In April 2015, after 4.5 years of working for Google, I decided it was time for a change. I had been part of the International Product Partnerships team (which does business development for a number of Google products), and spent my time building relationships with books publishers in mostly German speaking countries. When I joined Google, the product I worked on was Google Book Search, which was part of Google’s effort to digitize the world’s information and make it searchable and universally accessible. In late 2010, we launched the first version of Google eBooks, a commercial extension of this original idea which finally allowed users to purchase titles that they had found via our web search not only in physical, but also in electronic format. In the coming years, this product was merged with Google Play, and subsequently formed one of several verticals offering digital content to Android users - similar to iTunes’ offering for Apple users.
While Google is an incredible company to work for, it is also a life in golden handcuffs. The food is amazing, the perks are incredible (free massages, beautiful offices, free gym, talks, lectures, etc.), and compared to the industry standard we’re really well paid. Add to that colleagues who are all in a similar age range and many of which have become friends over time, it’s really hard to imagine a life “out there”, without Google. However, at least for me, there was this nagging feeling that I wasn’t stretching myself enough, and that I was becoming complacent and not learning as fast as as much as I should have done. Looking for new challenges within Google proved difficult, at least if you’re not looking to become a cog in the sales engine or do not have an engineering background that would open the doors to one of the famed “moonshots” - really exciting projects that a chosen few of the Google population are allowed to work on and which the rest of us gets to hear about once every six months when they are celebrated at our weekly global TGIFs. Here, Larry and Sergey, resembling a nerdy version of the comical duo Laurel and Hardy, open the stage for teams to present their work in a meeting that is broadcast around the globe. And while I’ve always left those TGIF streamings feeling inspired and grateful to be working for a company with great ambition, I also felt that I myself wasn’t actually contributing to move the world forward in the grand scheme of things. Once you’ve launched the x-th “Books on Google Play” store in yet a new country, you know how things are run and you begin to wonder whether another thousand books online will really make a difference - to anyone.
So, having come to that point in my thoughts and being faced with the dilemma of having a job that other people would kill for, I decided it was time for a radical cut. A cut, because from within Google many other options look “not quite great enough”, and because your priorities begin to shift in weird ways - you start evaluating other jobs by the stylishness of the work space, and by how delicious their canteen might be. Actually, leaving Google feels a bit like leaving the perfect boyfriend: smart, loving, good-looking, with a great job and a stylish aparment. Everyone tells you how lucky you are to have him, but deep down you know that things aren't how they used to be, and that it's time to move on.
In April of 2015, I coincidentally listened to this podcast by Tim Ferriss (in the foreword of which he, ironically, warns his listeners that it might cause them to quit their job) and decided that the time was now right to leave my cushy position and apartment behind and go travelling for at least six months. One week later, I handed in my 3-months notice in line with German law, and in the following weeks informed friends and family of my plan, cancelled the lease for my apartment, sold lots of stuff on Ebay, shipped the remaining items to my grandmother’s house in Munich, and handed in my Google badge.
Since July 29th I’ve been on the road. I’m taking the trans-mongolian railway from Russia via Mongolia to China, will then spend some time in South Korea and Japan before flying to the US for Burning Man festival in Nevada and visiting friends and potential future colleagues in the Bay Area. October, November, December I’ll spend in Costa Rica & Nicaragua as an Expedition Manager for Raleigh International’s autumn expedition in the region. I’m planning to be in Argentina for Christmas and Brazil for New Years Eve. Beyond that, it’s open to inspiration. That's part of why I'm travelling after all - to open my mind to new ideas.