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Leaving Google (neugierig.org)
478 points by edward 82 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 302 comments



As a xoogler who interviewed way back in 2004, let me say that this post sums up my feelings exactly. The people I worked with at Google back then weren’t necessarily there for high six figure salaries. We were there to work with other people like us. We were there to be part of something larger than ourselves. In some sense I felt alone most of the time, and when I interviewed I felt as if I had found my tribe. These are people who made me feel dumb, but also astutely aware that I could improve. I learned so much during my tenure there, and I regret none of it. Perhaps I do regret taking so long to realize the sense of purpose and mission died when Emerald Sea started and good projects (reader, google talk, code search) were being canabalized to prop up a pipe dream that was never going to work. That’s the nexus event in Google’s time line… where things went askew and never came back to normal. Now people only care about perf, OKRs, and levels. Being a poor new grad with no savings and intentionally picking projects that would not get you promoted (but were fun) was frequent back then. The courage to do new things is rewarded in ways different than titles and symbols. Perhaps no “one” is more cognizant of that than the anthropomorphic Google of today.


I work at at a large corporation, and that is one balance that I am also constantly fighting and never seem to get it right. Having to provide a "Business justification"/OKRs for every technical feature has been soul draining experience, and while I can still make progress in making the product and drive the business forward, I have a hard time justifying spending the time in the little details that I would consider what makes a product really great.

I feel like the cycle turned one of making power point presentations of how the product has all the required features, but the overarching story and experience does not feel quite right. And I have been looking for advice on how to convey the importance to polish up the product.


We have been brainwashed into believing that engineers when left alone will obsess over technical details without business utility, which is something that can happen sometimes but that in my experience is rarely a problem. Quite frankly I think most SW products fail by being an obvious piece of crap, not because resources have been wasted on hard to monetize technical excellence, but the later are more talked about.


You need someone on your team who figures out what is important for the users and prioritizes accordingly. The arrangement where the person who does this also codes a bit can work (especially when the team is small and the application domain is highly technical), but it doesn't happen automatically after you've banished all "pointy-haired bosses" from the project nor is anyone who is a good engineer automatically good at this thing also.


They're more talked about because a lot of us have worked places where we've invested months or years into developing products that... nobody bought or used. That gets pretty soul destroying too.

If that's not been your experience, lucky you, but I've witnessed and been involved first hand in my share of expensive failures that I don't particularly want to repeat.


While some engineers can be like that, they can be a useful part of the team if enough others are more business needs driven.


Truthfully? Prioritizing bottom up innovation has to oddly enough happen from the top down. Give middle and front line managers the responsibility and mandate to continually foster such a culture, and that’s what this is, culture. If you’re stuck in a company that doesn’t do this… and if you want to do amazing things, just be honest with yourself - is this the place for you?


It is really hard to do though. Google tried to do it, but when you reward middle managers for innovation you get a lot of half baked projects soon to be shut down, like current Google. Or if you reward them for stability as Google is increasingly doing then innovation stops almost completely.


Didn’t Google pull it off in the beginning? If I remember correctly, some major successes like Google Earth came out of Google’s famous 20% policy. I’m not sure what changed since then. Maybe it’s not something that scales easily?


It's true that there were some early notable 20% projects https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/20%25_Project#Notable_projects


Google Earth was acquired. Formerly Keyhole, IIRC.


Gmail was an acquisition, Google Maps was an acquisition, Android was an acquisition, Google Docs were an acquisition, I'm actually having a hard time thinking of a major Google project that's not an acquisition except for Google Search and Google Ads (and even there, I think they acquired DoubleClick early on and that boosted their ads business a lot).


All but gmail. That was created in house by Paul Buchheit.


Ah, I thought it was based on an acqui-hire of Oddpost: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oddpost


The Wikipedia article says that it was acquired by Yahoo and turned into Yahoo Mail.

You may have confused Google with Yahoo?


No it isn't. But what are the options? Undiagnosed ADHD ruled out education which ruled out degrees which rules out most jobs, especially FAANG

Any place where smart people congregate have gatekeepers. Makes sense from their perspective, nobody wants to deal with other peoples problems, but we can't all just fall into early Googles haha

Anywhere desperate enough to hire based on skill doesn't have the capacity for fun projects


what do you mean "especially FAANG"?

software engineering is the most forgiving middle-class industry when it comes to education credentials and pedigree, and FAANG is even more forgiving than the industry norm.

it's actually kind of amusing that the most desirable SWE jobs are the most lax when it comes to considering your background, while the least desirable SWE jobs are the most strict about requiring specific degrees

you can leetcode your way into most of the major tech companies that people actually want to work for without a degree.

is it unlikely? sure, but the important thing is that it's possible.

think of any other comfortable middle-class career, and how much gatekeeping there is. you can't do some equivalent of leetcode to become a doctor, or a lawyer, or a financial professional. you have to pay up and go to school, and it better be a good one. then maybe you'll get a job, but there's no guarantee


Smaller companies have far less stringent requirements and often don't require a degree.

> Any place where smart people congregate have gatekeepers.

Requiring a degree, especially at lower levels, isn't necessarily gatekeeping. I've been on the hiring side at 3 companies and every job listing we've made has had dozens of applicants for one role. Given the choice between two juniors who are otherwise equal(read: no experience), one with a (CS/engineering) degree and one without, why would I ever hire the latter?


When I find 2 juniors with no experience, I don't look at their education. I look at what they can do. They wouldn't be applying for the job if they couldn't code, so they had to have done some coding.

If neither can code, neither are getting hired anyhow. I never have to hire a body for that seat. I'm only interested in people who can do the job.

In the incredibly unlikely event that I've got 2 decent coders with no job experience to choose from, and I really can't tell whose code I like better, then I might look at their education.

But to be honest, in that situation, I'm likely to pick the self-taught coder over the one with the degree. All the best coders I know were self-taught, and there's a ton of self-teaching necessary to get up to speed on a new codebase, and also to learn new skills as we change technologies over time. I want someone who needs less hand-holding to learn.

I actually have a degree because I thought I needed one to get a job. (And an initial job-search seem to confirm that.) Later, I got my first job over someone that looked much better on paper because I had better actual skills. My next (aka current) job didn't care about my degree, either. I've been in the industry for about 17 years now, IIRC.

IMO, degrees are a crap-shoot. Some companies might require or prefer them, and others will do the opposite. Everyone should focus on what works best for them instead of catch-all advice like "Go to college".


> Given the choice between two juniors who are otherwise equal(read: no experience), one with a (CS/engineering) degree and one without, why would I ever hire the latter?

They are never really "otherwise equal" though. If they are, your interview process sucks.


I think what the parent means is that the "want" to hire any of them is equal, both having their unique strengths and weaknesses in different areas.

You seem to imply that when an interview process doesn't suck then all hiring choices are a clear cut win for one of the candidates.


> I think what the parent means is that the "want" to hire any of them is equal, both having their unique strengths and weaknesses in different areas.

A hiring manager should know which skills the team currently needs.

> You seem to imply that when an interview process doesn't suck then all hiring choices are a clear cut win for one of the candidates.

Yes, this is exactly what I implied in my previous comment. Do one more round of interviews (asking different kind of questions), if you _really_ can't decide.


Not sure about other FAANG but Google requires a degree "or equivalent practical experience".


I find 95+% of companies of any size include the equivalent experience line as standard. I did not go to college, and I’ve worked at MS, FB, and had interview rounds at all the non-Netflix FAANGs.


Oddly enough, I find the bottom up management style leads to OKR obsession (at scale). When too many smart people get in the room, they all start to have bright ideas and management is stuck trying to decipher which ones to actually implement.

The engineer who can come up with the biggest number, wins.


Business justifications and soul draining experiences?

We follow SAFe agile and do our innovation work in IP sprint at the end of PI. Of course half of the IP sprint is dedicated to planning for the next PI. :-)


I don't even want to know what all these acronyms mean.


You'll be AOK as long as the TCQ doesn't give you a TKO and the AETN doesn't overheat. If either of those happens you have to RTB for resupply.


Kudos on the ONI reference :)


wtf


It's the agile consultant's way of saying "I plan to be spontaneous tomorrow."


The diagram here should give you a good idea of Safe Agile: https://www.scaledagileframework.com/

I will leave it up to you to form an opinion….


SAFe: Scaled Agile Framework

IP: Innovation and Planning

PI: Program Increment


I worked at a place that did this! Those week-long planning events were soul draining in their own special way...


That's mind blowing how frustrating it can be. I had to come up with way to justify my product manager that implementing a loading spinner animation is essential. I failed.


Former Googler here, too -- 2011 to 2018. The Google I joined was definitely a different place from the Google I left, and seeing the "phase change" up close was ... interesting.

Your sentence about salaries resonates; the Google I joined had a lot of folks for whom the salaries were a nice side-effect for a job they were intrinsically motivated for, the Google I left seemed to have many unhappy people that were fearful of leaving that salary behind.


Emerald Sea == Google+ (2011)

This is when a Google employee told Wired the company needed to start focusing more on gathering information about people.


> The people I worked with at Google back then weren’t necessarily there for high six figure salaries. We were there to work with other people like us.

