Well, that was fun.

Apparently, the understated Edmund Hillary’s first words upon reaching camp after he and Tenzing Norgay summited Everest were “Well, George, we knocked that bastard off.” Made it sound casual, making light of the enormous institutional preparation and effort that went into the expedition. Four hundred men and ten thousand pounds of equipment hauled up to successive stages of the mountain. Climbers were paired into teams establishing camps higher and higher along the route: Bourdillon and Evans, Ward and Wylie, Noyce and Annulli (younger brother of Tenzing Norgay). And, of course, Hillary and Norgay. Bourdillon and Evans were tasked with making the first summit attempt, and made it to the South Summit, just 300’ shy of the mountain’s final peak. But they encountered problems with their oxygen system and (wisely) turned back, leaving the next attempt to the next team up on the expedition roster. The rest is history, but the point here is that it wasn’t just Hillary and Norgay heading out saying “Let’s climb the damned thing”. His casual remark of having “knocked that bastard off” was an elegant understatement of the magnitude of what they’d just done.

So, in the spirit of of Hillary’s proclamation, let me try an understatement of my own, with respect to the ten years, seven months and fifteen days (plus one hour and 25 minutes, if you have to know) I’ve spent as a software engineer, research scientist, tech lead and Instigator at Large with Google: “Well, that was fun. Now on the the next thing.”

Yeah, it’s been a while. When I joined, back in 2002, I was in my 30’s – now I’m 50. When I joined, Google was a scrappy startup of about 450 people – now we’re a global, yes global powerhouse upwards of 70,000. It’s still an amazing, addictive place to be a part of; living inside Willie Wonka’s Chocolate Factory for over a decade, it doesn’t surprise me that of those original 450, almost half are still with the company.

But it’s time. Google’s changed, but I’ve changed, too. Think about the changes, the growth, of ten years’ time: that’s the same time it took to go from high school senior to Dr. David Cohn, visiting professor*, and all the lives and stories and travels in between. With luck, there are plenty more decades to come, and that’s room for many more changes. When you’ve finished high school, finished college, and learned what you could from them, it’s time to move on. And well, it’s time.

First: the question everyone asks: no, I have no idea. The current plan is to not have any plans, at least not for a little while. Not until I’ve had the chance to be away from things for a while, until I’ve had a chance to let the noise settle and tune into whatever faint sounds have been getting drowned out for all these years. My tenure at Google has given us the breathing space to take that time and, with Devon’s support, I intend to take it. Clearly, there’ll be some writing involved – maybe I’ll finally even write that book. But no promises. I’ve spent the last decade sleeping with my ear to the heart of the Great Machine, tending it as it grew and flourished into something wonderful (and occasionally terrifying). Honestly, Google doesn’t need me anymore; there are better, and more important things I can do with the rest of the time I have on this planet. And I intend to find out what they are.

*(Yeah, it’s a little stretch, but when I took the summer off after my Ph.D., prior to heading to MIT for my post-doc, the University of Oregon granted me “visiting professor”, and I even co-advised a couple of students.)

original badge issued to me on Oct 24, 2002, next to the "new improved" security badge that we were given a few years ago

Original one-sided Google badge issued to me on Oct 24, 2002, next to the “new improved” holographic security badge that we were given a few years ago.

22 responses to “Well, that was fun.

  1. Good luck with your next adventure David. Be happy, joyous and free whatever eventuates as your dream run continues.

    Mary and Bob White (Adelaide).


  2. Pablo, good for you. I support you 100%. I did the same thing, left a job of 20 years not knowing – having no idea what I would do – but knowing I have another 20 in me, at least. My spiritual mentor said, “Do not make anything up! Have patience, God will provide.” This has certainly been true for me, and my blessings go with you as you begin your next 20…


  3. OK, there’s a room in your domicile that you probably haven’t used in a decade. It’s called a “kitchen”, and there are machines in there that keep food cold and then heat it up when you’re ready to eat it….Seriously, good luck in your post-Google life.


  4. Congratulations! I wish I had something more profound to write, perhaps some really awesome advice, but I don’t. Best of luck as you transition to the “next” chapter of your life.


  5. I hope your next adventure is just as amazing as this one was! Whether it’s some time off to write and relax, or back to the Ice, or off to another awesome job in the Bay Area, I’m sure you’re going to have a fantastic time.


  6. Oh my. Even at my distance, this feels a bit like the end of an era — and definitely like the start of a new one. May you flourish in your next chapter!


  7. WOW! that’s news.
    on behalf of all the family in the kibbutz, I wish you all the best. we will be waiting to hear about your new adventures and new ideas.


  8. Godspeed and farewell Pablo. I hope our paths cross again in the future. I tried to model myself on your instigator-style Googliness, and I look forward to reading your next great flight of adventure.



    • Aw – thanks! Your instigation of bringing remarkable people to Google is one of the things that makes the company so remarkable. Thanks to you, I got to meet Tom Wolfe, Neil Gaiman, Chesley Sullenberger, and dozens of others.


  9. but BUT – I’ll miss you! :( And I’m happy for you too! In the words of Carl Sandberg, “It is too much to be too long anywhere.” Google is better for you having been here as long as you have – thank you – and it’s time for you to have some fun and climb an new mountain or four :) Don’t be a stranger though. Please do keep in touch! cat at catface dot org.


  10. You’re directly responsible for hiring me, so thanks! You came to UC Davis in 2004 to give a talk. The Toolbar team wanted a Windows intern, and you helped hook me up with Adam D.


  11. Pablo, Google will not be the same without you and I will miss bumping into you! Best of luck with your next adventure and I hope to cross paths with you again sometime down the road. Take good care, Cynde


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