It’s like Apples and oranges… except it’s not

Wow, I have been a super Debbie Downer this past week. I do think that circumstances in the world– tragedies, undesirable human behavior, economy, etc– have been particularly noticeable this week. As just an update on my job search: I am progressing along. I have irons in the fire and have some interviews scheduled for this week and next– so things are not all gloom and doom in my personal life per se.

So today, I will try to be more interesting. The point of this blog is a chance for me to express frustration or just generally discuss things that I have witnessed and reflected upon in the 30 some years of my life. So I will first say that I am really lucky. I think that when I’m writing, I tend to come off bratty and ungrateful since I use this blog to rant and vent. I fully acknowledge that in a world where opportunity is 95% based on chance and luck and things that you can’t control– I have been blessed to have been given a lot of opportunities and that I am grateful for these things.

One thing that stands out about my resume is that I’ve had the opportunity to work in some of the greatest companies that exist. Again, I don’t want to throw anybody or anything under the bus– so I am going to be mindful about the information that I choose to share about my life. I have had the opportunity to work at Google and then later at Apple and people, in the course of my interviews, ask why I don’t go back to those companies and I do wonder if my responses present red flags to interviewers.

In the grand spectrum of companies, and now having most recently worked at a company that wasn’t so great, I can look back and say that Google and Apple are both pretty great places to be. There is a sense of hope and movement and doing big things and it can be really exciting. But I think when looking at jobs, while there is a great internal benefit of being able to say you work for this exciting company and seeing people respond positively and tell you that they love that company and the products that they build, unless you are happy in your role and in what you are doing, the job is probably not that satisfying and all that stuff matters less and less.

I say this in the context of the tensions between Google and Apple with regards to the cellphone wars. I just read this article about comments from Apple CEO Time Cook where he makes contemptuous jabs at Google for having stolen ideas to become Apple’s competitor. I think Google is a fine company but honestly: it’s true. Former CEO Eric Schmidt sat on the Apple board, ostensibly helping to guide the company as it evolved from PCs into smartphones and he stole ideas. He failed to recuse himself from the board when morally he should have and the hatred that Steve Jobs felt for this betrayal continues to fire Apple’s fight in the cellphone war.

So the question: why don’t you just go back to Google? Man, that’s a $64,000 question. The truth is: I probably would if given the opportunity. I’ve definitely applied to things only to be ignored and have doors slammed in my face. And I know of other people who have experienced the exact same thing. Google lovingly calls us “Google alumni” and has a whole committee to help us all “keep in touch!” And just to be clear: a lot of people do go to grad school and return to Google– I’m not sure how they’re able to crack that code and if my rejection is because I just suck (and by extension my former colleagues also suck). But it’s harder to see Google as a great place b/c truthfully, like any workplace, it has its share of evils and no amount of all-you-can-eat buffet can change that.

What is tough is having these frank discussions with my friends who are still at Google. I have a friend who has always been on the Google kool-aid; he sees it not just as his employer but as a part of his identity– a point that I disagree with but I’ll just let sleeping dogs lie on that one. Google has a habit of more recently launching some pretty disappointing products and the one aspect of its business that is booming, Android, honestly: it’s a stolen technology. And I’m not saying that I expect anybody to bitch about Google and say that it’s a terrible place– it’s not; it’s like any other company on a day to day basis, albeit with some fantastic perks. But it’s hard when people, maybe out of loyalty or failure to question, won’t admit that Google maybe does some things wrong.

And that tends to be my response when asked why I don’t go back. With the passage of time and the clarity that comes away from stepping away from an environment–¬† like stepping away from a toxic relationship– you gain objectivity and you are better able to identify what worked and what didn’t work. A lot of my peers and former team members are also presently cycling out of the company under less than ideal circumstances. I wouldn’t say that Google is any kind of a terrible workplace but it’s hard to ignore these anecdotes. Sometimes bad things happen, even in paradise.

Truthfully, I would never say no to returning to Google. At Google, I met some of the smartest and hardest working people I have ever encountered in my life. There is, or at least was, a sense of hope and excitement and getting things done that perfumed the air. But it’s also just a workplace and I constantly have to remind myself (and persuade others) that I need to stay focused on finding a company that meets those personal and professional requirements. Even if it doesn’t offer all-day fro-yo.

— DOA

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