I wonder how much this used to apply to the Valley as a whole.


> The people I worked with at Google back then weren’t necessarily there for high six figure salaries. We were there to work with other people like us.

As an older dev, who isn’t a “cultural fit,” I can vouch for this. It ended up becoming my bane.

It forced me into an early retirement (I never made the huge gobs of money that people seem to make, these days, but I lived frugally, and invested fairly well).

The end result, for me, is that I am now happier than I have ever been in my life. I’m architecting and constructing software that shames anything I ever worked on, as a younger dev. I’m exploring software development practices that my employers never let me do (and that are working well).

I’m not making any money at it, but I’ve never actually done this stuff for the money.

“other people like us” has changed, over the years. Folks like me, are now an anachronism.

Of course, the thing about grey hair and cultural awkwardness, is that it comes with decades of experience in shipping software. That’s not something that comes in a Cracker Jack box (an example of said “cultural awkwardness”).

I wouldn’t have had the guts to make this move, on my own. I had to be forced into it.

So, it sucked, and was humiliating and scary, but, in the aggregate, things have turned out OK.


Which software do you work on now?


I’ve done a bunch of stuff. My strengths are device control and UX widgets, but I’m working on an aggregate system that is social-media-ish (for a specific demographic). Not actually the stuff I shine at, but I like challenges. It’s coming along nicely.

It is allowing me to play with UX, and that’s something I enjoy.


Do you have a blog or something?


I have a couple.

I'd suggest looking at my HN handle, but here's one:

https://littlegreenviper.com/miscellany


Probably quite a bit. Pre-dotcom, Valley salaries mostly didn't scale with higher cost of living. (There are still CoL issues of course, but not as much at the mid/senior FAANG level.) It's one reason I never moved there from the East Coast.


Probably a lot, especially before the money came flooding in.


More than we want to admit and not enough to get us to stay.


In my experience, one does not need to go to some FANG or other big company to learn, that one has still lots to learn and find areas to improve in. I personally got that from mailing lists, particularly in the free software communities, where sometimes people write stuff, that is waaay over my head and that I have never dealt with, even though I am a professional software developer. I even think, that some of the more theoretical stuff goes beyond most things a normal engineer will hit working for a big company. So at least that bit is available for anyone out there, no need to work for an, in terms of ethics, questionably acting company.

The bit about finding ones "tribe". Yes, it happens for us engineers, when there are many smart people in "the room". I would not value it over finding purpose though. Purpose in technical perspective, as well as ethical perspective. There is a lot of feeling alone for many of us, because most of us cannot be around similar minded people a lot. What makes me feel more alone though is, when I meet bright people, who do not care about the ethical aspects of their work or hobbies. So personally, I do not think I would "find my tribe" in a FANG or similar company. I highly doubt it even, no matter how smart people there are.


I think we need more great people working on real humanity problems. I am glad they probably do not need the money any more and that “the big money” cannot suck their talent anymore.(for profit) Cheers for all those talented engineers with guts to leave behind the big players


> the sense of purpose and mission died when Emerald Sea started and good projects (reader, google talk, code search) were being canabalized to prop up a pipe dream that was never going to work.

Interesting way of putting it. And it also jives with the fact that Google+ always looked half-baked even from a pure UX perspective, and is now dead altogether. Perhaps with the benefit of hindsight, we can speculate that Google leadership should have tried to move in that direction while still meshing with the existing "sense of mission and purpose", not just suppressing it.


> the sense of purpose and mission died when Emerald Sea started

And when it materialized and they started to shove Google+ down everybody's throats it was a tipping point for many faithful Google users, too - any trust and good faith that was still there was instantly depleted.


> code search

After all these years I still miss this, can't explain exactly why. Maybe it is the nostalgia of the 2006-2008 years when everything seemed still open and doable when it came to things on the web.


In 2021, the new way to do code search is to write your search terms and let Copilot fill in the rest of the code.


Copilot would actually be kind of cool if it automatically inserted comments linking to the original source of the snippets and automatically added the source project's copyright/license notices to your app's legal notices UI.


> Perhaps I do regret taking so long to realize the sense of purpose and mission died when Emerald Sea started and good projects (reader, google talk, code search) were being canabalized to prop up a pipe dream that was never going to work.

the day google reader was shut down was probably one of the saddest i had ever been for a piece of software.


I worked on Chronicle and remember seeing your name everywhere. Thanks for all the help in the typescript channel, good luck at Figma!


For someone on the outside, what was 'the pipe dream that was never going to work'?


Curious what you mean by code search being cannibalized?


> The people I worked with at Google back then weren’t necessarily there for high six figure salaries. We were there to work with other people like us.

You were a perfect specimen to get exploited by a big corporations. You had knowledge and you were willing to work for the sake of it. That's why we need laws that would prevent something like this from happening in the future. It's scary that you don't even realise that.


Hilarious. You act like they were paid minimum wage to do their jobs.

They didn’t care about the money is very different from they weren’t paid good money.

I don’t disagree that corporations will exploit you given the opportunity, but software engineering is a very low priority on that list.


Oh so the exploitation is acceptable as long as you are not paid a minimum wage?

I can't believe people defend these companies. Stockholm syndrome?


The exploitation is completely acceptable when you are paid $300k+ and don't even feel exploited, yes. I fail to see how getting paid huge sums to do what you enjoy doing is even close to 'exploitation' for any reasonable definition.


So company makes a billion out of your work and you are happy with $300k. Okay.


What does that matter? You'd decline $10 if it meant someone else got $20? FAANG pays extremely generously. You're either being paid enough to work or you arent; what someone else gets should be meaningless. When you call being paid some of the highest salaries in the world exploitation, you devalue the word.


If they pay generously how come they have billions in profits? Shouldn't a good chunk of that go into salaries?

It's the same as colonisers offering locals tat for their gold.


You sound bitter, greedy and envious. My happiness is related to my own situation, and has absolutely no relation to the situation of faceless CEOs, nor to a potential alternate reality where I have a better situation. You work for a wage; you're either satisfied with this amount or you're not. Being unsatisfied solely because others get more? With your mindset, literally no one can be content in the world except billionaires.


> You sound bitter, greedy and envious

That's what corporation would say about an employee wanting to be compensated fairly. Such behaviour in the past sparked communist revolutions, which have not ended pretty for the greedy capitalists.


/r/iamverybadass


> they pay generously how come they have billions in profits? Shouldn't a good chunk of that go into salaries?

It does, salaries are the single biggest post-revenue capital expenditure for FAANG.


They don't match profits though. Basically these companies take most of the value produced by workers out of their hands. Their work is so valuable that even the pittance FAANG pays is being portrayed as something exceptionally great, but it does not mean they are paid right. There seems to be a strong push back whenever the inadequate pay is discussed. How come companies can make exceptional profits that look like an anomaly, but at the same time won't pay the workers who created it?


Google's revenue per employee is 1.3 million annually. Netflix's is 2.3 million. Facebook's 1.5. Profit per employee runs even lower, Google's is 300K, Facebook's 400K, netflix's 250K.

That's after tricksy things that inflate those numbers, such as using a large number of contractors to decrease the employee count. I don't disagree that these companies could afford to pay more, but not like a ton more. Like, if they decided to put all profit toward workers, it would probably result in like...doubled salaries, which is a lot, but calling it a pittance is a reach.

There's all kinds of valid stuff to discuss in terms of companies paying people in weird ways: the abuse of non-engineers and especially vendors. The weird rules about locale-based pay. This one is weird mostly because the data doesn't bear you out as much as you seem to think it does. Especially when things like improving the conditions of TVCs and making them FTEs will further reduce that profit per employee margin (I believe it would put the profit per employee below 200K for all the companies I mentioned).

So like presuming that these companies start to treat the second-class people better, you're looking at a 20-30% raise for the swes. That's nice, don't get me wrong, but its not anything like the abuse you're making it out to be.


And who decides the split of profits vs. employee compensation? You? In most places it's the market. And these companies pay above market. Way above (double+) in most cases.

If you take this idea, and apply it to say McDonalds, the ratio of compensation for a worker vs. overall profit is much lower than tech companies. Take your soap box and apply it there vs. trying to rescue upper middle class workers with health insurance, houses, and retirement savings.


I worked on the infra team for a TypeScript-based product downstream of the author. His and his team's approach and writings influenced at a lot of my thinking about core development, and I'll always be grateful for having had the opportunity to learn from them by osmosis.

The success or failure with which any companies hires and retains folks like these is a mystery to me. As the evidence shows, Google (and I suspect almost any >100-person company) is far too much an amorphous glob/slime mold to even have a single coherent approach to this problem. But what are the successful strategies here? How important is it even to retain this kind of talent? How do we know how a company is even doing in this regard?

In my meager-in-comparison 6.5 years at Google, while I certainly saw many amazing SWEs come and many go, I'm far from knowing what the real trajectory was. But I can imagine that for many folks, the perceived trajectory would be a major motivating or demotivating factor to stay or to leave themselves.


Retention of very senior people really comes down to those people and their personal reasons. I don't think it's a group of people who all want the same thing, so it's impossible to make a general retention plan.

And realistically, the reason you want them to stay is because they are someone who has figured out how to operate and impact the organization without needing too much guidance or direction.

