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 now. Like, it’s a great company to work for, it’s kind of the life-long dream for a lot of people and once they get in they imagine they’ll just be there forever. They would basically have it made. But that’s not actually 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’s actually on the high end and for other company’s it’s 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’d gone into Google, I would be one of those people who would just go like Costco and just get as many samples as I could and that would be my lunch. I would love food samples. And I might go to Trader Joe’s and grab their free coffee and I might go to chocolate shops and just 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 ever want to leave the place. Like, I had 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 wanna get in. And so when I got in I couldn’t fathom why anybody would ever want to leave the company. It didn’t make sense to me. There’s was no place better than Google in my opinion. And 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 had you covered on all sorts of areas and I think for that reason the tenure is a little bit longer there than other places and it’s a great company overall to work for.
But throughout 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 so he wanted to take some time off to just travel full time and fulfill his dreams of going to like Tahiti and going all over the place. And 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 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. Like, you think that you can travel for years and years but in reality, after about two to four weeks of traveling you’re 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 even a few months to go out and travel you may need to quit your job anyway.
Like, I’m not sure if anyone’s going to just allow you to stay with a company and just take a few months off, like, even if you can promise you’ll be back after that short amount of time. Like, I don’t know if they’d do it. They might. I’ve heard other people joining companies like Uber. You know, these are unicorn start-ups and it’s a shot at making big money maybe, but in reality I’m not sure I recommend that path really either, because I think that these unicorn start-ups, they never really tell you how much money you’re actually getting, how many shares. They just tell you, you get like, 50 million shares but in reality you have no idea what valuation that’s going to be at and what percentage of the company you’ve got. So it’s really a leap of faith that you’re taking for the company and basically I’m not sure if that’s really that great of an option, but it could be, especially because when people from large tech companies like Google go into start-ups 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 start-ups and again, I’m not really sure that’s really a great path because I think it’s good experience to basically like, just work in a large tech company like Google and just learn the ropes and the chances of a start-up 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’ll salary will probably go up so I think kind of in my mind like, maybe a junior engineer who got into Google is taking it for granted and thinking it’s easy to do it, but I don’t think it’s that easy in reality. Like, at least it wasn’t for me. So it took me quite a while to get in and yeah. One thing to note though, is if you’ve gotten in before you may be able to get back in again, another time. Like, I’ve heard a few stories of people who left and then later came back so if people wanna go out and explore some other route like start-ups or something like that maybe something really promising and then if it doesn’t go well they come back.
I think that’s actually a fine route, actually. So I think what’s interesting to consider is that when you first get into one of these top tech companies you think, oh, it’s so great and you’re never going to leave but overtime that actually becomes your baseline and it’s 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 if another company or another path is going to be for you. As for myself, I hit three and a half years, pretty similar to say like 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 was 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 like the world becomes your pick, 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. Like, 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 may not be released for years or forever, because they’re integrated so well with Google’s internal tools that basically, some of these tools may just be inseparable. And so I thought, if I got into Google and there’s this whole hidden secret world of technology just within that company that was not public for anyone else to see and the only way to get access to see that whole world was to 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 where being set up inside what tools they had. I wanted to see what their workflow was like, what the culture was like, what their vision is. You know, every company has its own culture, its own pro and cons, their mission, their you know, like 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 just like well-crafted solid engineering and that’s great. However, one criticism has been that they move a little bit too slowly and that other companies may have another whole set of different cultures.
So it was just interesting for me to think about all that and for me it kind of got the best of my curiosity and I started taking a look around and wanting 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 and yeah, that was basically the path that I took. Anyway, the takeaway I wanted to get across to you was a lot of people are trying to get into Google and they can’t and I want you to realize that it’s 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 start-up, maybe it’s another company and so there’s 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 then decides to go to a start-up, maybe you should just apply straight to that start-up. And you know, that’s 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’re going to have. You know, most people within a company are living very similar lifestyles. They have the same food, they go in at the same time, they work on the same problems and all that. And I would imagine that especially if like, I’ve seen junior engineers, they come into Google, they work one year and then they’re done and they go do their start-up.
Like, for those people, maybe what they were really looking for was 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, little bit broader than just getting into a company, like think about the overall lifestyle that you’re 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.
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