Why I left my job at Google (as a software engineer)On September 22, 2019 by Raul Dinwiddie
Hi, and welcome to another episode of The Tech Lead. My name is “The Tech Lead.” and I will be The Tech Lead today. I wanted to talk about why I left my six figure job at Google. Because for a lot of people they imagine that once they get into Google It will be happily ever after from there on out Like, it’s a great company to work for and it is kind of the life long dream for a lot of people and once they get in, they imagine they will just be there forever. They would basically have it made. But that’s not how it plays out in reality. and you may be surprised to know that the average tenure of a Google Engineer is like 3.2 years only and that is actually on the high end. For other companies it is even less. Now, I was working as a software engineer tech lead on the youtube ios app. And, you know, it was a six figure salary. Very good pay, good compensation, very nice benefits, free food everywhere, free drinks Good parties Occasional trips, like, we had annual ski trips And, you know It was great. Now, before I had gone to Google, I would be one of those people who would just go to, like, Costco and get as many samples as I could. And that would be my lunch. I would love food samples. And I might go to Trader Joes and grab their free coffee and I might go chocolate shops and get free samples everywhere. And you know, I was just hungry and starving basically everywhere I went. And after Google that kind of changed me a little bit basically I was able to get as many free samples as I wanted at Google Because, all the food was free and it was fantastic. And you know when I first got in I couldn’t understand why anyone would want to leave the place Like, I worked so hard to get into Google and it was for me a dream come true. I had been applying to try to get in for many years. and I had failed the interview process multiple times actually. Like, three times or something. and on my last attempt I remember the interviewers even telling me “Wow! You must really want to get into Google because our records show that you just keep applying.” And I was, like, “Yeah. I just really want to get in.” And so when I got in I couldn’t fathom why anybody would ever want to leave the company. I did not make sense to me. There was no place better than Google in my opinion. They also allow you to switch teams too. So if the team or work ever got boring you could just switch to another team. You could even switch to another location if you wanted to. So, they have you covered on all sorts of areas. And I think for that reason the tenure there is a little bit longer than other places. It is a great company overall to work for. But through out my time, I did see people on my team leave. And I can tell you a few of their stories, like One guy had basically gotten into Google right after college. And he just worked for years at the company after that and he never had the chance to travel. And I can understand that. And he wanted to just take some time off to just travel full time and fulfill his dreams of going to, like, Tahiti… And going all over the place. He had money. He had youth. And he just wanted to go out and travel for a few months. And Yeah, I think that makes sense. Like, I honestly thought that was a little silly when I first heard it, because I had just finished traveling myself. And I was a little disillusioned by travel I didn’t really think it was so cool of a thing anymore. So, uh, giving up a career to just… Basically, I knew that he would be back. And within three months he was back, basically asking for his job again. You don’t really need that much time to travel. You think that you can travel for years and years But in reality, after about 2 – 4 weeks of traveling, you are basically done. Like, you’re exhausted. and you want to sit down and rest. But anyway, he’s doing fine. He’s great. and I think that, in order to get a few months to go out and travel you may need to quit your job anyway. I am not sure if anyone is going to allow you to stay with the company and just allow you take a few months off. Like, even if you promise that you will be back after that short amount of time. I don’t know if they’ll do it. They might. I’ve heard other people joining companies like Uber. You know these are unicorn startups and it’s a shot at making big money, maybe. But, in reality, I am not sure I recommend that path really either, because I think that These unicorn startups they never really tell you how much money you are actually getting. How many shares. They’ll just tell you’ll get like 50 Million shares. But in reality, you have know idea what valuation that’s going to be at and what percentage of the company you’ve got. It’s really a leap of faith that you are taking for the company and basically I am not sure that that is really that great of an option, but it could be. Especially when people from large tech companies Like Google, go into startups. They get better positions and they can, like, You know maybe get more control, more responsibilities and develop personally more. So, yeah, I think that could be interesting actually. Other people I know have gone to other large tech companies in similar categories. I’ve seen some junior engineers just quit to go run their own startups. And again I am not really sure that is a great path Because, I think it’s good experience to… Basically, like just, work in a large tech company like Google and learn the ropes and The chances of a startup succeeding are actually perhaps far lower than you might imagine A few years over at Google You’ll be promoted a few times and you’re salary will probably go up So, I think that kind of in my mind, like… maybe a junior