But I think it's why there are all the generic lifestyle perks and competition for titles like "Best Place To Work".


Any large corporation needs to eliminate the bus factor of individual contributors (those who don't pay the management and politics game). You can't have an universally respected engineering legend contradict the board of directors; and the CEO it installs and influences.

Thus, you could argue that faceless, kafkaesque, "out of anyone's control" systems for talent management are a feature with trade-offs, not a bug.

While I have not worked at Google, simply being a user of its products for the past two decades has taught me that so much of its company culture and values have changed; and rarely for the better.


Of course, you don't want a bus factor with executives either although it generally becomes more complicated as you get higher up at a company. You're not going to casually replace a CEO though you're not going to just shut down the company if they get hit with a bus either.


> His and his team's approach and writings influenced at a lot of my thinking about core development, and I'll always be grateful for having had the opportunity to learn from them by osmosis.

Would you like to share with the rest of us a few wisdom here?


There's no secret sauce. The typical aphorisms of software development are generally correct and apply here:

* internalize the cost of core changes and don't push them downstream unless you have a really good reason * staff a core team to take care of high ROI horizontal efforts that have high fixed cost to do efficiently, e.g. TypeScript migration of a massive codebase * be careful of what you take on * complexity and code are costs and not end goals

Reading them is one thing but seeing the principles play out in detail amidst the mess of reality was illuminating for me. The author's blog[1] touches on these themes a bit more and I think are a good glimpse into their stewardship of the TS/JS codebase.

[1] - http://neugierig.org/software/blog/


Wow saved. I miss the amazing blogs and thoughts of people at Google, but unfortunately I don't miss the bureaucracy


This is quite simple:

- pay. These companies may be paying more than average and amazing if you compare to non-technical jobs, but as an engineer committing your best years to become great at what you do, you find yourself still not being able to afford even a small flat in the area where you work. Meanwhile you hear your company boasting about another record year and billions flowing in. Unfortunately they won't share those with you. That's demotivating and you feel being taken advantage of.

- lack of flexibility. For example managers pushing for pairing at all cost and with disregard to neurodivergent people. At the same messaging about equality, support for various social issues and so on. That creates dishonest image of the company and makes you think this is all bs and cheap PR rather than genuine care.

- Exploitation. Some companies expect you to do unpaid overtime or that you'll answer your phone outside of work hours. If you want me to work, you pay - I am not a charity.

- Rules designed to appease insecure managers, like having to be in person in the office so the manager can "watch you" and be "hands-on" with his or hers team. Again, company is boasting how great they are for the environment and at the same time they drag hundreds of people each day to the office for no reason. We have great tools to do work remotely, there is no longer a need to be in the office. Sell the office and give employees a bonus.

- open plan office. I just can't focus in those. There is only so long I can stand wearing noise cancelling headphones and I don't want to hear people behind me chatting loudly what they had for lunch, with occasional bursts of laughter that is piercing my ears. I found that often I actually done the work in the evening at home, whereas the whole time in the office I had to pretend I am busy. One time when I was offered a promotion I asked for private office. The CTO said it's only for him and the board. Well, I quit next month.


> At the time I left, out of ~150k employees, only ~300 had worked there longer than me.

This is why it is insane to accept the "I know the people involved in developing that and they wouldn't let a terrible thing happen." Defense of it being ok for the co. to have massive unchecked power.

The company is its people. The people /will/ change. Give a company serious power you cannot expect the staff to keep it reigned in. It's completely unrealistic and also unfair to the staff for them to have that moral responsibility forced on them. Ultimately 99.9% of the time the only thing they can do is resign, which reduces the impediments to bad things happening.


I'm sure this is the sort of person that made google what it is - it's probably a nightmare if they lose enough of these clear-thinking problem solvers with a history of long-term success. When I think "big google salary" I want to think it's going to someone like this, but in reality it's probably going to someone else.


Google used to be one of those companies, like Valve or Blizzard, who could be trusted to always ship a home run. Search, gmail, maps, chrome… I’m not sure what happened, but the contrast of Google then vs Google now is stark.

Even Google search barely works anymore. Google image search is completely broken, and I’ve found recently that I’ve been appending “site:reddit.com” to all of my text search queries to actually get useful results.

I’m not sure what this says about the future of Google, or the web in general. Nothing good.


> or Blizzard,

This so much. 10 years ago, I would have bought every single Blizzard game. Back then, I explained to my parents that Blizzard was like Mercedes ("The best or nothing") for video games. Now all known talents have already left Blizzard and none of their games interest me any longer...


Isn't this what inevitably happens to all companies eventually?

You have a group of enthusiastic founders who make it big through smarts, passion and dedication and after a couple of decades, they retire, and the company is now mostly formed of people who are in just to cash in on the money and fame from having that brand name on their resume as people who are as smart, passionate and dedicated as the original founders were would most likely work on their own idea rather than said famous company.

On the tech circles online Google is known for being the place where you grind leet-code to get in so you can make big $ and coast (rest and vest), not break your back working on fancy world changing ideas. The latter is for start-ups.

Apple was ahead of the game too as they had the visionary Steve Jobs at the helm, while now, sure their stock is as high as ever and their M1 macs are great but you don't really see people queuing up for days in front of their shops anymore since their post-Jobs strategy has been less about disruptive innovation and more about entrenching and expanding their existing positions by leveraging their supply chain prowess.


Like a corporate version of the rise and fall of civilizations?

> [Ibn Khaldun] explains that ruling houses tend to emerge on the peripheries of existing empires and use the much stronger asabiyya present in their areas to their advantage, in order to bring about a change in leadership. This implies that the new rulers are at first considered 'barbarians' in comparison to the previous ones. As they establish themselves at the center of their empire, they become increasingly lax, less coordinated, disciplined and watchful, and more concerned with maintaining their new power and lifestyle. Their asabiyya dissolves into factionalism and individualism, diminishing their capacity as a political unit.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Asabiyyah


https://www.joelonsoftware.com/2001/01/18/big-macs-vs-the-na...

> Summary, so far:

> Some things need talent to do really well.

> It’s hard to scale talent.

> One way people try to scale talent is by having the talent create rules for the untalented to follow.

> The quality of the resulting product is very low.


I think Mercedes is still Mercedes of cars?


The most important models, like the S class, the G class, and the AMG GT, still are the top notch in quality, quirks, and performance, but the other aren't like that

C and CLA class models are more like any other regular car with a nicer interior and maybe a better suspension, but at the end they even Renault engines (that aren't so well made), so they aren't so great than older versions.

All of this is AFAIK, so please correct me if there is any mistake.


Not in Europe. Mercedes was the Mercedes of cars when the S-Class was the pinnacle of automotive technology and only the rich and famous could afford them so they also had exclusivity going for them.

Nowadays, the S-Class is no longer nexus tech and thanks to cheap credit and rock bottom devaluation on the second hand market, they're not at all exclusive that even in the poorer parts of town where I live, there are lots of Mercedes and in Germany they're used as taxis.


mercedes were used as taxis when I visited germany.... 30 years ago.


it is, generally, yes. But what shapes companies in the long-term is the degree in which they can stem this natural tendency.

I.E. Amazon vs Kodak. Blockbuster vs Best Buy


Not just companies. Reversion to the mean is ubiquitous.


> and I’ve found recently that I’ve been appending “site:reddit.com” to all of my text search queries to actually get useful results.

This is a problem with the web, not with Google. The web has become littered with trash content


> This is a problem with the web, not with Google. The web has become littered with trash content

Isn't it the search engine's job to wade through the trash and return the results that are useful?


Not to mention, most of the trash was created because of Google search. Half the internet is optimized for the google bot, not humans.


The problem gets harder and harder as the trash gets more SEO


The problem gets harder and harder because trash generates profit, not because Google is fighting a holy war with the SEO hackers in an attempt to clear the web for us end users...


Trash content alway existed. Always.

AltaVista was all spam results when Google came on the scene. From where I sit, Google just doesn't care to work on search any more.

For example:

- pre 2005?, Google search terms were never aliased.

A search for Bob, never returned Robert or Bobby. To make things "easier", alias searching was added. Now, there is all sorts of algorithmic aliasing happening, and it poisons the results further.

- Couple this with the desire for verbal google searching to work, without complex queries, and even more aliasing/approximation of search results happen.

I've seen homonyms aliased as of... 2016? Why? Google voice searching.

- Quotes are only suggestions, only verbatim search forces precise terms (+ used to mean a word must appear as written, but was removed because it was interfereing with Google plus username searches..)

- These days, Google spends more time trying to take content from web pages, and insert the answers at to of page. They want to be wikipedia, with you never leaving their page.

All of the above, and more, show a steady decline in the desire for precise results, and instead, a desire to sacrifice search quality for profit, and pet projects.

As others in this thread have said, Google isn't Google any more.


Internet search algorithms are bit of an adversarial competition against bad content, no? Given the amount of money at stake for beating the search algorithm, shouldn't we expect any search engine to decline in usefulness over time?


> Given the amount of money at stake for beating the search algorithm, shouldn't we expect any search engine to decline in usefulness over time?

