Nuggets of wisdom from a sad set of goodbyes

After a year and a half with an amazing group of people (half of which was post-acquisition), I recently gave notice and left what had been my first job out of school. Before  I emailed the entire team, I pulled some of the engineers aside to talk one on one about why I was leaving and how they felt about the direction the team and product was going.

It turned out to be a great decision to talk to my team members individually - people were able to be more candid about their opinions, and were also able to give advice more freely, knowing the context in which it was being given. What was also interesting was the range of opinions - some people were stoked for me and were privately envious; some were a little more disappointed by my impatience. After the first couple of conversations, I realized I’d be letting a lot of wisdom vanish into the ether (my brain) if I didn’t write them down. So, below are some of the most memorable sound bytes from my conversations:

“In the end, a startup is a business - and businesses succeed based on connections. You can write impeccable code, do lots of user testing, but in the end if you can’t sell your ideas, you can’t sell your product, then you’re sunk.”

“User testing is sort of a startup myth - [people think that if] you have a great idea, do lots of user testing, code it up, and you’ll be successful.” (not sure what the context of that was)

“The difference, I suppose, between doing something new outside Google is that if you don’t make it, you die. Here, if you don’t make it… you can come back tomorrow and complain about it.”

“You’ll have constraints anywhere. You say that within Google, there are frustrating constraints in the building of the product, but you also have all the building blocks that help you get past other constraints further on. Go talk to investors and see what sorts of constraints THEY place on you”

“[In the future], you should make an effort early on to be transparent with your managers if you’re dissatisfied… to see what they can do about it.” (In my defense, I had. There was little anyone on my team could have done.)

“We’ve sort of had our souls sucked out here, haven’t we?”

For a couple of the later conversations, when people asked me where I was headed next, I tried to answer, “Facebook.” I couldn’t last a second before bursting out laughing. One big reason I’m leaving is probably best described at the bottom of this article (headline: “One in Five Facebook Employees Has No Imagination Whatsoever”): “[A startup is] a different kind of fun, feeling like the whole place would keel over if you didn’t do your part.”

While it’s a little terrifying and definitely a bummer that I’ll no longer work every day with that particular extraordinarily talented team, I’m eagerly looking forward to the lessons I’ll learn on my own (trying to prevent everything from keeling over!)

Let me know what you think on Twitter.