I love this question because media has painted this inaccurate picture of where the top programmers go. Most think that to be at the top in the industry you need to be at Google. While, I wouldn’t discredit the quality of developers because I do think you have to be pretty knowledgeable to get in. The reality is Google’s technologies included the acquisition of 175 companies and 36 investments. This shows that any Google engineer is no better or worse than hundreds, if not thousands of companies out there innovating new technologies.
I know several developers that couldn’t pass their technical interviewing process, but they are developing core technologies at companies that have caught the attention of Facebook, Google, and Amazon.
The key is to focus on being a passionate programmer and never stop learning. I wouldn’t use any company as a metric for what makes a high-caliber programmer because it’s all relative. Find your strength and build upon that. If you’re passionate about building utility apps, build the best utility apps you can. If you love complex algorithms, continue learning and practicing to make them more efficient. At the end of the day, your cohorts will be your metric of caliber. Just humble yourself and always try to be better.
Rey’s original reply can be found here on Quora.