Internet search algorithms should be worth significantly more (and I imagine that this is the case; e.g., I doubt that the combined value of all spam sites together matches Alphabet's market cap).

Given that internet search companies should also have an edge acquiring talent, you would expect that internet search algorithms would win this fight.


The problem with aliasing is that it undermines the ability of users to refine their searches, especially in the case of Google with its unclear semantics for terms within quote marks.

I've switched to using DDG as my first search engine of choice because, while its ranking of sites initially is generally weaker than Google's, it gives me much more power to subsequently refine searches.


The web was always full of trash.

The problem is that the new trash is much more hostile: it's actively trying to subvert/cover the good stuff.


The web itself has transformed from a new frontier where people generally have good intentions, to a digital society undergoing active fraud, sabotage, and influence by commercial entities, governments, and wider society.


In the 90's when I first started using the WWW, it was mainly used by academics, techies and geeks - and it was glorious. People used to create web pages just for the hell of it, not for financial benefits.

Projects like IPFS might regain that thing we lost.


There's a reason our legal systems are composed of millions of pages of laws. It's because everyone tries to use/abuse everyone else, to a degree.


My theory is that two things changed: 1. complexity. As time goes by, systems become more complex, leaving less and less room for people to introduce changes swiftly. It's just like George Martin had a hard time shipping his latest A Song of Ice and Fire because there are just too many threads to figure out; 2. Culture. As times goes by, organizations bloat, and average quality of employees starts to decline. Plus, some people get promoted with controversy. Not everyone is Jeff Dean or Sanjay, after all. So, gradually and then suddenly, people create projects for promotion, and long-term vision goes out of the window. The two factors combined, a company transitions from being great to be mediocre.


I also have to append site:reddit to half of my searches if I'm actually looking for some sort of meaningful feedback or opinion on something. Everything else is blog spam or commercial content trying to sell me something


> At the time I left, out of ~150k employees, only ~300 had worked there longer than me.

This one really stuck out for me, I don't think that stat has ever been public before. This probably means most (if not all) of the folk who built Google's most successful services are no longer with the company. Like a successful open source project where the originators have aged out, and all that's left are hundreds of folk making incremental changes spanning years


Yes. A handful remain. But the next big thing will come from those who yearn to be what Google had and lost. Jeff Dean jokes aside, no one person or group made Google great. It was the combined optimism and output of thousands of brilliant and supportive Googlers with imperfect but good enough leadership. Don’t deify any one person or leader, but if you can see the potential in any company’s ambition, thinking, and culture - it’s going to be worth the ride.


But this is the problem, it’s not this place anymore. Unlimited money corrupt absolutely. At some moment you just look at all these projects and they are moat to defend ads/search and napalm any even remote competition. With such priorities comes different kind of moral. On top of that Google sucks at efficient organization management and product management and just masks it with money.


It could be again though. Microsoft has already been through this hell and come out the other side. Google could too, although I suspect that it will require a similar change of leadership.


It wasn’t just a change in leadership, Microsoft also had an existential crisis. Apple, Google and Amazon threatened to make Microsoft irrelevant and the leadership at the time didn’t seem to know how to respond. I don’t think Google has reached that level of desperation yet, and it might need to before it can turn things around.


Yeah, but Microsoft reinvented itself a few times already. They started as a BASIC runtime vendor, switched to an office software suite vendor, then to an OS vendor and now to a cloud service provider.

Plus Microsoft was quite diversified very early on, about the time they started selling Office. Even now, they're the most diversified Big Tech regarding revenue, except for maybe Amazon.


According to CNBC there was 3000 employees 2004 when he began. So 90% of the workers have dropped since then. How is this attrition compared to other companies?

https://www.cnbc.com/2020/01/02/google-employee-growth-2001-...


That doesn't seem unusual at all. If anything, I'd say 10%+ retention over 15+ years sounds pretty good. And that's even allowing for survivorship bias in that, as someone else noted, many companies that existed in 2004 aren't even around today.

In terms of anecdata, I know that no one else from my non-SV company new hire class from 10+ years ago is still with the company.


In the medium and large companies I've worked, it's always been very bifurcated: You had a lot of people who have been with the company a long time, and a lot of people who are fresh, but there is always this huge chasm of few employees between 4 years and, say 12 years. I explain it financially. The way I think it works is typical equity vesting is about 4 years, so without refresh grants (which in my experience are rare) people churn after around 4 years due to the vesting cliff. The ones who survived to over 10 years or so are all Directors and VPs and SVPs by now, and are probably making mega-bank, so there is no incentive to disrupt the gravy train by leaving.


Most other tech companies that were 6 years old in 2004 are probably long gone today, so in that way they'd have 100% attrition.


But on other hand Google grows so fast and has so much churn that it used to be you would be in like 50% percentile in a year and it top percentile in few years. Which it turn means that on any given moment most employees are not veterans.


I suspect most IT companies have large turnover. Folks working at a gig for more than 5+ years is likely the exception not the norm.


"it's also ultimately not something to be anthropomorphized, but rather a faceless machine that makes often bad decisions that I don't have any real influence over."

Best comment in the article.

I feel that this is a very recurrent problem on HN in particular and on the internet in general: people anthropomorphizing companies and assigning them human-like intents ("Google is evil", "Exxon is reckless").

We all forget that:

    a) companies are nothing but a bunch of people doing things together within some sort of hierarchical structure.

    b) the emergent behavior of said group has got precious little to do with the parts that compose it and certainly can't be assigned things like desire, morals, feelings, ethos.

    c) as much as we'd *love* to believe b) above or even try to actually implement it (the whole "company culture" kool-aid), the truth is *no one* can get an org as large as Google to do anything, even its CEO. Once the thing is large enough, it basically becomes autonomous.
Large corps are large doomsday machines with basically no one at the wheel.


It’s interesting that Google had a built-in mechanism to combat bad decisions called “being Googly”. Basically default mode of operation and decision making was to “be Googly”. So this cultural pressure created culture of collaboration and helping out. The problem is that with high growth rate and relatively high churn you can’t indoctrinate this (or really, any) culture fast enough, and so it eroded. On top of that when third wave of management new-hires doesn’t embrace it (and why would they?), it disintegrates rather quickly.


It also doesn't account for folks that are manipulative and ambitious enough to:

    1. Not believe a word of the "being Googly" thing

    2. Understand how big of a lever it is to get others to do things.

    3. Are very good at pretending.
They usually make it to the top in quick order and get a tiny bit more influence on the cultural direction taken by the giant combine harvester.


Sigh.. 17 years of Google in the US. I am sure you can easily retire. With style, too. Being in Europe, I envy silicon valley engineers.


Yeah, in Europe your only real options are moving to the US, working remotely in a cheaper location in Europe (perhaps even as a contractor to the US), or working for a company/country with a better work balance and just fitting your life around work. I've done the latter two and it's worked out okay, but I still don't own a home even after 7 years working (and some of that for FAANG).

But I think Americans really don't understand how different Europe is. Programming is barely a white-collar job here vs. Law or Real Estate, etc. and the quality of life is just lower (less car ownership, much smaller homes without swimming pools or air conditioning, tiny kitchens without garbage disposal, American fridge-freezers or dishwashers, etc.)

The Tech Bro memes don't apply here.


I live in Sweden, the west coast. A friend is from the UK and he described my town as a paradise compared to London.

The ocean is like 10-30 minutes away. The coast line is incredible and free for all to enjoy.

He describes his work in London as strict dress code. 1+h sweaty and crowdy train+metro rides(and the same to get home). Long work days.

Dressing is casual. Work is probably <30 mins by car(I have 15 mins single-way, car and bike take similar times). I even have coworkers who jog to work a few times a week. Showers and sauna are available at work. Work hours are flexible.

He said good food is cheap here. There are excellent restaurants that cost much less than similar ones in London.

Since mid-March, I've been taking 2-3h lunches on the cliffs by the ocean if it's a sunny day. Just laying there listening to the nature. Takes 20 minutes door to ocean for me.

For me this is a high quality of life. How can you put a price on things like this, especially when you(stereotypical US IT worker) have little to no paid vacation, work 8-12h a day, sometimes even on the weekends?


I think like with everything, it depends on where you live in the country. Another commenter mentioned no car, because living in Stockholm, where I'm sure the price of housing has skyrocketed up as well.

Same thing in London, big urban center. But if you are able to move out into the country, quality of life can improve markedly, especially if you earn the same as you do / can in London.

Same in NL where I live. I'm relatively lucky in that I got a smallish modernish two bedroom house with a driveway, small back yard, etc, but most people can't afford this (hell, housing prices have gone up so much that even I can't afford this house anymore if I were to buy it now!) even if it becomes available on the market.

Meanwhile, my parents live up north, bought a house in the 70's while mortgage rates were >10%, a four bedroom house with a big front- and back yard, which they've turned into their own little paradise (lots of plants, fish pond, roofed sitting area with a box of sigars, etc).

Long term we might end up moving there, but besides our son's school and social life, the biggest factor there is work and income. It may be more feasible with remote work which I've done for the past year and a half now, but not in the current market where every somewhat decent house put up for sale gets hundreds of interested people.


Yeah, I also live in Sweden now :) being able to walk everywhere, take a proper break at lunch is really nice

I can't afford a car here though (no parking in Stockholm!)