engineer who’s gone to Google is taking it for granted and is thinking that it is easy to do it. But, I don’t think it is that easy in reality. Like, well, it wasn’t that easy for me. So, It took me quit a while to get in. One thing to note though is that you’ve gotten in before, you may be able to get in again another time. I’ve heard a few stories of people who left and later came back. So, if people want to go out and explore some other route, like startups or something like that. Maybe something really promising. And if it doesn’t go well, they come back. I think that that is actually a fine route, actually. So, I think that what is interesting to consider that is when you get into one of these top tech companies. You think, “Oh it’s so great!” and “You’re never going to leave.” But, over time that actually becomes your base line. And It is not really the end of a journey, it is the continuation of your journey. And basically you owe it to yourself to see how much further you can go. Whether within that same company or with another company or another path is going to be for you. As for myself, I hit 3.5 years Pretty similar to say the 3.2 average year amount that people start leaving companies. And I just felt that it was about time to broaden my experience. Take a look around, see what else is out there. You know, basically once I was able to get into Google Having that on your resume really helps open a lot of doors and options for you The world becomes your pig, basically, like Anything else that looks interesting to you People will probably at least give you an interview and talk to you about whatever opportunities. So, I went to Google and I was stunned by all the amazing technology they’ve got there. It’s really like living in the future there. There are so many cool internal tools and systems and everything is set up so well And, a lot of this is proprietary internal software that has yet to be open sourced or released for public usage. And you know, some of these might be released for years or forever. Because they’re integrated so well with Googles internal tools. That basically some of these tools may just be inseparable. And so I thought, “If I got into Google, and there is this whole hidden secret world of technology just within that company that was not public and for anyone else to see. And the only way to get access is to see that whole world is get into the company. ” I wanted to see what was behind the walls of other companies as well. Because, I was just so fascinated by the internal technology that has yet to be released. And I wanted to see how other companies were being set up inside, what tools they had. I wanted to see what their work flow was like, what the culture is like, what their vision is.. You know, every company has its own culture, it’s own pros and cons, their mission. Their… for example, Google is known as a very engineering based culture They have strong processes, good code reviews, good ownership. And they really focus on well crafted, solid engineering. And that’s great! However, one criticism is that they move a little too slowly. And that other companies may have another whole set of different cultures. So, it was just interesting for me to think a little bit about that and for me it got the best of my curiosity. And I started to look around and to apply to other companies and see what else was out there. Eventually, I found a company that seemed quite interesting to me And I wanted to see what was behind the walls, take a look Yeah, that was basically the path that I took. Anyway, the takeaway that I wanted to get across to you was, a lot of people are trying to get into Google and they can’t and I wanted you to realize that it is not like getting into heaven and then you just live there happily ever after forever. It’s only good for about 3.2 years on average for most people and after that they go on. And find some other things. So, if your life goal is to get into Google Just remember that for the average person after just 3.2 years They’ve had their fill, they’re done, and they move on. And they find some other place to go, maybe it’s a startup, maybe it’s another company. And so there is more than one way to get into these other places. Like, if somebody joins Google and after a few years gets into Uber.. Maybe you should just apply into Uber. Or if someone Goes to Google and decides to go to a startup. Maybe you should just apply straight into that startup. and, you know, that is kind of like a shortcut. Now maybe your position and pay would not be as high. But, I would say that probably more than position or pay is just being within the walls of a company that will Kind of, define the sort of lifestyle you are going to have. You know, most people in the company are living very similar lifestyles. They have the same food. They go in at the same times, they work on the same problems and all that. and And I would imagine that especially, like, I’ve seen junior engineers. They come into Google. They work one year. and then they are done. And they go do their startup Like, for those people, maybe what they are looking for is just a bit of validation. They just wanted to feel that they could be certified as an actual software engineer and after that There were other things that they really wanted to do. So I might encourage you to think a little bit longer term A little bit broader than just getting into a company. Like, think about the overall lifestyle that you are trying to craft for yourself. and For the average person, Google is not the destination. It is just one piece of their journey in software engineering. So, that will do it for me. I hope you enjoyed the episode. Give it a like and subscribe and I will see you next time.