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Google’s Brain Drain

Mark Mzyk | April 3, 2008

I keep hearing about the Google Brain Drain.  It seems everyone uses this to predict gloom and doom for Google.  I think this won’t be the case.

It seems natural that employees would decide to leave Google.  While Google does a lot to keep its employees happy and satisfied, eventually it is likely that the challenge Google provides is going to grow old.  Ultimately, Google is all about search and ads.  That isn’t all that people want to work on, so when a good opportunity comes they leave to go work on something else that is more appealing to them.

Also, there will be those who spend time at Google and, once they have ensured they are well off financially, decide to take on more risk by jumping to a younger, smaller company that is going to be a startup or have a startup feel. Being a startup is one perk that Google cannot provide.

Another reason to leave: influence and power.  You might think that being at Google gives you that, and it does, but only partially.  If you aren’t Larry and Sergey you can always move up the chain.  However, you’ll eventually reach a plateau while at Google, because only so many people can stand at the top of the pyramid.  So to reach the top, you might have to jump to another pyramid, where you can have more influence and power.

All of these are valid reasons that I can think of for people to want to leave Google, or any other company for that matter.  There are of course plenty of other reasons to leave.  Family, location, whim.  This is the information technology age.  People no longer stay with one company for their career.  Instead, people move with their intellectual interests and the opportunities presented to them.

Google is large enough and has so much talent that this supposed brain drain isn’t going to kill them.  Unless Google becomes locked in group think, which seems unlikely given its culture, it will be a leader for a long time to come.