floor cafeteria of SF office.


Charisma -- you get to take classes that interest you, and NO tests OR homework. I took “Presenting with Charisma”. As the name indicates, the class teaches presentations styles and things to practice/notice when you are presenting. We had people videotaped and critiqued each other. I was accidentally registered into the class, as it was meant for experienced presenters, but I’m happy I went.

Conferences -- Probably one of my top favorite activities in the program. I try to go to all kinds of tech events in my spare time. Listened to keynotes from CEO of EA, VP of Facebook, VP Google Wallet, interactive sessions with CEO of Intuit, and soon with a Partner at a prominent VC firm in the Bay Area.

Awesome roommate, awesome people --  a 7 out of 10 weirdness roommate, yet energetic and full of ideas/stories to talk about. A group of people you can have fun with and also have intellectual conversations with.

What I realized from SVP program:

I want my future career to be related to technology. It is my passion.
I want to work at Google.
I want to live in San Francisco after I graduate.

I feel fortunate that I got into 402 for my 11 weeks of job at Google. And participating in Silicon Valley Program is probably one of the best decisions I’ve made in college.

Whoever has kept reading until this point, thank you for your attention! Have a nice day.

Shiwei Zhang Pomona College
Class of 2014

#Google#, #Startup#, #SanFrancisco#, #MountainView#, #BayBridge#, #Conference#, #Pew#, #Harris#, #NateSilver#, #Charisma#