Am I feeling lucky?
March 10, 2006 3:40 AM   Subscribe

I'm at the one year anniversary of my current job and have been grappling with a decision for most of that year...

The situation is that I have a pretty decent shot at getting a job at Google in a month or two. I've wanted to work there for years because it seems like an amazing atmosphere and I really like their products. However, they've been doing a lot of shark-jumping lately. Should I stay or should I go?

For background, I'm a software engineer.

Reasons for staying at my current job would be:
- I really like my cow-orkers. We are friends and we get along very well.
- The number of hours I work is not unreasonable.
- My boss is the greatest guy ever and will fix anything that's wrong, within his power.
- I can succeed with flying colors without working too hard. It's hard to stand out in a stand-out crowd at Google, so I'd probably fall in the middle of the bell curve there, and career advancement would be tougher.
- My company's stock is going up (at the moment), which (at its current level, which is probably not going to last) between options and ESPP is worth about 25% of my salary each year. Google's stock is tanking (not to discount its obvious potential, but a bird in the hand...)
- I'm afraid of having a short (1 year) stay on my resume if I leave now. I was at my previous job for 8 years.
- I'm afraid that I won't be able to hack the extremely large number of hours expected of you at Google, in the worst case leading to two short jobs on my resume.

Reasons to leave my current job include:
- I'm angry all the time. None of the software we build works; the engineers are too busy to design well. I try to fix it where I can, but the problem affects the entire engineering department. This frustrates me beyond belief. I've worked with the occaisonal bad engineer for many years, but it's never been as frustrating as this. I literally curse all day long.
- My company tries to innovate, but does it half-assed. In fact, we do almost everything half-assed.
- I don't have faith that my company has a future; it will always be a second-rate bit player. My more cynical coworkers generally agree with me on this point.
- My company's successes are despite its engineering department, though most people outside of it don't seem to realize that. This is a widely agreed-upon state of affairs within the company. I'm afraid it will eventually become clear and look bad on the resume.
- Working at Google's got to look good on the resume.
- It's been my dream to work at Google since I first heard about them, and not because of the possibility to get absurdly rich (which is now gone). I long to work with the best people, to create products that people use and love, and to innovate. I want to work for a company where I can happily drink the Kool-Aid.

Until about two months ago I was solidly in Google's court, but nothing's been going right for them lately and I'm worried that I might be jumping out of the frying pan and into the fire.

I'm looking for any thoughts people might have...if you've been in a similar situation, how you sorted through the positives and negatives to arrive at a decision. If you know people who work for Google (or do yourself) and have any relevant anecdotes that's good too.
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (18 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Can't help the specifics, but can you explore the possibility that if the google job does not work you can go back to your current place of employment? Have a frank discussion with your boss that you have an opportunity to work with a big player and gain a lot of unique experience that will only make you a better member should you come back.

Personally I would go for it regardless, but if you can get some assurance that you'd have a job still, it would be an easier decision for you.
posted by qwip at 4:18 AM on March 10, 2006

i hope you're not my co-worker. alvaro, if that's you, please either stay or get me a job with google too.

seriously - if i were you, i'd move to google. your situation sounds very like mine (except for the share options) and i'd jump at the opportunity. the negatives you describe drive me crazy and the positives just don't balance it out.

certainly a 1 year job after 8 years doesn't look bad - it's quite normal to have a range of values like that (8 is a lot these days).

if you're worried about the moral aspects of google, i'd suggest focussing on what you can do in your own life to compensate (lifestyle changes, personal projects, using free time within the company to look at ways of anonymising searches / stored user data). otherwise, it sounds as stable/secure as what you have now.

my only caveat is that i don't think it will be a wonderful job. my (limited) experience is that the very best (but also the very worst) jobs are in tiny companies, not great big ones.
posted by andrew cooke at 4:21 AM on March 10, 2006

...I'm worried that I might be jumping out of the frying pan and into the fire.

When being fried, jump. If you end up landing in the fire, you will only be cooked a different way. If you don't jump, nothing will improve.

I'm afraid of having a short (1 year) stay on my resume if I leave now.

No one will look down on you for having jumped to a big success story like Google. A year is long enough if the job is bad and if you can articulate to prospective employers exactly why it was bad and why (if they don't already know) Google looked so much better. Besides, by the time you ever have to worry about this, you will have worked at Google for a reasonable amount of time, right? The rest of your resume won't matter. (Assuming Google doesn't suddenly die.)
posted by pracowity at 4:28 AM on March 10, 2006

Go for it. From what you say, you'll always regret it if you don't, which I think trumps almost all the other considerations.

If you get it, it can only improve your career prospects to be working with the people there - I moved (albeit not entirely by choice) to a more demanding job and it forces you to raise your game. You can always go back to an easier job later.

Google isn't going anywhere - I shouldn't worry about the frying pan -> fire aspects.
posted by crocomancer at 4:43 AM on March 10, 2006

My sister is at Google. It kicks ass.

posted by donpardo at 4:50 AM on March 10, 2006

Go for it. You don't want to be looking back in 20 years time doing the "what ifs" (which I've been doing recently and it ain't nice). Google is by all accounts a great company to work for, you'll be moving from a frustrating job, achieving a long-held dream AND working for a kick-ass company.

