I had no plans after I left Google but I knew it was the right thing for me to do. I love change and hate getting comfortable with things. I wasn’t really interested in other big companies like Microsoft or Samsung. Even though they are also working on some awesome projects, they were out of the question because I knew they would have similar experiences to Google. Did I want to join a well established startup like Uber or Airbnb? Maybe a slightly smaller startup where I would still work with a team of designers like Snapchat? If I wanted to try something completely new, I did have the option of joining very early stage startups as the first designer. I could even work on one of my own ideas and start a new startup from scratch. I know a lot of people, especially ones new to the industry or in the job search in general struggle through decisions like these. Let’s look at what was going through my mind during these few months and how I decided where to go based on advice from mentors as well as my own gut feelings, and maybe what I learned through my experience can help you with yours.
I spent the next couple of months doing freelance and side projects. In the meantime, I also started researching and being more active in the startup space. I pinged some friends at different places like Snapchat and Uber and some smaller startups, getting coffee and trying to squeeze out any information about what people were working on. I cold emailed, tweeted, and LinkedIn messaged designers and recruiters at places where I didn’t know people. I didn’t get a reply from a couple of them but most of them replied back, some even meeting up with me. Reach out to people you are genuinely interested in meeting. At the very worst, I met some awesome people and learned about the cool things they are working on. I created a spreadsheet on all the places I was talking to, writing notes about how I felt about each or what the team was like. I made sure to document what each meeting or interview was like and what the next step was for each one. After a couple months of coffees and lunches, I started narrowing down my options based on some different factors.
One of the downsides about not working at Google anymore was the loss of the company shuttles. Now I had to actually think and plan out my commute. I live in San Jose so I was hoping that I would find somewhere that was located in the South Bay. I don’t own a car so I decided on using a carpool app like Scoop. A lot of the startups I was talking to were in the city too so relocating to San Francisco also an option. Money wasn’t a biggest concern. Unless it put me into another level of lifestyle, I wasn’t paying attention to it at all.
I believe the most important aspect of your work is passion. You need to really want to do something to do it well. I wrote an article a few months ago about areas in technology that interest me today. I wanted to make sure I was going to spend my time on one of these areas. I also wanted to work on problems that were meaningful to me and that made me feel like I was actually making impact in the world. This was my main priority. The team was another big part. I knew that I wanted people to learn from so maybe starting something completely new with a bunch of homies would give me opportunities to make mistakes but I wouldn’t be learning from experienced people.
I made my decision based on long term goals. I want to start my own serious startup in the next couple of years but not one with just a bunch of bros in a basement. I had to learn what it was like to work on something serious and meaningful. I wanted to work with people who knew what they were doing, but at the same time, without the structure and comfort of an established company. Finding the balance between ownership and mentorship became a top priority. After narrowing it down to my top five places, I noticed that they were all very early stage startups with no more than 10 people where I would come in as one of the first or the very first designer. All of them were very similar in terms of salary, risk, and culture. The only thing different is the actual work, the products they were working on. So I asked myself questions like “What kinds of problems do I want to solve?” and “What kinds of users do I want to solve for?”.
After spending a couple weeks thinking about my options, I ended up deciding to join a stealth startup being created by Andy Rubin, incubated at Playground Global. After being here for a few months now, I can definitely say I made a great decision. This is the perfect transition from a place like Google to the startup world. I joined as the first User Experience Designer and I get to work with a team of the industry’s smartest and most talented people. I can’t go into detail about what we’re doing until we are launched but I’m very excited about it. Stay tuned!
Even though Google was a safe place that was my dream job just a few years ago, I had to think about my own goals. Don’t worry about impressing your parents or friends, think about what makes you happy. Every year, I write down my goals and keep organized documents of what I’ve done and what I’m planning to do. Being able to see what I want in front of me rather than just in my mind helps out so much. This new year is a good time for you to really think about your short term and long term goals. Think about what they are and try writing them down! Let me know how it works for you!