Leaving Google

July 04, 2021

I left Google this month, after 17 years working there. At the time I left, out of ~150k employees, only ~300 had worked there longer than me. I have many stories, and I imagine I might tell some of them on this blog at some point. Rather than try to fit everything into one post I thought I'd instead use this post just as a brief announcement and small summary of my career there.

I am not the sort of person who worries a lot about their career growth. I never was a manager and I was always happy to just quietly hack on interesting problems. If you can find the right corners to work in, Google is a pretty great place for that kind of attitude. (Google is also massive and others have had lots of very different experiences from mine.)

I worked on many things over those nearly two decades. A few things I can say I feel directly responsible for are Chrome for Linux and the Ninja build system, a multi-million-user Android app, and making TypeScript one of the primary languages at Google. (Of course, sucessful projects rely on many people's contributions, not just me.) I also contributed to many other projects, like this fancy NLP in web search and plenty of stuff that is not visible to the public. One bit of my legacy that most Googlers will recognize is Epitaphs; I also had a widely read blog there, which is one reason I haven't posted much in public lately. Because of the TypeScript work I was also one of ~30 "global approvers", with the access to approve code changes to any project at the company.

17 years is also a lot of life beyond making some software. I got to work from Tokyo for half a year; started the San Francisco Chrome team; was "interviewed*" in a magazine and pictured in Newsweek; went on a flight in Ken Thompson's plane; travelled for work to all sorts of places including Israel, Poland, and Germany; hung out, learned from, and befriended so many people who were so much smarter and more talented than me.

I moved to California to work for Google, and my move away from California led to the end of my career there. The full story is complex but effectively a bureaucratic mistake led to my position falling into question, despite plenty of support for keeping me around from my immediate management chain. This led me to follow through on an interview at Figma, which is a company I have been following for years and where I will work next. (Edit: I read some speculation online about this section. I was intentionally vague in part because I didn't mean for any drama. I left on good terms; my employment problems were fully resolved before I left; my last evaluation at Google was "strongly exceeds expectations"; and finally, I am not bitter about it. Rather, it was just a situation that led to me looking around and finding something new that appealed to me.)

In all, I am very grateful to Google. But maybe the best characterization of my feelings about Google is they're the same complex and uncomfortable feelings I have towards the US as a US citizen: it's a place that I know is filled with brilliant, kind, interesting people, and it's a place that has given me nearly everything in my life, including the money to buy the home I now live in and even the health insurance responsible for the birth of my son — but it's also ultimately not something to be anthropomorphized, but rather a faceless machine that makes often bad decisions that I don't have any real influence over.

* not actually interviewed; maybe a story for later