Last week, TechCrunch re-posted snippets from an email list for former googlers. This article was set up to make an obvious conclusion: Google is not the fairy tale land of employment. Wait, wait, you mean not everyone loves their job at Google? Shocking! A logical person might point out that what one person loves another person hates and thus, it is physically impossible to have a large company where everyone loves their job.
That being said, allow me to make a few points: 1) Former Googlers are not representative of Googlers. Imagine if you set up a group for ex-New Yorkers, and then asked why they left New York. You'll probably get an usual number of negative complaints. That doesn't mean that most people hate New York.
Likewise, TechCrunch didn't ask Googlers whether or not they liked their jobs - they took a thread from a list of former googlers. That is, people who didn't love Google enough to stay, for whatever reason. So, you're already starting with a list of people whose feelings towards the company skew usually negative.
2) The Email Thread is not representative of Former Googlers People love complaining, particularly those who feel that they have been wronged in some way. If you start an email thread with the question "Why'd you leave Google," you're opening the floodgates for those who hated Google. People like me, who genuinely enjoyed their experience at Google, will stay silent. People like complaining more than praising.
3) TechCrunch was unethical in releasing the (first) names of the posters. Though TechCrunch hid the last names of the posters, they released the first names. If your name is Bob or Mike, your secret might be safe. But, what if your name is "Gayle", or one of the many ethnic or unusual names? Then they might as well have released your full name. Releasing people's names added nothing to the article, but embarrassed - or potentially hurt the careers of - the posters.
4) Almost everyone at Google does like their job. When I left Google, people were surprised. Everyone (or virtually everyone) likes it there. No one came to me and said "yeah, I want to leave too. I hate it here!" I did have several people admit to me that they were thinking about leaving as well. But, in every one of those cases, they said that they liked it, but wanted to go to a smaller company or to a different role.
5) Why I liked Google (and why I left) I had a great team. I liked our project. I liked my manager. I was working on cool, interesting stuff.
Google is, in my opinion, the best place to be an engineer. Engineers are given more authority than I've seen at any other company. If you want to work on something new, there's lots of other projects that you can easily switch to. You can work on your own personal pet project 20% of time. How many other companies let you do that?
For my 20% project, I got to teach two courses at University of Washington. It was an enormous time investment, but I loved teaching. I've kept in touch with many of my former students, and it's amazing to see them to become fantastic engineers at Google, Microsoft and Amazon. I really appreciate both Google and UW giving me that opportunity.
Despite Google being a great place to be engineer, I realized that I didn't want to be an engineer anymore. Ironically, the fact that I was so happy with everything about my job at Google made it the decision easier. After all, if everything was right about the job (team, manager, project) and you're still not excited, the issue is probably the job itself.
Though I liked coding and considered myself fairly good at it, I wanted learn a little more about business: sales, marketing, product design, finance, accounting, etc. Google is a great place, but it's not the place to learn those skills. I felt I could only get that education at a start-up, so I left.