FAQ on leaving Google

This is the personal blog of Ben Collins-Sussman.

Context: When I was laid off from Google, I knew I'd be deluged with questions. I wrote this FAQ to share with friends and family, to prevent repeated explanation. But my other goal was to help so many of my co-workers process and understand the repeated waves of mass layoffs.

What happened?

Google just did another big round of layoffs. I was part of them, along with hundreds of others. Many of us had long tenure or seniority; my run was 18 years!

Oh no! But why were you targeted?

I wasn’t personally targeted, I didn’t mess up. In fact these layoffs were extremely impersonal. Google seems to be carrying out generic initiatives to save operational cost. I was an Engineering Director with “only” 35 reports (rather than a typical 80+ people), and so it’s likely that some heuristic decided that the business could do fine without me.

This is unfair! After all you’ve done, how could Google do this to you?

Please understand: Google is not a person. It’s many groups of people following locally-varying processes, rules, and culture. To that end, it makes no sense to either love or be angry at “Google”; it’s not a consciousness, and it has no sense of duty nor debt.

Are you OK? I’m so sorry! How are you coping?

I’m fine. :-) Google culture changed dramatically last year with its first major round of layoffs, and I saw the writing on the wall. I’ve been preparing myself for this (increasingly inevitable) event for months now – which included plenty of time for all the stages of grief. If anything, I have a mixed set of emotions:

What happens next?

I’ve seen long-tenured leaders exit Google and go into an identity crisis; that’s not me. :-)

I have a zillion hobbies and shadow careers – plenty of things to do and paths to follow. The first order of business, however, is probably a long-overdue sabbatical. After 25+ years in tech, I need a few months to rest and recover!

I’ll soon publish a couple of ‘post-mortem’ stories. The first will be about my own career at Google, and the second will be about how I’ve seen Google culture change over time.

image: the first three software engineers at Google Chicago, 2006

the first three software engineers at Google Chicago,

published January 10, 2024