Friday, October 19, 2018

Paul Buchheit on Joining and Leaving Google

Paul Buchheit (via Hacker News):

I didn’t believe in the business or think the company would be a huge success, though. I thought they were going to be roadkill and would get squashed by one of the big internet companies. By then, Yahoo was already a behemoth, and Alta Vista had so much money. I didn’t understand how this little startup would be able to compete. But I decided I didn’t care. I wanted to go work on Linux stuff and figured I’d at least meet some smart people there, and maybe they’d later start a company that would actually be successful.

In hindsight, I realize the early team at Google was actually quite remarkable. I think they made a real point of hiring smart people. In part, that was because they were working on really interesting problems and smart people want to work on interesting problems. I remember Jeff Dean had gone to work at another startup before Google and immediately fixed all of their problems. When he asked, “Now what do I do?,” it turned out that they had nothing else interesting to work on, so he left. He was drawn into Google because of the interesting systems problems there.


Partially I think Google had grown so much in my absence, but it was also partly a “boiling the frog” effect: before I spent time away, I hadn’t noticed things slowly changing, but when I got back I realized, “Oh wow, here I am in a meeting with a bunch of people I don’t know who are telling me to do stuff that I don’t care about.” I knew immediately that if I stayed at Google, and wanted to be successful and influential, I would have to become more of a big company person. I knew that I had the capacity to do that, but I didn’t want to. I wanted to do something else, so I left.

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