1M Google Engineer stor

08 March 2023 Alejandro Acosta

1M Google Engineer story

After working for at least a few years in 4 huge software companies, here is the main lesson from each experience.

Amazon: Prioritize or burn out. I learned to prioritize and say no. Each time a manager came with more work, I would show the list of what I was doing and ask for the position of that new item. Always made it clear where was the line of the things I could do.

Microsoft: Tech is not everything. Worked on promising projects that failed miserably in the market, and some didn't even reach the market. Worked on other projects that I couldn't believe were sponsored, and those made it to the short list of products/services with more than $1bi/year revenue.

Facebook: Let the customer decide. Similar to the lesson from Microsoft, but more intense, experimental, and data-driven. The customer may not know what they want or need, and you also don't know. Put the options before the customer, do A/B testing, and look at the results without bias.

Google: It is harder to cancel an ongoing project than to start a new one. Google has had many public failures, mainly in social networking, because once projects are in motion in tech, you have a hard time canceling them and removing the VP, the GMs, the directors, and other high-level personnel. The ICs are easy to convince and move around, but telling all the director+ to seek another project, or leave, takes a lot of courage.

There are some other main lessons across companies:

1) Your manager is more important than the company or project. Had excellent managers at Amazon and terrible managers at Microsoft. Go figure!

2) That fight is not worth it. Be the first to compromise. Know that bug fix, variable name, project design, or any topic that made you debate with a co-worker and both got upset with each other? It is not worth it. Period. In a couple of months, years, or decades, you will laugh at why you even cared.

3) Focus. Make short lists of priorities, not lists with 10+ items. Put your health and family at the top, which already takes 2 positions. Then prioritize aggressively and protect your time. It is the only resource you won't get back!


Being clear: I worked "for at least a few years in 4 huge software companies". It was at least 2 years for each company. It is not "worked on these companies in 4 years" (which would be demand moving fast, at an average of 1 year/company).

TC: >1M (as long a GOOG stock doesn't continue going down!)

YoE: >15 years