A job at Google is so widely coveted that how-to books have been written about landing one, yet Gabor Cselle last week up and walked away from a good gig there ... for the third time in eight years.
His reason for the latest departure, which I am stripping of its important context for now, boils down to this: He'd rather "make things that people want" than "make things that Larry wants." Larry being Google CEO Larry Page, of course.
Before we get to that context, take a look at the 32-year-old's career path: In 2004, he interned at Google, working on Gmail, and apparently could have stayed on but chose not to. In 2006, Google hired him as a software engineer, but he left after six months to become VP of engineering at Xobni, where he toiled a year-and-a-half before leaving in 2008 to found reMail, a YCombinator-funded startup that scored a hit with an iPhone app.
In February 2010, Google acquired reMail, which landed Cselle back in the world of Gmail as a product manager. Last week, after what looks to have been a career-long 27-month stint, he announced in a blog post that he's leaving Google to start another company, which prompted YCombinator partner and Gmail creator Paul Buchheit to quip on Hacker News: "Again :)."
I sent Cselle an email asking, in effect, why he's always seemed to be in such a hurry to leave such a desirable workplace. His full reply:
Here's what it boils down to:
The Google is the best big company you can work at, but it is a big company. Aside from a few pockets inside of Google, it's hard to work at startup speed.
YCombinator's motto is "Make something people want." At Google, it's "Make something Larry wants." The good news for Google is that Larry is an excellent product guy and is right most of the time. At a startup, you're working on your own dream. It's incredibly hard work but I'm good at it - partially because of the things I learned at Google.
There are brilliant people at Google who are performing far below what they're actually capable of. These are some of the brightest people of our generation who are now working on a little piece of the Google empire - they are not living up to their full potential. I didn't want to be one of them.
One more thing about Cselle's latest departure from Google: He says he doesn't yet know what his new company will do.
I'm guessing it'll be something that Google will buy in a couple of years.
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