Ten Years

It’s been ten years since I started at Google. The work anniversary fell on 6th of December.

Ten years ago my wife and I made our way to Mountain View for my orientation; all excited for a brand new chapter in our lives. After spending a week in Mountain View / Palo Alto we both decided that California was not for us. But that’s beside the point.

I was elated. This was pretty much everything I dreamt of as a kid growing up in Sri Lanka. Except those days we dreamt of someday working for Microsoft or starting our own software company.

One afternoon during orientation – maybe it was the evening, I don’t remember – I was walking by a bunch of outdoor tables next to one of the larger café’s at the Google HQ. As I walked by I overheard a Googler on the phone telling someone how they just had a really shitty day. I remember being confused. How could someone have a bad day at Google? Inconceivable.

Obviously this feeling didn’t last. People normalize things quickly. The problem with achieving your dreams is that now you have to make more; an eternal treadmill. It’s nice to periodically look back though. The novelty isn’t there anymore, but it’s humbling to recall how much we dreamt for the things that we now take for granted.

Looking back at the last years, the things that I’m really proud of aren’t my code contributions. If any aren’t already obsolete then by now it’s become some legacy crap that some engineer has to maintain.

But the things that I really remember are the three times I talked hiring committees into hiring someone they had decided not to hire. Those were good candidates whom I thought didn’t get a fair shake.

Also I clearly remember the smart people who acknowledged and appreciated my work. I also remember the ones that took credit for my work or didn’t treat me with dignity, but I don’t think about them that often.

I remember the big projects that I initiated, the big ideas I sold, and the ones I managed to pull off.

Then there are the low points. Moments when I let people down or burned a bridge or two for the wrong reasons.

But overall, looking back there isn’t much there. It’s surprising how little really matters in the long run.

I should remember that the next time I feel like staying up late trying to get something done because I feel some sort of obligation or bigger purpose in doing it. Often there is none.