> you(stereotypical US IT worker) have little to no paid vacation, work 8-12h a day, sometimes even on the weekends?

Oddly defensive considering that a) nobody in the thread seems to be american and b) none of those things apply to your average google employee (the original subject that was being discussed)


As an american, I'm curious how much PTO you guys get. Personally I get 10 vacation days per year and accrue 8 hours PTO per pay period. This ends up being about 34 paid vacation days per year.

Perhaps this is a uniquely american problem, but I doubt very many people at my company actually uses their 30+ vacation days.


> Perhaps this is a uniquely american problem, but I doubt very many people at my company actually uses their 30+ vacation days.

That's actually the American problem. For the bunch of European countries where I've worked/interacted a lot with, most people don't have days off left at the end of the year, or maybe have a handful.

And there are some periods when people are gone for long stretches of time (2+ weeks). In France August is practically a national holiday, it's super common to send someone an email in late July and get a reply saying: "I'll be back in early September".

From what I've seen from my US colleagues, they usually take a peppering of 1-2-3 days or maybe a week at most, and if they do have a ton of days off, I can't imagine they use them up.

In Romania I had a case where I had some PTO days saved and I went away on December 20 or so and came back on February 3 (got a bit lucky that year with public holidays, but still).


Statutory annual leave entitlement in the UK is 28 days pa by law. That’s the minimum that everybody working full time gets, regardless of the industry/role.

Last two tech companies I’ve worked at offer unlimited vacation. Which is a funny problem so to speak, as some of my colleagues make a good use of it and others don’t. I’ve used 36 days in 2020, mostly because there was a big push from the HR to make sure people take regular long breaks at least once per quarter (I’ve used only 21 in 2019).

Everybody also gets unlimited paid sick days. At my current company 3+ days require a proof from the Doc, otherwise no questions asked.

There’s also 8 days of bank holidays pa in the UK. These don’t have to be given as paid leave, but I’ve never heard of anyone in an office job to ever work on a bank holiday (unless they wanted to swap)


In the UK PTO is usually between 25-27 days. This doesn't include bank holidays.


Yes, but also it is not uncommon (I think) for companies to allow you to buy extra holiday. So, for example, my company allows you to buy an extra week, which I always do.


I've worked in France and Spain in a large company, and we had about 40 days off per year (plus national holidays). I've always seen everyone take all their holidays.


Swede here. I have a fairly standard Swedish industry vacation. 5 weeks plus ~1.5 week of hours I can take part of days. In addition to that there are also other holidays which I'm not working and doesn't count towards my vacation days.

I usually take 4 weeks in July. Then vacation/time off just before Christmas until a week after New Year.

I have friends who instead of increased salary have asked for more vacation weeks, and have now 7 weeks of vacation. And they use it every year.


In the US, I get something similar. I have basically never not used pretty much every hour I'm entitled to.


> Programming is barely a white-collar job here vs. Law or Medicine

Programmers routinely earn more than most doctors and healthcare professionals. Also, being "white-collar" is not about having the highest compensation.

Obviously, private practices, big law firms allow for extremely well paid Law and Medicine jobs. But so do big software corporations.

> the quality of life is just lower (less car ownership

I enjoy renting out a car for trips to unusual locations (places not well served by trains), but I argue that a society with less car ownership is actually a more pleasant one to live in

> much smaller homes without swimming pools

Fair, but is that really common for those who live/commute to work into New York every day?

> or air conditioning

You can just install it, it's much more common nowadays than 30 years ago (obviously, more common in the south, and more common when you actually own the property, instead of renting)

> kitchens without garbage disposal, American fridge-freezers or dishwashers,

indeed, never saw a garbage disposal unit. Besides some banana peels I barely produce any organic waste in my kitchen, though. I think I'd bin it in the same "nice marginal improvement" category as robo toilets in Japan.

> American fridge-freezers or dishwashers

You can just buy them. These kind of items are a small fraction of the cost of a home. If you can afford a home, you can also afford these.


> Programmers routinely earn more than most doctors and healthcare professionals.

Just curious, in which European country do programmers earn more than most doctors? I'm from Germany and doctors here easily earn 6 figures, something virtually impossible for a programmer or SWE.


In the UK, software engineers outearn doctors. Doctors used to have trouble securing work visas when there was a limit on the number of visas issued. When the limit is hit, the applicants will be prioritised according to the number of 'points'. Higher salaries command higher points.

https://workpermit.com/news/uk-tier-2-visa-cap-exemption-doc... https://www.imgconnect.co.uk/news/2021/04/nhs-doctors-pay-sc...


But the issue is when you can't afford a home. Here in Sweden the average price for a flat is like 400k euros.

And then those are usually in a shared building so you can't "just" install air conditioning even then.

The housing crisis is the real issue for sure.


The UK, Ireland and loads of other places are having housing affordability issues. It's quite serious, but nobody wants property prices to fall.

Investment funds are buying up new housing estates by outbidding normal buyers. Even John Lewis, a retailer, is getting into the housing business [0]. The whole system is broken. Personally, I'm half-seriously considering buying a boat.

[0] https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-57712618


I have understood that Swedish housing is a specially bad case, or at least in Finland we like to tell unbelievable horror stories of Swedish housing (Stockholm rent-controlled apartment market where one either waits on queue for years, except if you know the right people; if you are not renting, deal with housing mortgages that are structured so that you will never pay them back in full during your lifetime).

(edit. Main point, Sweden is not necessarily a representative case of "Europe".)


Housing is indeed getting quite expensive, but on an engineer's salary you are in the few lucky ones that are easily able to pay off that 400k€ before your 40s (maybe your 50s at most).


> less car ownership, much smaller homes without swimming pools or air conditioning, tiny kitchens without garbage disposal, American fridge-freezers or dishwashers

I’m not sure I’d conflate less material goods with lesser quality of life.

I think the quality of life is objectively better in most of (western) Europe. Maybe for software engineers in specific it’s worse.


> I’m not sure I’d conflate less material goods with lesser quality of life.

He's not conflating fewer material goods with lower quality of life.

He's conflating lack of things which provide life experiences with lower quality of life.

Not having AC absolutely sucks when the weather's over 30. Not having a house with a backyard and a swimming pool means you can't have people over for a pool party (experience, not material good). Etc.


I'm with you on AC, but not the pool. That's an expensive, time-consuming luxury. (Or even more expensive, if you pay someone else to maintain it.) The occasional pool-party could be had elsewhere (community pool? neighbor's pool?), or even at the beach instead.

If you kept on that line of logic, a PlayStation 5 and an espresso machine are also "not material goods" and are ways to create experiences, and I can't actually tell where that line of thought stops.


A Playstation 5 and an espresso machine I wouldn't consider "material goods" in the classic sense. For PS5 it's kind of obvious why, since it competes with cinemas.

For the espresso machine, it's an "experience machine" if you're a espresso aficionado. If you're getting it to show off and barely use it, it's a "material good".

I'd draw the line like this: if it makes you personally feel good many times, through your interaction with the thing, it's worth buying. If it's just/primarily to show off, then it's a "material good". Unless you have some sort of personality disorder where you feel good by showing your stuff off repeatedly to acquaintances.


> Not having AC absolutely sucks when the weather's over 30

Only if you are used to air conditioning. Otherwise it’s just a hot day.

Not having a pool means you do a barbeque party instead. Not that you have no party at all.


Western Europe has a mild climate. Aircon is only required for < 7 days a year and those days are still tolerable without aircon if there's proper insulation.


I just want to point out that quality of life is subjective and depends on what you value. For example I, subjectively, do not want some of the things you mention, like big home with pool... and my kitchen seems big enough to me. I consider NOT having to own a car a good thing (appreciating that our public transportation seems incomparably better than what I have seen in the US) and I value 5 weeks of paid vacation, health insurance for all, free college education... stuff like that. And how are our dishwashers and fridges different that the American ones?

Europe is different than US for many reasons. In some things it might be because we failed to achieve what Americans did. In other things it's just because we prefer it that way.


I saw a great quote recently (perhaps on HN?):

"A developed country is not a place where the poor have cars. It's where the rich use public transportation."

-- Gustavo Petro

This is, for me, very true. I lived in the US and would not say that having to own a car and drive everywhere is desirable. Vast areas of land are given over to cars — roads, parking lots, etc, to the degree that walking is discouraged or even impossible (no sidewalks, 4-8 lane roads). The air is smoggy. The act of driving itself is not enjoyable — traffic is awful (hi 101) and cities are a stop/start grind. It's miserable.


Another bad thing about cars these days is that many people think they can talk on the phone and/or text while driving. I was in a pretty bad wreck last week - slammed into at an intersection. Because I had a 2003 Accord in excellent condition with 90K miles that I planned to drive for another 10 years, I get totally screwed on insurance and will be lucky to get $6K for it. Buying a used 2018 replacement with 30K miles was $30K, so compared to leaving $24K invested, I'll end up being out around $48K because of someone else's bad driving. (And no, you can't drive well while using a phone "hands free"; it's the lack of mental focus that is the problem, not using your hands.)

Of course, if I had been walking instead, this bad driver would have likely taken me out.


