I Loved You, Google
February 2015, Scotland. Otherworldly, just the right setting for Ridley Scott’s aliens. For us humans, it’s too “brutal, cold and wet,’’ says Scarlett Johansson. And yet here I am, dancing in my room to the sound of the howling wind outside. A Google recruiter has just told me I’ve been accepted to the APM program. That day 5 years ago, everything changed.
I moved to Zürich, quickly learning that 1) you can reach every corner of Switzerland by train, and 2) not doing grocery shopping on Saturday means starvation on Sunday. In the Maps Transit team, I developed a life-long appreciation for public transport icons. In the Calendar team, I became an expert on all the different ways Microsoft Exchange breaks industry standards. In the Geo User Generated Content team, I realised that the entire world was now at my fingertips, longing to be queried. And I fell in love with Tokyo; here, I am infinite.
The 4.5 years at one of the world’s best employers have been magical. And it’s not just about the compensation, the transfer opportunities, or the free lunches. At Google, I worked on products loved by billions. “Impact” doesn’t even begin to describe it. At Google, I met hundreds of extremely talented, kind, and inspiring people. It’s pretty damn awesome to build stuff with colleagues who are heaps smarter than you.
I remember the day we launched Calendar Interop. My parents were coming to Zürich for a long-planned visit. We were to meet for dinner at Zeughauskeller, a restaurant so Swiss you order sausage by the meter. I was wrapping things up as fast as I could, and yet I ended up joining an hour late. It was frustrating, but it was also my decision. I could have left earlier, but I chose to stay because I loved my team, I loved my product, and I loved my company.
And yet somewhere along the way, I’ve lost all that.
Because how can you keep working overtime, when the value that you bring to the company is used to pay $90,000,000 to a millionaire accused of sexual harassment? How can you keep working overtime, when you learn that this had not been an isolated incident? In fact, how can you keep working, when the activists are disappearing, when there’s talk of retaliation, and when all that is just the tip of the iceberg?
I moved to Tokyo in August 2018. The first few months were all about getting hopelessly lost, finding an apartment (“no, really, when I said that all rooms must have windows, I wasn't kidding”), and trying every ramen variety there is. Half a year later, I hit the iceberg.
It’s a long and painful story, full of “teammates” who passively watch you being bulldozed and don’t say a word (were they enjoying the spectacle?), HR people who only remember you when they accidentally run into you in an elevator, and men who stay in the company while women leave.
So I left. But I do wish he’d left instead.
P.S. I realise that being able to leave Google — or any job, really — is a privilege that very few have. I don’t need to worry about my next payslip. I don’t even need to worry about my next job. I can leave if my values clash with my employer’s. And for that, I am immensely grateful.