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Free at Last

centaur 1

SO! After 17 years at the Google, my last day – finally, my actual last day – was yesterday, March 31st, 2023. They cut off my access January 20th, but out of respect for their employees (and the media, and the law) they gave us a generous +60 day notice period, which ran out yesterday.

I don’t regret the time I spent at Google – well, at least not most of it. I learned so much and made so many friends and did so many things – and, frankly speaking, the pay, food and healthcare were quite good. On the one hand, I do think I probably should have taken that job as director of search at a startup back in ~2010; it would have forced me to grow and challenged my assumptions and given me a lot of leadership experience which would have helped my career. But, if I’d done that, I wouldn’t have transitioned over to robotics, which is now my principal career; so perhaps it’s good I didn’t pull on the thread of that tapestry.

But I do regret not being able to code on my own. Virtually everything I could have worked on was technically owned by Google, and if I wanted to open source it, I would need to submit it for invention review – with the chance that they would say no. For a while, you couldn’t even work on a game at all if you worked at Google, as Google saw this as a threat to their business model of, ya know, not making games; eventually they realized that was silly, but still, I couldn’t take the risk of pouring my heart into something that then Google would claim ownership of.

So no code for you. Or me either.

I know people who built successful businesses as side hustles. While that’s efficient, it isn’t effective: it leaves you vulnerable to being sued by your employer, or fired by your employer, or both. You can do it, of course, but you’re reducing your chance of success in exchange for speed; whereas I like to maximize the chance of success – which requires speed, of course, but not so much you’re taking on unnecessary risk. So, for maximum cleanliness, it’s best to do things fresh from first principles after you leave.

Which is what I’m going to do now. I don’t precisely know what I am going to do, but I do think one useful exercise would be to download all the social navigation benchmarks I’ve been researching for the Principles and Guidelines benchmark paper, and see how they work and what they can do. Some of the software has … ahem … gone stale, but this will be a good exercise for me to test my debugging chops, honed at Google, on external software outside of the “Google3” environment.

Wish me luck!

-the Centaur

Pictured: Fulfilling a missing install for the package gym-collision-avoidance; given that I’d done a lot of command line development recently for a Stanford class, I think the issue here might have been some missing setup step when I moved to my new laptop, as I’m sure this would have come up before.

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