Seventh in a series of "An update on David" retrospectives, looking back on the last 11 years at Google: "WHYYYY???".

[Cue memes]

Last night was the NYC TI holiday party and I met nearly all the significant others of people on my team. Often my teammate would mention "Tomorrow is David's last day" and a few SOs replied with "Wow, why are you leaving Google???"

Why indeed. For many years I always thought that people were crazy to leave Google. Even my wife, when I would tell her so-and-so was leaving, would ask "why???"

So here's the big reveal: I never felt like I fit in here. This isn't impostor syndrome, as in, "they'll know I'm a fraud". It's more like "WTF am I doing here? All my teammates/coworkers/other Googlers are smarter than me, learn faster, think deeper, anticipate problems and plan with more strategy than I do." Sometimes it's debilitating, and I've gone through stretches of "work" feeling totally overwhelmed and not able to get anything done. I can't thank my various managers enough for their understanding and guidance and patience. Also, thank $DIETY that we have appropriate mental health insurance.

I'm a white straight cis man from New York, and I don't feel like I fit in. Oh the irony. I think of some of my coworkers -- the ones who aren't playing life "on the lowest difficulty level there is" (as John Scalzi calls it). They likely feel this way too, and in much deeper and life-affecting ways than I. So if I feel this way, imagine how they feel. In a way, I know how they feel, but in a way, I have no idea how they feel.

Growing up, I was the clumsy, non-athletic type. I was near the top of my class in high school and I felt I didn't fit in, because I was a science and math nerd. I had friends, but I wasn't social (read: invited to one party in 3 years. I didn't even know that high school kids drank alcohol until a friend of my younger brother told me years later.) I didn't fit in with the other science and math nerds because I couldn't keep up with their debates about science or math or Dune or LOTR or even politics... When I went to college (MIT) even though I turned out to be above average academically, I felt like I didn't fit in because I always felt like everyone around me was INSANELY smarter than me.

So one of the reasons I'm leaving is to alleviate this feeling. I don't know if it will work.

Anyway, for those who have asked, I'll be going to WeWork as a "principal engineer"; they already have two people in that role. I'm not sure what my specific mandate will be, but PEs are expected to "find the problems and fix them". I think I'm good at that, maybe. Some of what they need are architectural refactoring; I'm not sure I can do that. They also might need help with automated testing (right up my alley; though I 'm not sure what state of the art consists of outside these walls) and deployment (again; who knows.)

I'm a bit wiped out from the late evening, so that's all I can think of for now.

My advice: As they said in Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure, "Be Excellent to Each Other".



  1. Thanks for putting into words what I've felt as well (but without your accomplishments or academic success)! Did you ever try therapy? I initially had some hopes for that :). Good luck at WeWork!


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