Leaving Google Cloud
The hardest choice I've ever made
Quick thing up top so you see it: I’m taking a few requests for musical speaking engagements this year. Book me for your team offsite or whatever!
I’m leaving Google Cloud at the end of this week.
Working at Google was a dream come true for me, something I’d imagined doing since I was a teenager. I met many interesting people in my 2.5 years there and got a taste of the complexity and impact of solving enormous hyperscaler-sized problems.
(I also once had to demo Vertex AI for Questlove and the Roots, and—in a semi-related incident—got a case full of video gear confiscated by the Albanian secret police. Don’t ask.)
Sometimes Google even let me make complete nonsense like this Schoolhouse Rock-style ode to S3C, which is now used as the intro to some of their cloud security workshops:
As people began to congregate again in person after the pandemic, I also began doing something completely new: I started doing talks for tech audiences that incorporated live performances of my songs. There’s something therapeutic about gathering a bunch of IT people in a room and singing about the vagaries of re-orgs or “digital transformations” or legacy code. In a weird way, it helped me rediscover the joy I had found working with technology in the first place. Other people seemed to enjoy it too.
Google was incredibly supportive of me doing this, but eventually I realized something alarming: my job was no longer the right shape for what I wanted to do. Actually, it didn’t seem likely that any job was.
I’m used to the next right thing feeling certain and obvious. That’s probably because I’m used to being young. When you’re young, there are a lot of people out there whose examples you can imitate, and relatively low risk in trying things you’re not sure will work out. You also have an unearned confidence that comes from not having failed much yet.
But even the most conventionally successful of us, young or not, may reach a place in our careers where THERE IS NO OBVIOUS NEXT STEP. The things you’ve discovered you’re good at may not exactly line up with a standard corporate career path. There may no longer be an existing, ready-made challenge that’s the right size for you to step into.
There will just be a you-shaped hole in the world—its boundaries defined by your unique connections, the extreme limit of your skills, the scope of your ambitions—and trial and error is the only way you can figure out how to fill it.
So I handed in my resignation before Christmas, walking away from what was (to me, anyway) a significant amount of money. I’m still not sure this was a smart thing to do, but it was certainly exhilarating.
What’s next for me after Google?
For the first time in my working life, I’m allowing myself a little time to discover that. I’m not closing the door on returning to full-time employment if the shape is right. And I will be doing some consulting to keep my technical skills sharp.
What I’m most certain of is that I want to make things that bring joy to people, and I have a few ideas about what that might look like that I’m excited to try. (Watch this space!)
I can tell you that while I’m exploring and experimenting, I plan to spend time on a couple of familiar things:
Breathing some new life into the Cloud Resume Challenge (more on that soon).
Doing more writing, speaking, and singing. Yes, I suspect my cartoons and songs are going to get even more ridiculous now that I’m self-employed. I’ve updated my speaker page, and my piano and I would be happy to regale your conference or corporate offsite.
I am grateful for what Google taught me about myself. I am happy for those who find joy and peace there. I am really excited about what I’m going to learn and build next.
If you have been wanting to collaborate with me on something, now would be a great time to get in touch!