Why Google Employees Quit

As the bloom comes off the Google rose, you can now see the flip side of many of their once-sacred practices, such as their interviewing process and academic elitism.

While I’m not a Google fan — for the record, I always hated “don’t be evil” — nor am I a detractor. My biggest problem with Google is the seeming lack of self-awareness of many of its employees. I’m not opposed to Google-isms; in fact, I agree violently with some of them (e.g., intelligence matters in software).

I’m sharing this post mostly to balance the mainstream press which worshiped all Google practices as best ones when times were good, and then forgets to update us when the tide goes out and, as Warren Buffet once said, you can see who’s swimming naked.

I believe in strong culture and I know that Google has one. The trick, in my opinion, is looking out for the downside of a strong culture, because there always is one. The mails below help paint a picture of that downside.

My take on Google has always been

  • One-trick pony
  • Which has spent literally billions in experimental R&D — in an organic model that I like
  • But has nothing to show for it

I remember once watching a panel of thirty-something, first-100-in, ex-Googlers rather condescendingly lecture about innovation best practices and thinking simply: despite literally billions in investment, you’ve never come up with a successful business innovation since the first two (search keyword and contextual ads) and, what’s worse, is you don’t even seem to know it. Then again, when world’s best business model is your first trick, it’s pretty hard to come up with a second one, and if you were in early enough, heck, you don’t need to.

But enough of my rambling. The purpose of this post was to link you to over to TechCrunch where you can see, in their own words, why Google employees quit.

A few excerpts:

As I was saying. Google actually celebrates its hiring process, as if its ruthless inefficiency and interminable duration were a sure proof of thoroughness, a badge of honor. Perhaps it is thorough. But I would be willing to wager that Microsoft’s hiring process, which takes a fraction of the time, does not result in a lower-skilled workforce or result in a higher rate of attrition. And let me say this: if Larry Page is still reviewing resumes, shareholders should organize a rebellion. That is a scandalous waste of time for someone at that level, and the fact that it’s “quirky” is no mitigation.

What was strange with me at Google was: while outside, I had all these big ideas I could do if I ever worked there. Once inside, you have 18,000 (at the time, Feb 2008) other googlers thinking the same things.

I wonder if post-Google bitterness is correlated to when you joined and/or how long you were at Google. It seems that it is. Maybe it’s the memories of Google in the first few years I was there that make it it seem magical, but I really do treasure the time I spent at Google. I left a few weeks ago, after almost 5 years at the company, because I wanted to pursue a markedly different career path. Sure, I had times when I was frustrated with the way Google was doing things, or when I felt that my particular project, or assignment was lacking, and I definitely had managers that I didn’t enjoy. But all in all — what a freakin’ amazing experience!

Google was my first job out of college. I was an English major at a prestigious college and was hired to work in HR. That is one of the problems I had with Google right there – is it really necessary to hire Ivy League graduates to process paperwork? I went from reading Derrida to processing “Status Change Request Forms” for X employees to go on paid leave. The term “Status Change Request Form” will forever haunt me.

Those of us who failed to thrive at Google are faced with some pretty serious questions about ourselves. Just seeing that other people ran into the same issues is a huge relief. Google is supposed to be some kind of Nirvana, so if you can’t be happy there how will you ever be happy? It’s supposed to be the ultimate font of technical resources, so if you can’t be productive there how will you ever be productive?

9 responses to “Why Google Employees Quit

  1. i worked for a great company, postini,that was acquired by google for $625M in 2006. amazing experience to be on the other side of the table (getting acquired).marketing integration was a bizarre experience; meeting with “googlers” who didn’t even bring notebooks to meetings, and really didn’t care about maintaining the 100M revenue stream. in the end i wasn’t “googly” and left(and happily renovated a bathroom with the modest amount of money i made on my stock”

  2. Use math much? They’re a “one-trick pony” that somehow has two tricks:”… come up with a successful business innovation since the first two (search keyword and contextual ads)…”Is that a two-trick pony then?

  3. “the mainstream press which worshiped all Google practices as best ones when times were good, and then forgets to update us when the tide goes out and, as Warren Buffet once said, you can see who’s swimming naked”.What you refer to here is known as “the Halo Effect”. When a company or leader’s financial performance is deemed “good”, all manner of praise is heaped upon them. As financial performance sours, the company or leaders take on new and more negative qualities. The problem is that overall performance is difficult to separate from financial performance, and if not separated, the financial performance will taint the overall measurement.

  4. Dave,I think you’re right on the money here. So refreshing to have a respected voice stick a pin in the Google balloon.

  5. Happy to hear about your bathroom!

  6. OK, it’s either a two-trick pony or a one-trick pony with two sub-tricks or, in fact, a one-trick pony with a derivative trick which I think actually describes it best!

  7. Andrew — thanks for providing a name for the effect (i.e., the Halo effect). It’s one reason why I get fairly indignant with companies who cheat and then end up restating financials (e.g., Oracle in the 1990 timeframe, MicroStrategy in the bubble era, or most recently Fast). Why? Because during the cheating period they benefit from the Halo effect but due to high switching costs in enterprise software the existing customer base tends to look the other way when the problems are exposed because — going forward — the best thing for all those customers is to ensure the future health of their now-critical, and acquired-on-false-assumptions softare provider.

  8. Respected Sir
    Dave Kellogg
    (Inventor, Software Technology Executive)

    SUB: “Best Question”

    I would Like one Question Can a Better Search Engine Than Google Be Made?

    Profound Regards

    Awaiting reply

    Have a nice day;

    Yours Respectfully
    Bittu Gandhi.
    (Author, Website Developer, Record Holder)
    (India)

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