After 21 months in my current job, I’ve decided that I’m ready for a new challenge. This week was my last at Google. I’ll do another post later about my new job/company, but I wanted to jot down some thoughts about Google, my role there, its future, and answer one or two common questions I’ve been receiving from friends, family, and coworkers.
First, let me say that Google is an awesome company filled with brilliant people. I am a much smarter, better person for having worked there, and I made several great friends in the process. If I decide the startup world isn’t for me, Google will probably be my first choice. Was it perfect? Of course not, that’s not true of any job. I did not choose to leave because my job was bad or I am pessimistic about Google’s future, rather, I was offered an incredible opportunity at a startup in SF that I simply couldn’t pass up (more on this later).
I think Google is facing two strategic threats right now:
Mainly due to its size, Google no longer has significant upside in terms of career trajectory or pecuniary compensation and was thus unable to match the startup opportunity. If Googlers feel that there isn’t upside, the company will bleed talent. At 25000ish employees, the company can no longer double in size every year or two and thus will continue to become more top heavy. Furthermore, Google has become a very safe place to work. Sure there are rapid growth areas within Google, but parts of the company just need warm bodies. Without fire under the feet of everyone, Google will not be able to regain its startup feel/mojo/velocity.
To begin our discussion of strategic threat 2, please answer the following question: “Is it harder to build a vibrant social network or a search engine?” If you answered the former you agree with me and 95% of the other people I asked. Just to be clear, I worked on the evaluation of Google’s social initiatives (yes I am using the word initiative intentionally to be as vague as possible) and nothing in this post should be construed in any way as my commentary on the quality of any Google social initiative past, present, or future. I am simply saying 1) FB has already climbed the social mountain and Google has not 2) the social mountain is higher than the search mountain.
Despite my previous comments, I think Google has made fantastic progress in this area. The relaunch of Social Search in February and the +1 button in March introduced two incredible tools that each have the potential to drastically improve the search experience; they both already drastically improve mine.
Over the next few years, Google will continue to grow and social will become much more important. It’s unclear if Google can “overcome” the threats I outlined. Rather, they need to work hard to address and ameliorate the negative consequences of its size and make social a seamless, enjoyable experience on Google properties, whatever that entails.
In the end, my decision to leave was tough and ultimately bittersweet. Im excited for the new adventures ahead, but will always look back fondly at the time I spent as a Googler.