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