Privilege

Posted in Thoughts

As an ex-Googler myself, I started reading this piece on another Googler’s decision to leave with an eye towards its current problems and how a company renown for its freeform engineering culture is balancing that responsibility while streamlining product execution. Seeing that Google made the news recently for having one of the shortest employee tenures of Fortune 500 corporations, I was looking for an update in my former colleagues’ work environment.

Narcissism aside, I found it very difficult to relate and empathize with her, and it took a bit of thinking to narrow the reason: I was ultimately struck by how privileged the author was in charting her life up to that point and how her decisions continue from privilege.

First, I applaud her choice to work for Google out of school, even if it’s currently not the most popular path to industry for programming geeks. Starting your career with a six-figure salary, ample benefits and the chance with great people is an opportunity that few college grads have; not just because of the high hiring bar, but because companies are selective about which schools they recruit from, and you’re still more likely to get noticed as a graduate from a top school.

With a job at Google, money becomes less of an issue. With our post-housing-bust, underemployed youth population struggling to pay off student debts and rent, saving enough to not have to work and be able live comfortably in your 20s is increasingly rare. Modern life has relegated our 20s to thrift and entry-level work coupled with crushing educational debt, and along with the aforementioned preference for expensive colleges, make the entry and subsequent exit to an employer like Google available only to the 0.01%.

This is punctuated by the fact that it’s, well, Google[1]. If this was the story of a trust fund baby going on a journey of self-discovery and enlightenment, it’d be easier to dismiss, but because the author is associated with the premiere web company of the past decade, it receives extra cachet and attention[2]. More than blog posts and link bait, though, there are real-world consequences, in career and network doors that open slightly wider when your resume shows a stint at the big G, plus a puzzling fascination (that spawned a movie, no less) with its cultural innards. More than just money, being an ex-Googler brings recognition and credibility, most of it undeserved.

Footnotes    (↑ returns to text)

  1. Indeed, my first post on this blog was circulated mostly because it talked about interviews at Google.
  2. And I caught myself; the original title for this piece was “Googler Privilege”.
  • Developer Dude

    Privilege?

    Maybe. Maybe it is just opportunity that she made for herself.

    Either way, as someone who closer to the end of his career than at the beginning, I can say that early on is probably the time to do such soul searching about what you want to do with the rest of your life, and not after 20 to 40 years of working only to realize that you hated every minute of it.

    I switched careers a number of times – military, diesel mech., electronics tech and then s/w developer. I also got two different degrees. Some people thought I was lazy/crazy/etc. at first, but like Ellen, I decided being making these decisions for my own satisfaction was more important than doing them to please others expectations. I think that is the core of what she was getting at.

    Good for her.

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