4891, it’s a number that I’ll remember forever. Despite being odd, it’s one that represents something fairly important… at least to me. It was the number of days that I was an employee of Google / Alphabet. This past Friday I handed in my badge, my laptop, and I walked out the door one last time.
I joined Google in 2006 as a member of its now infamous Information Security Engineering team. I ended up working on so many interesting projects that it’s impossible to list all of them here. From founding the peerless Threat Analysis Group in 2010, to playing a hand in the creation of Project Zero, to co-founding the Alphabet cybersecurity company Chronicle in 2015, my journey has been ripe with opportunities and challenges. Many of them I would have never imagined when I was sitting in my Noogler orientation class so many years ago.
The last 13 years have been a journey of growth and development. I wish I could give the 2006 version of me advice and guidance, but the obstacles I tripped over, and the embarrassingly bountiful mistakes I made, have forged me a unique perspective that I treasure today.
Without a doubt, the highlight of my time, was co-founding Chronicle. Taking the germ of an insight, from idea, to team, to product, and finally into the hands of customers was incredibly rewarding and humbling.
Chronicle had one of the most healthy and vibrant corporate cultures I could imagine. Things were never perfect, but that’s important! Diversity and tension, in a trust-filled environment, are fuel for innovation. Simon Sinek, a hero of mine, described the “Foxhole Test” in one of his books. It’s simple, “Would I want to be in a foxhole with you?” When it came to the Chronicle team, my answer was always ’yes’. Composing our team with people who met that high bar was our organizational rocket fuel.
When we started out, before Chronicle had that name, we were known within X as Project Lantern. During one of the first organizational meetings for Lantern, I wrote a guiding principle on a post-it and put it inside one of my notebooks. While packing my belongings this week, it fell out on the floor and I saw my own illegible handwriting staring back up at me: “We believe smart creative people, who have a drive to improve the status quo, are vital to the long term success of Lantern.” This is something I’ll refer to time and time again in the future, because at the end of the day, it’s not technology, or perks, or even executive leadership that make something great. It’s always great people who make great things.
Chronicle is in good hands with the brilliant folks at GCP, and I hope to see amazing things continue to happen. I may not be a custodian of it anymore, but I sincerely want to see it thrive! We had only just started to scratch the surface of what could be, and the future potential is so very high.
As for me? I’ve tasted a different paradigm of efficiency, accountability, and drive. I’m infected with the desire to work with small teams, at a scale and stage where everyone has cross-functional impact, where ladders and levels are irrelevant, and titles are no more verbose than ‘engineer’. I want our successes to be measured by building and sustaining thriving products, not by committees and rubrics. In other words, I want to be foolish enough to see new opportunities, and courageous enough to pursue them.
What’s next? Well, that’s easy, “Second star to the right, and straight on ‘til morning.”