Thoughts on Google and what's next
So, I announced in December that I'm leaving Google. And it seems as if the topic "people leaving Google" really drives engagement, so here I am to follow up.
I was at Google for more than ⅓ of my life—I started in 2009, when I was 22. I grew up there! I was always an employee of Google Australia based in Sydney, but I got to travel the world, including a few couple-month stints in London and San Fransisco. 🎡🌁
In that huge window of my life, I got married, had an adorable child, bought and paid off a house (thanks,
$GOOG), and so on.
And, I confess, my personal identity throughout felt tied to Google—it's still hard to decouple!
My partner and many friends still work there, I have a cupboard full of Google t-shirts, and so on. 👕
What are you doing next?
I'll get to the good stuff first. 🥇
I'm joining a tiny startup, here in Australia, called Gridcognition, as their CTO. (Yes, here's the obligatory we're hiring hint, but focusing in Australia/NZ for now.)
We're a SaaS for the worldwide energy industry, and we enable rapid planning through modelling of all sorts of energy assets (think ☀️🔋🔌🚘) with a view of accelerating the world's transition to renewable energy. The planet has the technology—let's get it right-sized and installed.
Why did you leave Google?
Google has been great to me, and after 12 years—I worked on a bunch of different projects, from Wave, to Keep, to Drive and Maps, finally landing in Web DevRel—fundamentally it became about the "what ifs". 🤔💭
I could keep doing the same job at Google, pretty well too—and in a kind of depressing way, I could see myself doing it for another 12 years really easily, without much inherent risk. And yes, like everyone, I have quibbles with how Google's culture has changed—I actually wrote a bunch of this already for this blog post, but I cut it down—these quibbles aren't the reason I'm moving on.
Ignoring my "what ifs" realization, I can summarize my view on Google as… well, the perks still vastly outweigh the cultural issues, but some of the bureaucracy around software engineering is just becoming ridiculous. If you're a Googler, don't just think—how can I make this engineering process faster—maybe look at how you can get rid of whatever it is completely.
Why did you join a tiny startup?
I'm never going to write a LinkedIn post saying—"I'm just so excited to take my new adventure at X corp, thank you for my amazing time at Y!". That's… probably not me. I had a great time at Google, but now I want to move on.
Gridcognition, however, does align with what I want at this point in my life, career, and so on. And I randomly found them at the exact time they'd raised funds and were hiring for a CTO. I'm not a believer in fate, but I definitely realized that the opportunity might not come up again. 🚪🤛
So it's a couple of things:
The world is experiencing a climate crisis, and tech has a responsibility to play. 🔥
As I was interviewing for Gridcognition, my manager Rob announced to me that he was also leaving to work on climate, which was… look, I laughed, but it was a confirmation that I was doing the right thing. He pointed out that there's (mostly US-focused) plenty of resources out there to find these kinds of roles.
I want to be a bigger cog in a smaller system. ⚙️
At Google or any big tech company, of course what you do matters—I'm pretty sure that's the slogan on hiring material—but it's nothing like representing a tiny startup which is doing something totally unique, and being much closer to the coal face (or, let's say, the battery production line?).
I can help change an outcome. 🎯
I actually interviewed for a few different companies over the years while at Google (yes, tech people, you can just do this to see what's on the other side). And a reason I never pursued those further was that… they already had a pretty obvious path, and while I would help them be faster or have fewer production issues along that path, I wasn't going to be part of their nascent experience.
To be clear, Gridcognition is already a successful startup—we have clients who get real value out of the software, and that was all built by the team before I arrived. But as their CTO, I am going to bring my experience to help make the best choices for their systems so we can grow. 📈
I've enjoyed working on Web DevRel but I never became a "personality" like so many of my colleagues. (Subscribe to me on YouTube! Smash that like button! ✨)
I'm not saying I regret that, but it would have been interesting—although maybe it would have pigeonholed me more into more specific roles. So I suppose I'm actually really happy that I've remained a generalist, including working on big scalable systems that are complex and interesting but which maybe don't make good video or blog content.
Something else that inspired me is my Dad, who, age 35, up-ended his stable government job to follow a passion. So there's a little bit of—life is short, and I think he'd be proud that at roughly the same age, I took a little bit of the same kind of risk. (Of course, my Dad sold his house, moved cities, put money into a new business, and so on—I'm basically playing on easy mode compared to that! 🕹️)
That's all for now
As I mentioned above, I actually wrote a whole lot more about my time at Google, and—some of it is interesting, about different projects and some more specific criticisms (and good memories!) of my time there—but I've kept this short.
So if you are curious about that, or just have Q+A, do reply to me on Twitter and let me know what you'd like to hear. But my posts will always be a bit conservative—I'm not burning down Google on the way out: as I mentioned, I had a great time there, I'm just moving on for my own reasons.
Thanks for reading! 👋