Ad Astra Per Aspera

Posted on 4 December, 2008 at 5:00am

For those readers who might not know me well, I am a webmaster at Google. Over the past six months I’ve been serving as the consumer web lead, which means I oversee a small group of webmasters who work on the consumer-facing products. We do design, production and maintenance of things like landing pages and help centers.

It was almost two years ago that I joined the company. In that two years I learned more than I ever could have thought possible, met some truly exceptional people, and discovered something exceptional within myself. I can’t do justice to the experiences that I had there in words, so I’m not going to try. It is a truly unique place.

And today I filed my notice.

You may think I’m crazy. I even think I’m crazy sometimes. But this is about a lot more than the work, the company or even whether or not I was happy there. One of the things they ask you to do when you become a manager is to define and write down your “core values” so they can inform the decisions you make. Six months ago I didn’t have any core values. I couldn’t have picked out a core value in a lineup.

It was in thinking about what’s important to me that I realized my situation at Google was unsustainable. I may have been comfortable there, but I’m idealistic and ambitious and I needed to move on. I often wonder how long I can hang on to this particular brand of naïveté, but it’s one of the things I treasure about myself and I will keep it as long as I can.

These are the things I stand for.

  1. Nothing is impossible. Even unbreakable rules can bend.
  2. It makes no difference if it’s magic or sleight-of-hand as long as you can still perform the trick.
  3. You owe it to yourself to believe in what you do.
  4. Aspire to be bigger than you are. You can’t do it without honesty and courage.
  5. Love the people, not the brand. Even large organizations have a soul, you just have to find it.

I want to have a reason to try something new. I want to work with people who might not have much more than heart and good ideas. I want to help independents and small businesses and open source projects. I want to follow what inspires me. These are just a few of the reasons I’ve decided to leave and strike out on my own.

I am as much scared as exhilarated. I don’t know what’s waiting for me out there. But I’d never forgive myself if I didn’t try. Which brings me to my final “core value.”

6. You can’t fly if you don’t jump.

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The Discussion

16 Comments on “Ad Astra Per Aspera”
  • I like your “core-values”. Defining my core values got me to move to SF a year ago. Congrats from a stranger on twitter.

  • Congratulations and good luck to you! Your post reminded me of one of my own. It’s long, and positive, so you just might find some inspiring messages within ;)

  • All the best for the road ahead Anne. We’ll be seeing many beautiful things from you yet.

  • Congratulations! I have no doubt you’ll work hard and find great stuff to work on and great people to work with.

  • As a “day job dropout” I know there’s a lot of risks, but there’s also a lot more opportunity! Congratulations and best wishes in your independent work!

  • Congratulations, and good luck! Looking forward to seeing what you end up working on. For what it’s worth, I have no doubt you’ll be able to hang on to your “naïveté” for quite a long time, so don’t worry too much about that. The fact that you’re thinking about it shows that it’ll be serving you well for awhile.

  • Cool; best of luck…having a bum day and I knew reading my Twitter would be cheerful somehow; very good to see someone taking a considered leap of faith…take the very solid things you stand for as a foundation of granite/iron and have a blast.

  • Awesome! Much encouragement to you. I love your core values. I think they’re inspiring me to come up with some of my own.

  • Anne,

    congratulations to you for not being afraid and doing what you want. I’ve had a few “I wouldn’t forgive myself if I didn’t try” moments recently, too – both in my personal life and in my career, and so far (*knocksonwood*) they’ve all turned out really, really great.

    I’m looking forward to hear what Life After Google (Can we abbreviate that as LAG? Why not?) holds in store for you.

    All the best,

  • Great blog posting, Anne! I agree with the other comments that your approach has encouraged me to come up with my own list of values. These are difficult times, but this also a time of opportunity. Grab that brass ring! Good luck with this new phase of your life.

  • Oh god, I just re-read this to Tom, and now I’m crying. So well written, and such a good reason to move on.

  • i get it now! i’ve been thinking about this a lot lately, too — your post is inspiring :)

  • Not sure that any organization has a soul…they care about one thing and one thing only: making money. And they don’t care who ultimately gets run over in that process…and to make money, people think they need lots of power…and you learned that at Google…and didn’t like what you saw…

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