Friday, April 02, 2010

Last Day at Google

Today was my last day at Google. It's been 6.5 years since I first started at Google, and let me tell you when I first joined I did not expect to stick around for that long. My previous longest tenure was at Mpath Interactive for 3.5 years. I remember joining the company, and thinking, "Boy, this company is so huge. I'm going to get lost here." I became very pleasantly surprised that after my very first TGIF, I ran into Eric Schmidt on the way back to my cube and he knew my name, had obviously read my resume, and knew that I had "been around the block a few times as far as startups were concerned." Looking back at it and reflecting on what my starter project at Google was, I shouldn't have been so surprised.

Financially, it stopped making sense for me to stay at Google about 2 years ago. The risk-reward ratio had mostly tipped down to much less risk and correspondingly less reward, and while regular refreshers were handed out, they weren't really enough to really make a big difference to my net-worth. However, I still had interesting things to do, including my Munich assignment. Munich was such a small office that I felt like I was at a startup again, which was awesome. I felt like I did a lot there, and it was enough to keep me excited and motivated.

After my Australia trip last year, I became a part-time employee, going to a 4-day work week. Amongst other things, I scanned 10 years worth of slides, bought a house, toured Japan, and wrote a book, but somehow still never quite got caught up to everything I wanted to do. And having found a taste for long-term travel (as I got more time, I discovered that I didn't want to do more trips, but wanted to do longer trips), I wanted to do still more! I still never did find time to visit my friends, or even do any of the other nerdier things I thought I could make time for.

The final straw that made me decide to retire from Google was the realization that as an engineer and a professional, I'm highly optimized for startups. As Google got bigger, the pressure to specialize and stick to a formal role grew to the point where everything I did (and that included the assignment in Munich) came at the cost of professional advancement. I supposed I could have sat back and coasted, or as a friend of mine used to say, "rest and vest", but that's not in my personality. John T. Reed's book, Succeeding, made a very good point, which is that it's very difficult to change your personality, and trying to do so would make you very unhappy. However, it's possible and quite easy to change your context and your environment, and your life should be about finding a context and environment where your personality makes succeeding easy, rather than trying to fit your personality into an increasingly ill-fitting context.

In any case, I don't have any plans to jump right away into another work-place, startup or not. For one thing, I have at least one more book I want to write (it has nothing to do with computers or startups), and Lisa and I have booked a 5 week trip to Europe this summer, along with some Googler friends. I have hopes of doing a photography trip in the fall, and yes, I would like to do another sailing trip. Then there's friends to visit, and maybe for once I should try to attend WorldCon or GenCon, events that I have always thought of attending, but never did it because when you have a limited amount of vacation time, you would never waste it on indoor activities when there's so much left of the world you want to see.

For the immediate future, however, I plan to spend the next few weeks writing up some of my experiences at Google (no, I won't divulge any trade secrets), so if you enjoy that sort of thing, stay tuned.
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