Eight years @ Google, and 10 reasons why I still love working...

Eight years @ Google, and 10 reasons why I still love working here. | by Jason Toff, Group Product Manager, Google Virtual Reality


Jason Toff.
Jason Toff, Virtual Reality @ Google. Formerly GM @ Vine, Director of Product @ Twitter, and Product Manager @ YouTube.

Exactly eight years ago today was my first day working at Google. I never would have imagined I’d be working here so many years later. In fact, I remember the decision of whether to work at Google vs. McKinsey feeling like the hardest of my life. Fellow Wharton grads were confused when they heard I had a McKinsey offer but wasn’t going to work there. And personally, I was concerned that Google might have reached its peak: it had Search, Gmail, Maps, YouTube — what more could it do?

But eight years later, I’m so happy with that decision and to be back at such an amazing company after a two-year hiatus. It’s hard to fully put into words why, but on this anniversary I feel compelled to at least try.

At Google…

  1. Age and seniority don’t matter. I still remember meeting with an engineer in my first month who had written Google Earth for iOS and had worked at Apple for over a decade. I was in awe and left the meeting genuinely confused by how much he treated me as a peer, despite being less than half his age.
  2. You work not only with some of the smartest people in the world, but some of the nicest. Upon returning to Google earlier this year, my desk ended up being next to Brian Kernighan. At 74 years old, he’s a bit older than your typical Googler. I met the guy and was struck by how kind he was. Only later did I learn that he helped invent the C programming language!
  3. The user comes first. Be it at Chrome, Gmail, YouTube, or VR —the assumption has always been to put the user first, before the business. I recall managing a product at YouTube called AudioSwap that made a nontrivial amount of money (many, many times my salary!), and then proposing creating the YouTube Audio Library, which would give away royalty-free music and sfx for free. While great for users, this would cannibalize the other product’s revenue. There was no hesitation whatsoever from leadership to do so.
  4. Engineers are king. As they should be! Engineers are the most important people at a tech company, and Google knows it. Because of this, Google can attract and retain some of the best engineers in the world. And boy do I feel lucky working alongside them.
  5. There’s a respect for your personal life. Aside from the generous vacation, paternal leave policies, and work perks, did you know that if a Googler dies, all of their stock vests immediately, their spouse or domestic partner receives 50% of their salary every year for 10 years, and each of their children receive $1,000 per month until the age of 19 (or 23 if they go to college)? And that policy holds if that person has worked at Google 10 years or 10 days. Crazy.
  6. Having fun is encouraged. What other company would release revolutionary artificial intelligence technology and call it Parsey McParseface? Or staff such a large team focused on doodling?
  7. You meet amazing life mentors. I’ve met some of the best mentors in my life at Google — people who looked out for me ahead of the interests of the company and who continue to help me today. People like Eric, Ryan, grex, Arielle, Noam, Hunter, Shiva, Shishir, and Clay — and many more!
  8. There’s a bias to yes. I’ve been continually impressed by how much Googlers I’ve never met are willing to help. As a recent example, I thought, “Wouldn’t it be cool if there was a Virtual Reality room open to all NYC employees?” I emailed the head of NYC workplace, and a few weeks later, a shared VR room appeared.
  9. You’re encouraged to think big. Really big. Even if that means you might fail. Larry famously pushes Googlers to think about moon shots — about 10x instead of +10%.
  10. There’s an understanding that happy employees do better work. Skeptics will say that all the perks, e.g. free meals, are solely ways to get people to stay at work longer. But my experience (and the plentiful to-go containers) suggest otherwise. Well-fed employees are happier employees. And happiness can be contagious. Google gets this.

I could go on and on, but I’ll stop there. Suffice it to say I’m extremely thankful to the powers that be for making such a marvelous company.

Now off to “work”!




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