Thursday, January 10, 2008

So, now I work at Google. It's pretty great.

When I told my boss I was leaving, the first thing she said was, "you are making a BIG mistake". I was aghast, since we had had a good relationship during the four years I was there.

She went on to give a few vague reasons, but nothing that really explained the reaction. It kind of freaked me out, because I was already nervous about making such a big decision.

The next two weeks were rather bad. She told the other programmers, and it seemed like she convinced them, too, that it was a "big mistake". With one exception, no one congratulated me at first, and when they did, they sounded mournful, like I was leaving to live in an iron lung.

The same day, or maybe the next day, another programmer quit -- he'd been there for a long time, and was well-liked and essential. My boss announced that he was leaving, that they would really miss him, that he had done great work, that he was just so wonderful, that she would give him a 'quitting bonus' if she were allowed to. He was going to love his new job where they did things the way he liked, and so on.

Not a word about me, nothing. It continued to freak me out. My former boss is quite charismatic, and it doesn't really surprise me that she was able to turn their feelings against me.

It's not like I left in the middle of a project. I mean, you're always in the middle of a project, that's true for everyone, and everyone who had quit before had been sent off with the best wishes. It was even company policy that people are encouraged to grow and improve, etc. etc., and if that meant moving on to a new place, that's fine.

But not, apparently, for me.

Anyway, my code was working, it was mostly complete, it was in a usable state, etc. What did I do wrong? I know that they didn't really like my code, since it used lots of functions and had unit tests and all that annoying stuff, but so did the other guy who quit.

I was nervous about coming to Google, but I just wanted a change of pace, and Google certainly seemed like that. I've never worked at a big company (except for some contract work), and I didn't know if I would like it. I didn't really look forward to writing C++. I had once been a C++ pusher, but now I'm a die-hard functional programming pusher. What would become of me?

My wife and other family members were excited, because everyone's heard of Google and it's a big deal and all that. I felt some pressure, so I tried to play it off like it wasn't a big deal, what's all the fuss. But after about a day here, I must say, it's pretty great.

Before I decided to come here, I looked around on the web for blogs or mailing lists for disgruntled former Google employes. Those can tell you a lot about a company. I would have taken it with a grain of salt, because I know how they are biased and bitter, but there's still useful information to be gotten.

I couldn't find one. I think I found something someone said about working on something that never got used, but that's it. I was amazed. Nearly every place I had ever worked at, or even contracted for, had some place you could laugh about your former company. But not Google.

Now, I can tell why. There's just not that much to complain about. It's eerie.

I could go on about this place, but the highlights: it's good for programmers; it's casual; people are smart; there's free, high-quality, healthy vegetarian food every day.

So, let's all feel terrible about my


ravelgrane said...

That "big mistake" comment gets more and more funny and pathetic with time. You should return to that place, saying you dropped a pen behind the desk, and it has sentimental value, so could you go retrieve it please. But when you get there, you're dressed up like a pimp, with a gold lamee 3-piece suit, platform shoes, pearl-handled cane, ermine cape, a rhinestone sombrero, and huge fucking ruby rings. When you see your old boss, flash her a smile full of gold-inlaid teeth and say, "you're too good or these chumps. why don' you come to work for me, baby?"

Gregory Michael Travis said...

I did go back a few weeks later to return a computer, and I think I seemed kind of happy and spiffy, which was probably the best thing I could do. My boss wasn't quite so dismissive of things.

ravelgrane said...

"The best regenge is living well." -- Oscar Wilde

It's been quoted often, but it's so very true.

Susan Beal said...

The "big mistake" refrain is just like one of our previous ironic phrase repetitions..."there's really not much to do on the Big Island," uttered by my mother before the Hawai'i honeymoon she and my father sent us on. We drove around for 10 days on the Big Island, amazed and overwhelmed at every turn by the fecundity and diversity of the climate, geography, and life forms, eventually reworking our trip to spend even more time there...and every time we were confronted by yet another amazement, we'd turn to each other and dazedly intone, "there's really not much to do on the Big Island."
So now, every day when you tell me about the new locally-grown, organic vegetarian FREE LUNCH you got from your employer, or fill me in on the seminar you attended where a Nobel Peace Prize laureate spoke, I can't help but sigh in response, "what a Big Mistake you made..." main reasons for supporting your Big Mistake related not so much to having heard of Google before, but knowing that the company is devoted to innovative approaches that put more knowledge and information in the hands of more people, and to nurturing creativity and welcoming unconventional thinking...a MUCH better fit for someone as smart, creative and genuinely fascinated by the Science/Art of programming as you are than was the cabal of corporate creeps you left behind in the doldrums of Market Research. Vive le Big Mistake!

Gregory Michael Travis said...

Yes, I stand corrected, you always knew that I would like it there.

I have been somewhat surprised that Google is as good as everyone said it would be. Internet companies pretty much always say that they are making the world better, that it's really creative, that they are helping to be a midwife to the global mind, etc. etc., and of course it's just never true.

When I told non-programmers that I worked at a game company, they usually reacted as if that sounded really fun. They seemed to think that I sat around thinking things like, "gee, wouldn't it be awesome if Mario could, like, eat a boulder and spit burning pebbles at the Nasties?" and then I would type for 5 minutes and then try it and out and say, "yeah, man, that rocks!"

But it's not like that, it's much harder, and not always necessarily more fun that 'boring' things. One of the things I had the most fun writing was a database, years later.

Anyway, I wasn't sure that Google would actually be cool, but it was.