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Just Because I Left Google Doesn’t Mean I Automatically Think Everyone Else Should

There have been a lot of stories out there recently about the pros and cons of working at Google -- not from a purely professional perspective, but from a personal one. The company had a pretty adorable response to a girl who wrote them asking if they could allow her dad (an employee) to have more days off, and in addition, a former lawyer for the company recently penned an essay about former colleagues who ask if they should leave their jobs for smaller, hotter tech companies.

I worked at Google for two years and left mostly because I thought I’d joined the company too late to develop a real emotional connection to it -- so many of my co-workers who’d joined even a year or two earlier had joined a vastly different company and had been able to watch it grow. I had the urge to work somewhere that I could watch something grow out of nothing, and then look back and say, “Wow. We did this.” But at the same time, I know I’m in a position where I can fairly easily do this because my life is pretty uncomplicated. I’m single, I don’t have kids, nor do I own a house or a car. (When I worked at Google I lived in a furnished sublet, so I didn’t even own a bed.) The people who are benefiting enormously from staying at Google are the ones whose lives are already full of variables like spouses, children, and mortgage payments.

Something most “what it’s like to work at Google” rundowns don’t mention is that the company is a pretty chaotic place to work, but it’s well aware of this. There’s so much going on internally -- and so many projects that are interconnected -- that work priorities may shift dramatically in a course of only days, and people may be shifted from one team to another after just a few months. So Google’s famous perks are designed meticulously to eliminate the friction that so often comes in between the chaos of both work and life, from in-office dry cleaning drop-off to dinner service in the cafeterias for those days when you just can’t seem to fit in a grocery run. And as that now-viral letter to a Googler’s daughter emphasizes, the company is a fantastic place for parents.

What I really like about the former Google lawyer’s writeup about reasons to stay is how much he emphasizes that there are ways to “disrupt” and make a difference in the world that can be done outside your place of employment. And that’s why, even though I’ve now made the jump to a much smaller company and am thrilled to go to work every day, I won’t deride anyone who chooses to stick around at a bigger corporation.

Especially those who are sticking around because they take pride in being part of something bigger. Like, say, a multimillion-dollar initiative to improve diversity in software engineering.

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