> The air is smoggy

In most of the US this is not true. Air quality in Europe is significantly worse than in the US, in general. This is form my anecdotal experience, but you can also see it in online sources

https://nimonik.com/2018/05/air-quality-in-europe-vs-the-uni...

https://www.nytimes.com/2016/05/12/science/who-says-europe-t...

Check similar sized cities on the map: https://waqi.info/

We have to thank Europeans' genius idea to subsidize/force diesel engines on people's cars. Each diesel car pollutes as much as a bus, and half of cars are diesel! We saves 0.001 of CO2 emissions for the next decades, but we got pollution and cancer and deaths instead.


> And how are our dishwashers and fridges different that the American ones?

While they're certainly available in Europe, side-by-side fridge-freezers (as opposed to fridge-over-freezer models) are more popular in the US. I don't get the appeal personally, but in any case, both configurations are available in both places.


I think it's because it's much harder to shop for groceries in the US. I mean: in Europe you have a small grocery store around the corner, in the US, with single-use zoning, your closest grocery store is probably 3 miles away. So, in Europe you shop more often, in small quantities, in the US you stock your fridge with 2-3 weeks worth of food, just to avoid the hassle.


Not my experience. Canada here but still. You do see these fridges. Have a few friends that have them. I think it's more the 'prestige', marketing and "bling"-ness. "Best" with integrated ice maker and cooled water dispenser.

Personally I don't get it. We have a standard freezer on top fridge, though the size is definitely bigger than what I'm used to from Europe and we have a chest freezer in the garage. That's not uncommon for families in Europe either tho. More of a flat vs house living situation thing.

As a student (living in a flat in Europe) I always joked that I'd go to the 'basement' to my freezer when I wanted a Pizza. I didn't have a basement actually but the parking garage, which was basically shared with (tho sectioned off) a supermarket's parking garage and the supermarket.


I mean, this makes a sort of sense, but on the other hand, I've seen the side-by-side type in San Francisco, where there are supermarkets all over the place. And I don't think they're actually dramatically higher capacity, anyway. I think this one is largely down to cultural preference.


It's completely possible to live and retire early comfortably as an engineer in Europe. On a salary of 40k in the UK outside of London/oxford, (which is achievable as a mid level dev pretty much anywhere there are developer jobs), you'll live a pretty comfortable lifestyle.

> the quality of life is just lower (less car ownership, much smaller homes without swimming pools or air conditioning, tiny kitchens without garbage disposal, American fridge-freezers or dishwashers, etc.)

All of those things are why I actively choose to live in Europe over the US.

Having an american fridge freezer, a pool and 2 cars wouldn't increase my quality of life, but sacrificing access to quality healthcare, reasonable rights of not being abused by my employer, neighborhoods designed to be walked around, not driven, etc all _would_ dramatically reduce my qol


Related to quality of life, I'll take cycling to work in a Nordic country over an American life with two cars and a huge dishwasher.


It sucks when you need to buy / move furniture though.

I really miss that side of the freedom in the US. It's also much easier to drive in the US due to the huge, straight roads.


> It sucks when you need to buy / move furniture though.

But isn't that an extremely rare event?

Maybe you move more than anyone I've ever known but I don't see how something so minor could meaningfully affect quality of life.


Yeah, this was always such a weird complaint. I'm sure that there are moving companies which will do that for you, or you can probably rent some truck and do it yourself if wanted.


I don't own a car but where I live (Gothenburg, Sweden), you can rent a car easy with an app: https://m.co/se/en-US/


> Yeah, in Europe your only real options are moving to the US

This sounds overly dramatic. And I feel the urge to express that this isn't my picture of working as a SWE in the EU at all. Nor was it at any point in a very turbulent ~20 years career in tech and with many companies. Quite the contrary.

Perhaps it depends where exactly you're situated. And of course companies with low standards can be found – but that's probably true for both sides of the Atlantic.


> and the quality of life is just lower (less car ownership, much smaller homes without swimming pools or air conditioning, tiny kitchens without garbage disposal, American fridge-freezers or dishwashers, etc.)

This made my day. You sir have your priorities in order.


> but I still don't own a home even after 7 years working (and some of that for FAANG).

Even at the inflated SV salary values, very few colleagues I know went to buy a house there. Buying usually means leaving the valley.

> quality of life is just lower (less car ownership, much smaller homes without swimming pools or air conditioning, tiny kitchens without garbage disposal, American fridge-freezers or dishwashers, etc.)

I don't see why half of those necessarily mean "lower quality of life"

A car in the US is a necessity. Same for the fridge-freezer where you keep your big perishable purchases (whereas in European cities you can just walk to the grocery store?). And of course, none of these are exclusive to the US

I totally agree with the air-conditioners, though it seems to be changing. Swimming pools are a money pit and to be fair only in few countries it's worth having one at your house.


I live in Scotland, it peaks at 20c/68f here, but with >70% humidity, and even at that it's not often it gets that hot. AC is a nice to have on occasion, but definitely not life changing. London on the other hand, sounds liky it's almost a requirement there at this point


> London on the other hand, sounds liky it's almost a requirement there at this point

I live in Lisbon. Most people don't have AC at home, we survive.


There's elements of what the housing is designed for too. I'm not sure what the common building materials are there but many houses in the UK are built of brick and not designed for airflow at all. Parts of London hit 38 degrees at one point last year.


Lisbon is right at the Atlantic coast. Do the summers get that hot there? Inland places get more extreme weather, both cold and hot.

Fun fact, according to Windy[0], Lisbon has 21°C right now, while eg Murmansk has 29°C.

[0]: https://www.windy.com/-Temperature-temp


You need a bedside fan for a few days a year, that's about it.


I would prefer a sauna to a swimming pool any day. :)


There are definitely places in the US where a car is not necessary. Lived on the east coast my whole life without learning to drive.


I don't own a car because I inhabit a walkable, dense city instead of enormous urban sprawl, not because I'm destitute.


> Programming is barely a white-collar job here vs. Law or Real Estate, etc.

Hmm, not sure where you are (Europe is a big place). In Ireland, programmers would, I think, earn more on average than lawyers, and certainly than estate agents.

> less car ownership

I wouldn't consider that to be inherently a quality of life issue. I don't own a car because I don't really have a use for one. If I did have a use for one, that would imply a long driving commute, which would likely make my quality of life worse.

> tiny kitchens without garbage disposal

Easily available, they cost about 200 euro. Though you risk the wrath of Dublin City Council by installing one here; they create undue load on wastewater treatment (I believe this is also the case in some US cities, actually). Never understood the appeal, tbh.

> American fridge-freezers

From about 500 euro in my local electrics shop. Again, never understood the appeal vs the conventional fridge-over-freezer designs, but they're there if you want them.

> dishwashers

From about 200 euro ditto. Wouldn't be without one.

Again, Europe's a big place.


What a truly strange comment lol

I've lived in both the US and the EU, I'll take the EU 11 times out of 10, even if it means I'll lack the crucial aspect of owning... Garbage disposal systems?

Less cars is also a good thing


You can get hired by a Silicon Valley company that have a presence in Europe.

You won't get a salary as high as Silicon Valley itself but it will still be much higher that other companies, and the work will be pretty similar.

However I think you're mistaken about quality of life between US and Europe (I've lived in both) or it really depends what country you're talking about.

First of all you're talking about standard of living - and it's not lower at least in western Europe (Germany, France, UK, etc...) It's similar to US. Regarding quality of life, I'd argue that it's higher in Europe because of health care, better work balance, better town planning, etc.

You're talking about car ownership like it's an indicator of quality of life, on the contrary we have a single car in my family even though we can definitely afford a second car and I couldn't be more happy to be able to live without taking my car for every single trip.


Yeah, remote work for US companies for US non-geocoded salary is the way to go for Europeans. Imagine getting 900k TC as an E7 at FB Menlo Park vs 233GBP TC (150k base) as an E7 at FB London, with approximately the same living expenses.

There is a bunch of US companies that do that and EU devs can get 200-400k while working from some <1500 EUR monthly expenses place in Europe. Not sure who would care about EU/UK/CH-based FAANGs with the salaries they offer in the EU.


Which companies are examples of this? I know Gitlab is remote but changes based on location and ends up not being that good in somewhere like Dublin


It's tricky to find without networking; get yourself into a-team or a similar remote-friendly contractor agency first for 100-400/hour (interviews might be comparable to FAANG level of difficulty) and then network from there.


I live in Portugal and I can't think of any job that can give you better quality of life (without family/party/etc connections) than software development.

I have friends leaving other jobs, that they spent years in university for, and have some years of experience in, for an entry-level frontend development job that pays double after a few months bootcamp.

Maybe you can't get filthy rich as easily, but I don't see that as a bad thing, my life is comfortable and I'm better off at 26 than almost anyone I know in other jobs, even people much older than me.

Sure, if you're a doctor or a lawyer you might be paid a bit more than a dev, but with much more hours per week, a very stressful work environment, and less respect. It's also much harder to quit and switch companies if you don't like what you're doing.


Less respect as a doctor or lawyer compared to a dev? Really?


