On the Google layoffs

I work at Google. This is very definitely my own perspective.

Last night I dreamed I was visiting a far-away corporate office. The campus landscaping was green and precise, the architecture sleek industrial, the cafes full of local delicacies. The office buildings were multi-story, with elevators and tall windows looking out over the city.

It wasn’t anywhere I’ve been; it wasn’t anywhere real. It was many places I’ve been; it was every Google office worldwide.

Before the pandemic, I used to travel for work. Bangalore, Hyderabad, Tokyo, Sydney, Tel Aviv, New York, Seattle, San Diego, Las Vegas, Jakarta, Delhi. I stopped over in Dubai. I never made it to the legendary Zurich office, or Munich or London or Sao Paolo. I hoped to, in future years. I stayed over weekends, saw the cities and nearby places.

I hated jetlag but I loved my time in planes, loved the feeling of slight dislocation that is another part of the world. I loved that feeling paired up with the familiarity of meeting people in person who I’d previously met on video. I loved going out to dinner with teammates, loved the blur of personality with work projects, the way we all shifted focus after-hours. I still remember one New York trip where a quiet guy from another office, after a couple of cocktails at about the most New-York-feeling cocktail bar I can imagine, said simply: “what I love about business trips is you can work and drink as much as you want.” The rest of us raised our glasses.

On January 20, 2023, Google announced layoffs. It wasn’t just an announcement: thousands of people in the US abruptly lost access to internal systems, email, chat, their connection to this world we were all part of, this world we’d been creating for the last however-many years. Outside the US, the scope and reach remains unknown.

I wasn’t laid off, but my professional profile looks enough like those of people who were that I’m surprised.

I’ve worked at Google since 2003. Nineteen years, going on twenty. I’ve held eight or ten or a dozen different roles, and I’ve always tried to keep my sense of identity separate from work, but nineteen years is a long time. Google – the people, the offices, the sense of possibility – became a place I could trust, a place I could be.

Last night, I dreamed I was visiting a far-away corporate office. The office I dreamed of doesn’t exist, but it felt like many offices I’ve visited over the years: familiar and slightly dislocated, both at the same time.

It felt familiar, and yet it wasn’t. The cafes ran out of food just as I approached. The bathrooms were located at the ends of long hallways, and closed or full or simply unusable when I got there. The signs pointing to elevators led to dead ends instead.

I ran through hallways I thought I knew, but there was nothing there to find.

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