What did I forget by working for the same company?

My Saturday morning coffee is disrupted by this tweet:

“xooglers always be like ‘at google we…’ — devonbl

A month into my departure from Google, I can relate to this. It annoys me probably more than my current coworkers at AWS because they know it’s ok to make comparisons when you are a new employee. I avoid all possible conflict of interests. Then, I’m in meetings with open source contributors who are ex-Googlers and so many sentences start with “At Google, we did…” and I add a few more personal stories.

Let’s be fair. I always portrayed the good, the bad and the worst from past experiences. It’s critical to learn and not to repeat the same obvious mistakes. And if there is anything good enough you can take from your past, it’s ok to bring that opportunity and learning. I don’t always enjoy naming companies when referring to experiences but that’s how you provide context and be honest to your audience.

I was notoriously known at Google doing this exact thing. “At [insert company], we did…” and that’s how I got my credibility and negotiated what we should do to serve the best for our customers. Believe me I haven’t seen a dozen companies but compared to engineers who had Google as their first and only company, I was bringing truth to the table. Each company operates widely different but if you are a platform company or provide world-scale developer products, you care about the experiences of others and the context matters. I joined Google to work there for two years and when I left I worked there for eight years and two months. I felt that my time was up a long time ago but leaving my comfort zone was hard.

In November 2018, when I was visiting our offices in Europe, I was saying my last goodbyes because I knew that I was probably not coming back.

My time was up for one exact reason. I no longer had no clue what the life outside Google felt like. My actual superpower was gone. I remember sitting in meetings only bringing insights from what I hear from customers without truly understanding how things worked outside of our bubble end-to-end. I didn’t know about the compromises that goes into the decisions or organizational problems other than anecdotes. I didn’t even remember how fast the execution was outside of Google. It felt like a dead end. If your entire specialization is understanding core problems of the industry and building products to solve them, the lack of exposure to different experiences makes you disrespect yourself. I was waking up in the middle of the night with an overwhelming feel of anxiety asking what I’m missing by staying. It was late 2018, I decided that something has to change. It was on my way to DockerCon EU to speak and visiting some offices on my way, saying my last goodbyes to some of the best people I’ve worked in life and telling them I might never be coming back as I was watching them being sad and sour.

Then, I left. I could have stayed and watched myself being anxious about what else I’m missing until I retire. When I left, I had the opportunity to work on anything on any role. I deeply appreciate it and I’m still not sure I deserve that praise. But instead of sitting in my sweet corner, I chose to do more. I decided to put myself in an unknown adventure and to a uniquely different setting. Once a friend said, my desire to jump into the unknowns and challenge myself uncomfortably is what makes me differ from everyone he knows.

I’ve been asked why I left so many times. I can name a couple more reasons but this is why I left. Change is great.