> Programming is barely a white-collar job here vs. Law or Real Estate, etc

Hardly - programming is very much a white-collar job. It's just that white-collar work in the UK doesn't pay all that much compared to the rewards of capital ownership or being able to dip a finger in the money hose that flows through the financial markets. Seriously, check what chartered professionals are actually paid, and for what hours.

My favourite example is that the Prime Minister was paid more as a Telegraph columnist than his official PM salary: https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2018/oct/03/daily-teleg... ; the current PM salary is £161,401 or about $225,000. How does that compare to SV pay grades?

Programmer pay looks a lot more like that of footballers. The prizes are distributed towards the top. The programmers who enable companies to take over the world - monopolize entire markets - get bid up; everyone else is on far more normal pay. Lionel Messi is paid $130,000,000 to dominate the world. https://www.sportsadda.com/football/news/highest-paid-athlet...


Simple: move to New York, get tech job, rent and live frugally for a decade, save everything and go back to your country. You've effectively drained a fraction of the US economy to enrich your own country's, nothing wrong with that.

Also new York is fun, even when frugal. Even with kids I'd wager it's a great experience to have in ones life. Staying in the same house or city all your life is overrated.


Depends on what you like. I lived in NYC briefly--albeit at a time when it was almost certainly seedier than it is today. I was really ready to get out. I do like visiting but a little NYC goes a long way for me.


Also, what is special about American fridge-freezers or dishwashers?

Garbage disposal unit sounds like a questionable idea (more unnecessary things in waste water for the water treatment plant to sort out), and not compatible with the dominant paradigm here where we assume everyone sorts and recycles their biowaste, metals, glass, paper, plastic, and cardboard. For the small things now and then one does not intentionally throw into kitchen sink, I'd figure GBU is unnecessary if you have good plumbing in the first place. (I am soon 30-y.o., I have never encountered a plumbing problem anywhere I live.) Old houses built in 1960s / 1970s used to have garbage chutes, but I think they were deemed unhygienic?

Before the recent hot summers, air conditioning was not often needed except for handful of days in a year, but in our climate things that are needed, like three-layer glass windows, central heating, apartments without draft or cold but with uninterrupted hot water have been around for ages.


Quality of life is lower due to less car ownership? Seems counterintuitive in several ways. One being less car ownership should mean less traffic. A bigger one might be societies not built around cars, i.e. more pedestrian and bike friendly, less area occupied by parking lots, better public transport, etc.


The location matters in both, tbh. California's average is much higher than anywhere else it seems. And I can guess where the highest salaries are in the state. Texas seems to have the second highest average.

But yeah, the average is higher than the highest paid positions in Europe, except maybe the top of the top senior ones.


> American fridge-freezers

Do Europeans not have fridge-freezers? Or do you mean the really large double door fridges?


Not the OP but here in the UK there's a separate category of fridge-freezers called "American Fridge Freezers" which are typically the huge ones you describe. Everybody I know has a fridge-freezer, but not many of those are "American Fridge Freezers".


Not sure where he's been, but as far as I can tell from Google, they're not that uncommon, at least in Norway. Own experience is also that most people seem to have a separate freezer in addition to a fridge, so there's not always a need for a combination of the two.

Most of the things he mention doesn't really hold truth, at least not where I live. Go outside the cities, and you'll find plenty large houses. As for AC and pools...parts of Europe doesn't really need the first, and the second is also kind of luxurious, at least to me. I've got a 5 minute walk to a fresh water beach when the temperature is high enough, and when it's not I really don't want to be in the water outside at all...


being a software developer/CTO/etc myself, I was able to buy a home in Portugal and Germany. You should just look for places out of the big centers but with potential to be developed in the next 5 years.


You can go freelance, set up company in Lithuania and pay <20% effective tax rate over 100,000€+ yearly income.

Still not as good as Google salaries, but better lifestyle for sure.


> You can go freelance, set up company in Lithuania and pay <20% effective tax rate over 100,000€+ yearly income.

How would that work? Your personal income will still be taxed based on where the employee resides. The company has to disburse income for someone to use it.


The company can also incur expenses by investing into a tennis club or into a coastal area housing project ;-)


I mean, you do not need 100,000€/year to live comfortably in most of EU.


the homes are smaller but the build quality is better :)


He mentions moving to a new company.


What would the net worth be of someone who has been at google for 10 years?


1 to 10 million dollars, depending on compensation and money management skills.


Impossible to answer such a broad question without knowing specifics of that particular situation, as it is heavily dependent on the person's pay/career trajectory at Google (which, from my experience, can differ wildly even for the same levels), spending habits, how they invested what they haven't spent, their family situation (single? married with 2 kids? supporting parents?), how much debt they had prior to joining and how fast they paid it off, etc.

It can be anything from "multiple houses, cars, quickly growing investment portfolio, and etc." to "barely anything aside from a few months worth of salary in the savings account". The latter seems extremely unlikely though, most people hover somewhere in-between those two extremes.

For example, look at some engineers who worked at Google's self-driving division/Waymo. From the court papers (from that trial where the lead was accused of taking the proprietary info to Uber's self-driving division), it was mentioned that some of them got paid like $10mil/yr. This is in a completely different ballpark, compared to what most of engineers at Google make. Just goes to show the wild variation in pay, which makes it difficult to estimate without knowing the details.


Be sure to also read this link he mentions: http://neugierig.org/software/blog/2018/09/typescript-at-goo...

There you will get a clear view of why you DO NOT want to become a frontend developper at Google. (plus the dilemna of maintaining internal tools).


Note that things are a lot better now than they were in 2018, in large part due to his work and his team's. The typescript migration has gone well, with good automatic migration tooling, and I mostly only use TS now. This means good error messages, and good editor support.

(Disclosure: I work on ads at Google, speaking only for myself)


How did you do the work to type all your existing JS libs, so they have a clear TS contract?


All of our existing JavaScript libraries were already typed, but with the awkward "types in comments" system: https://github.com/google/closure-compiler/wiki/Types-in-the...

Their team only (though it's a big "only") needed to do the work to make this existing type info available to TS


I am rather new with JS, TS and all that. But did not IntelliJ have some JSDoc support to help it autocomplete JS, a long time ago?


> ...including the money to buy the home I now live in and even the health insurance responsible for the birth of my son...

Interesting example. Being grateful to your country for giving you the opportunity to work to pay insurance bills to have a child, because there's no universal healthcare?

I'm assuming this is sarcasm?


First of all, this applies to nearly half of the developed world where people work and pay insurance premiums, and the systems in most non-US countries still seem to function relatively equitably. Implying that one can't be grateful in the US because of the existence of insurance premiums feels like yet another example of American exceptionalism because many other countries have figured it out.

Second, it's not that difficult for me to picture a scenario in which someone is grateful for the access to healthcare and health insurance that a typical Googler in the US has. Particularly if you've ever traveled to poorer countries (or just been exposed to more disadvantaged environments) where a lot less is taken for granted, it's often easy to find things in your life for which you are grateful.

Besides, they're likely not paying additional insurance premiums on top of Google's contributions, so the insurance bills are usually copays that aren't ludicrously high.


> Implying that one can't be grateful in the US because of the existence of insurance premiums feels like yet another example of American exceptionalism because many other countries have figured it out.

I agree with the sentiment of being grateful for access to good healthcare, however being grateful to the US for the privilege to pay for their private healthcare (when less fortunate US citizens are dying because they can't afford treatment [1]) is a strange sentiment from the perspective of a non-US citizen.

The U.S. is almost entirely alone among developed nations in lacking universal healthcare [2], and on a per capita basis, spends more than double the average of all OECD countries [3].

> Second, it's not that difficult for me to picture a scenario in which someone is grateful for the access to healthcare and health insurance that a typical Googler in the US has.

> Particularly if you've ever traveled to poorer countries (or just been exposed to more disadvantaged environments) where a lot less is taken for granted, it's often easy to find things in your life for which you are grateful.

I agree wholeheartedly with both of these points.

[1]: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2020/jan/07/americans-he... [2]: https://www.dpeaflcio.org/factsheets/the-us-health-care-syst... [3]: https://www.dpeaflcio.org/factsheets/the-us-health-care-syst...


> The U.S. is almost entirely alone among developed nations in lacking universal healthcare

Right, I obviously have a huge problem with that situation. I was referring to this part (inserted below) in your original comment, which draws an implication between universal healthcare and paying insurance bills. The US is far from the only developed nation to have private insurance providers with insurance premiums. For instance, here in Switzerland which is admittedly something of an outlier, the average adult pays over $200 per month in premiums. I believe many other central European countries are around $100/mo or perhaps a bit less.

> Being grateful to your country for giving you the opportunity to work to pay insurance bills to have a child, because there's no universal healthcare?

(In fact, most of the systems that seem to score highest in efficiency according to reports I've seen rank these public-private systems in countries like the Netherlands or Germany higher than nationalized systems, but I still don't actually prefer it having lived in both the US and another developed nation with a relatively functioning system of private insurers.)


Software engineers working at Google are pretty wealthy and are probably pushing into the salary levels that pay for most of societies upkeep. They're going to be paying less under a private health system than a universal one and getting very similar levels of care.


So, in short: screw you, got mine? :-)


In short, whether or not the US has universal healthcare, he would feel the same feelings towards the same entities and it would have cost him about the same amount of labour to get assistance for the birth of his son.


