Here’s the real reason people keep working at Google

Opportunity is the best way to retain people.
Opportunity is the best way to retain people.
Image: Reuters/Mark Blinch
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An ex-Google lawyer who’s now general counsel at Pinterest named Michael Yang constantly gets asked by former colleagues if they should leave Google. So he wrote a catch-all guide on Medium to the question. It’s not just the salary that’s a reason to stay, though Yang notes that anyone leaving the Googleplex behind should expect to make substantially less.

“You are paid a ridiculous amount of money. You will make even more the longer you stay at Google,” Yang writes. “Among other things, this money makes opportunities available to your loved ones and can be used as a force for good in the world.”

The real reason to stay is because there’s a unique range of opportunity and ability to learn, Yang explains:

“There’s the sheer scope and impact of the company’s products, the immediately global nature of most issues, the level of scrutiny applied to the company, the willingness to stake out a position on what the law should be (and power to influence it), and the risk tolerance. There’s internet law, of course. Hardware? Yep. German/Brazilian/Korean/Indian/Pakistani/[insert country here] law? All of the above. Cars, planes, satellites, robots, thermostats, microbes? Got those too. Multi-billion dollar acquisition with one week’s notice? Every month. Want to help manage an international incident? It’s just a matter of time. If you can’t find something to learn at Google, you just aren’t looking.”

Of course, at the end of the day Yang himself left, and he’s happy with the decision.

His advice is to leave for the right reason, as many don’t. Not because a flattering company started recruiting you, or because the startup life is glamorous. It’s not, Yang says, and the highly unlikely potential bumper of a pay day from a startup definitely isn’t worth the agitation of the inevitable struggles of a new company, if money is the priority.

The right reason to leave Google, Yang says, is if there’s a company out there that you won’t regret going to even if they flame out.