At the risk of getting all soppy and sentimental, here's a quote my brother sent me a while back as he set sail from his safe (but frustrating) harbour:

Twenty years from now, you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbour. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.
— Mark Twain
posted by ceri richard at 5:25 AM on March 10, 2006

Wait for the offer from Google before doing anything. It will be lower than you expect. You will be expected to work far more hours. You'll like most of your coworkers, but you will loathe some others. You will hate either your commute or the godawful suburb you live in. You will have limited opportunities for advancement inside the company. They'll feed you lunch, which is code for you're expected to work through lunch. You will work harder, and longer, than you want to. You will lose one or more friends because you no longer have time for them.

You won't get rich. It's too late for that.

It is a big name to have on a resume. You will work with very bright people, all of whom look very highly on themselves (and most of whom deserve to). If from the outside, you're dissappointed about Google's jumping of the shark, you'll really be dissappointed when you see it from the inside. But if you lovingly drink enough Kool-Aid, you'll realize that's ok.

Don't worry about the job-hopping resume. If you're miserable at your current gig, look for another one (but don't leave until you've got it). Evaluate Google (and any other potential gig) on its own merits. When the right job comes around, you'll know it.

The fact that you're comparing a job that's been your dream, to one that you're unhappy with says it all, and the only to positives for Google (as opposed to negatives for your current gig) are resume material and "dream job"... it sounds like you already know that neither one of these options is the right job for you.

Keep looking.
posted by toxic at 5:38 AM on March 10, 2006

Go to Google. It's a good work climate. The 20% program is hot (everybody gets 20% of their work time -- i.e., one day a week) to work on their own non-billable projects), the perks are nice, and the people are sharp like the probe at the head of an electron microscope. Who cares if their stock tumbled $100.... that's more about the advertising market than about whether you'd be happy.
posted by zpousman at 7:27 AM on March 10, 2006

onward and upward, always.
posted by BillBishop at 8:36 AM on March 10, 2006

You sound like you have a decent position. Why not focus your efforts to help correct those negatives that you see? It seems like that would be a good experience, benefit you financially and professionally, and give you good interview fodder in the future.

I don't know about Google, but I do know that things are always less than shiny and good when you're on the inside and expected to work 60+ hours a week.
posted by xmutex at 9:12 AM on March 10, 2006

Errrrr...I didn't read the pros, but I read the first con, and that right there is enough to move on. Out of courtesy, I read the other cons, which were more then enough.

Start looking, even if it's not Google. Just get out of there. That's a horrible enviroment to have to curse in frustration all day long. This is the tech industry, you generally don't get downgraded for moving often. You must be thinking about the non-educated retail/food industry, where moving around looks more like you can't hold a half-decent job for any length of time.

Even if it did work that way, Google on your resume will look 100 times better then only being at a company for a year. Hell, they'll probably stop right there and talk to you about google, and not look any further. ;)
posted by Phynix at 9:23 AM on March 10, 2006

Life's too short to be angry at work. I took a paycut to work at a non-profit, and I'm HAPPY doing it, and that makes all the difference in the world. (I'm probably extending my lifespan as we speak) When it's something you enjoy it doesn't feel like work.

If you've already got 8 years at your previous job doing basically the same thing, one year at this job isn't going to seem like much. Besides, it's google! When you the chance to chase a dream, you'd regret it forever if you let it go. You'd get to make stuff that doesn't break (most of the time!) and work with some of the most brilliant software engineers in the world! Why wait?
posted by Sallysings at 9:34 AM on March 10, 2006

Name me one software engineer who had a job where they weren't frustrated at least some of the time, and let me know what company they work for. On the other hand, frustrated *all* of the time is definitely a red flag. Just keep in mind that "the grass is always greener" and all that.
posted by matildaben at 9:50 AM on March 10, 2006

FWIW, I don't know much about being a software engineer, but I know this: The things I regret most are things I didn't do.
posted by willpie at 10:30 AM on March 10, 2006

How long do you want to stay angry? If you don't like your situation, change it. I will never regret leaving my previous job. It stressed me out and made my life miserable. It wasn't worth it. I love the job I have now.

Go for the Google job. You'll never know what it is like if you don't do it.
posted by spakto at 11:00 AM on March 10, 2006

Go, if for no other reason than your negative feelings towards your (soon to be former) company are contagious to your cow-orkers and probably aren't helping them.
posted by aberrant at 11:56 AM on March 10, 2006

Google is having growing pains. They show no sign of falling apart, just losing some of their shiny luster. If it's your dream job, you should do it. Working with really smart people will make you smarter, and you'll have fun.

As far as the money goes, Google's been public for only a short while. Original employees and investors in Microsoft got really rich. While the next tiers of employees and investors did not become as rich, they did really, really well.

Leave on really good terms, especially not burning any bridges. Make sure your boss and coworkers know how much you like and respect them. If Google turns out to be not a good place for you, you'll be able to use them to network your way into your next job, or possibly return.
posted by theora55 at 12:35 PM on March 10, 2006

Anon, I got emailed by a MeFite who is a software engineer at Google who would be happy to talk about his/her job with you. Email me and I'll put you two in touch.
posted by jessamyn at 7:58 PM on March 11, 2006

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