Good point. I still do find the original sentiment odd and confusing.


You are probably misreading it as referring to a standard medical expense while it probably refers to some advanced treatment that is only available in private healthcare, anywhere in the world.


Possibly, that would make sense. Thanks.


He isn’t saying he’s grateful to his country, he’s saying he’s grateful to Google…


Google's health insurance is pretty good (although not the very best out there). I can't speak to everyone's situation, but at other companies where I've worked I normally had to pay around $1,000/year in mostly pretax dollars for health costs (employee portion of premiums + copays). With my current health insurance at Google, my health plan is typically a net gain financially as long as I have <$10k in medical costs per year (no premiums + employer HSA contribution + HSA tax benefits).


Well, no premiums only if you’re single. The premiums are quite standard with a spouse/child/family (relative to other companies).


Under universal healthcare, a Google employee surely pays many more people’s insurance bills than his own.

These people, with professional jobs at famous companies in California and New York, are the 1% who are meant to pay for all new social spending.


Ignorance is strength


If I'm not mistaken, isn't America the same country which makes it illegal to give birth at home or without some sort of doctor/medical involvement?

Yeah I'd be really grateful too. /s

As a Brit though, I'll give credit to my wife for the birth of our child[ren].


You are mistaken.


Thanks for confirming. I'm certain I saw something in a documentary recently so is it entirely incorrect or is there some technicality?


The closest I can think of is that some states do not give out licensing for midwifes/home birth assistance, so if you want to have a home birth with a professional present in those states that's difficult.


America is many states, laws like this are state-level, so there are 50 different laws in this regard and my guess is that most states don’t have a law covering this scenario due to it’s rarity.


or conditioning


At the time I left, out of ~150k employees, only ~300 had worked there longer than me.

Because of the TypeScript work I was also one of ~30 "global approvers", with the access to to approve code changes to any project at the company.

Oof. Google will regret this snafu.

I hope he's happy at his new job.


The fact that a post about leaving Google still makes it HN means that Google still commands attention and respect, especially given that such posts came up once every few months. In contrast, people are not so keen on "Leaving Oracle", "Leaving IBM", or "Leaving Amazon". Sadly, though, every company will eventually get into the latter group, no matter how great it once was.


What an incredibly level-headed write-up.

Imagine working somewhere for 17 years and then facing this:

> The full story is complex but effectively a bureaucratic mistake led to my position falling into question, despite plenty of support for keeping me around from my immediate management chain.

I’ll just go ahead and admit that had this happened to me, I would certainly act a bit more salty over it.


What is he implying here? He was told he could work remotely and then they went back on it?


> my position falling into question

I interpreted it as the powers that be began to question the value of his role/position.


Having worked at Microsoft, I can confidently tell you that a surprising number of people with long (10+) year tenures are sitting around collecting huge salaries and barely contributing. Tenure alone doesn’t make for value, and in fact can sometimes go the other way.

There was a principal engineer on my team who literally played video games all day.

I know the author isn’t in that category at all, but I can imagine that these companies are using the post pandemic time to prune some leeches.


Mirrors my experience. It is almost painful to watch some of these washed-up OG engineers. I worked at a company that followed a similar trajectory to Google (scaled down quite a bit, of course) and there was a special team reserved for those people where they were working on strange and irrelevant problems of their own devising. Presumably to avoid irking any of the hard-driving execs, they reported directly to the CEO. At one point I sat next to them in the office and couldn't help but notice that on any given day there barely was half of them present. I remember thinking that despite them all being filthy rich it was a very unappealing position to end up in.

Another guy I worked directly with. He had at some point a couple hundred reports, but downshifted to an ordinary engineer. I was struck by how profoundly chill and unambitious he was, how indifferent to flaws in his code (entirely lacking any kind of engineer's pride). But at least he was doing honest and useful work.

The stories they tell are golden though.

As an aside, isn't it a strange quirk in our capitalist society that we perceive workers that were vital for early success but then stopped contributing much as "leeches" but early investors who do the same are totally OK and rightfully own their share of the later pie?


> despite them all being filthy rich it was a very unappealing position to end up in

Maybe I am missing something but this sounds quite appealing to me. Sounds like one can chase moonshots , try out crazy ideas without the pressure, scrutiny and inevitable stress of working with the hard-driving execs


It is a strange thing, in theory what you say should be true, but in practice things were quite different. They could chase moonshots and try out crazy ideas but in practice they were working on small inconsequential problems with almost complete lack of energy. In part it was the result of a selection process - those who had energy and ambition had left long ago and those who remained lacked those things. Also I think it is important not to checkout of society (even if it means occasionally dealing with unpleasant people) because very few people can maintain energy and relevance without constant contact with others.


“ As an aside, isn't it a strange quirk in our capitalist society that we perceive workers that were vital for early success but then stopped contributing much as "leeches" but early investors who do the same are totally OK and rightfully own their share of the later pie?”

The distinction here is equity vs payroll. Early investors are paid handsomely in equity. Early employees, typically, are as well, having accumulated stock for a decade plus. However, having early contributors hugely over-impact your payroll isn’t really fair.


That was my interpretation, too. One would think that after 17 years at a company like Google one wouldn't need to have "to prove" himself/herself anymore, crazy.


Unfortunately this is not an isolated case. I have seen it play out way too often with individual contributors (ICs).

I have been in enough promo committees to recognise a pattern.

You have an IC performing perfectly fine, year after year, producing high quality work. After 3rd or 4th year of them staying in a position some senior director raises the inevitable question; "why is this person not being put up for promotion?" which then leads to "why are they not growing".

The person in question is just not interested in growth-treadmill anymore but no, our system won't let them work peacefully. ICs have to either grow or move out. All the while the management layer who create train wreck after train wreck ("bureaucratic mistake" as the author charitably puts it) will seamlessly glide within and between companies.

ICs have to prove relentlessly whereas managers coast along.


Is that the case for seniors, though? I got the impression that once you do move up a bit, the expectation that you have to be growing forever kind of goes away.


In this industry, it never ends.


Xoogler in a throwaway account.

If you look at the linked "my move away from California" post, you'll see that he moved to the Portland, Oregon area during the pandemic.

* EDIT *

He says that he was working out of the Portland office, but the majority of open engineering roles there (not many in total) are very specialized.

My guess is that post-pandemic, now that Google offices will be re-opening, they don't want people spread all over the place, and he wasn't willing to move back to California. While his managers were most likely supportive of him working fully remote, Google isn't very flexible when it comes to fully remote work.


I work at Google's Portland office (well, at least when there's not a pandemic). We're a pretty normal engineering office—although smaller than many, so there are fewer team choices than in larger offices.

Google has become remarkably flexible over the past few months when it comes to fully remote work (see press from May, e.g. https://www.cnn.com/2021/05/05/tech/google-office-remote-wor...). Not quite as flexible as some companies, but it's night-and-day compared to a couple of years ago. The "now that Google offices will be re-opening, they don't want people spread all over the place" conjecture doesn't match what I'm seeing internally; in fact, quite the opposite: there's a much higher acceptance of remote work / "spreading all over the place" than in the past.


> but it's also ultimately not something to be anthropomorphized, but rather a faceless machine that makes often bad decisions that I don't have any real influence over.

Shocking how it can take 17 years to realize that. And it's for a smart person! One really has to congratulate early Google execs for creating this super pervasive myth of genius around what's just another corporation.

Related - Systemantics is not a joke, it's an honest attempt at describing reality: https://mobile.twitter.com/SysQuotes


Boiling frog syndrome. Change can be harder to recognise when you are in it.


The water was always hot. There's no there there, never has been, never will be.

> SYSTEMS DON'T WORK FOR YOU OR FOR ME. THEY WORK FOR THEIR OWN GOALS.

Though you can be sure that in the future many new execs will spin the veil of uniqueness, genius, coolness around something new, something that in reality is as benign as Google - an internet advertising company, a company that maxed out the craft of selling ads. Over and over again. It's a fascinating thing to watch.


> a bureaucratic mistake led to my position falling into question, despite plenty of support for keeping me around from my immediate management chain

That's a hell of a way to lose a 17-year veteran. Wish I could say I'm surprised, but having exited FB due also to a short-sighted bureaucratic decision... such are the policies of a FAANG


Really nice to hear from somebody who stuck with a company for the long haul. I'm trying to do the same thing, and in my agency I've gotten about half as far as you with interesting and challenging projects while maintaining a unique personal life. All the best at Figma and I hope that if you enjoy it enough to stick around you get another great 17 year run :)


Xoogler, left only after 2 years working in IT.

The “different corners” comment hit real hard. Some jobs are great, some are grind work where you have no control over your job, and your opinion matters little. No stock, and ever-reducing our perks to increase support service availability /harder not smarter kind of team (grinding tickets out).

Yes, i’m talking about THE google in mountain view, ca.


Evan is one of the best people I’ve had the pleasure of working with at Google. As his coworker on the TypeScript team he taught us all valuable lessons for dealing with the type of large-scale development needed to maintain the monorepo. Truly a treasure and a sad loss for the team. I wish him nothing but the best wherever he ends up!


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