A few years ago, I got a bottle of wine from the Android team and decided to save it for the day I left Android. Cheers!
It's been 5 years on Android and 8 years at Google, from Android Market / Google Play, carrier partnerships, some to-be-launched projects, Nexus hardware, and incredible growth of Android. But even more, I remember the people. I already have to do a quick mental check of when and on what project I worked with people. Google and the Valley are so small, I've crossed paths with coworkers multiple times. So, cheers to everyone I've worked with and who I'll likely work with again!
Leaving Android was the hardest work decision I've ever made. I'm amazed at how common burnout is, and how little's actually written and spoken about it. Society acknowledges when you go through a relationship breakup or mourn for someone deceased: others expect you to go through phases and you know what to expect. Burnout and job change isn't much different in terms of stress level and phases of recovery, but it's talked about much less.
Burnout is normal and convoluted; it isn't black-and-white whether you fit the project or the project fits you; your other relationships, life events, and timing of the universe all play a role.
I tried for nearly a year to figure myself out and bucket my ever-growing emotional tangle into reasons vs. emotions vs. auxiliary events. I was going to figure out the root causes and deal with them, which would resolve the symptoms. After a point, it really doesn't matter, and I still haven't untangled myself. Life's complex, and sometimes you and your situation just changes, regardless of whether work's changed or not, and it may not be worth shoehorning yourself to continue to fit. Sometimes you just need change.
Are you honest with yourself? How often have you thought any of these? It could be the burnout talking, not you.
- I've put so much sweat and muscle into the project, I can't leave now.
- I've got personal relationships and friends on the project.
- I feel too much pride to leave.
- I've gone so long like this, I forgot what happiness and balance used to be.
- It's me; I'm just too sensitive.
- Persevering through it is a good learning experience.
- I'm stressed.
- I'm a survivor; leaving means I'm weak and can't hang with the big league.
- I feel indebted.
- I keep my phone by my bed for one last check right before I go to sleep.
- XYZ hobby is so cool but I don't have energy or time to pursue it.
- I'm so burned that the thought of a new team is more work than pushing through.
- It's not all bad, there's some good days with the bad so it'll get better.
- My personal relationships are feeling my stress.
- I'm just trying to survive until the next launch.
- I dream about work multiple times a week.
- Others are successful long-term here, so I should be too.
- I dread driving into work everyday.
- I say "Just take it day-by-day" multiple times a week.
- I'm in reactive mode vs. being motivated to get on top of things.
- I'm there for the golden handcuffs of a bonus payout or promo or launch. (The golden handcuffs will always be there).
- My friends see changes when they look in my eyes.
- I'm so confused about yourself, I don't know where to even begin talking with someone.
- Vacations, no matter how long, don't re-energize me.
In hindsight I took too long to open up and talk to others. I tried for over a year to "fix" myself, tried to detach in the "work is just work" mentality. I had work nightmares, couldn't eat, woke up a couple times with stress-induced hives, and would break out crying in the bathroom at work. I put on a happy face in front of coworkers and climbing folks, mostly as a survival tactic--I had to make myself believe I was handling it and on a path to recovery.
That all sounds super dismal, so why did I put up with it for so long? All through this there were still great launches, fun, and laughs with coworkers, but there was a slow undercurrent growing. Burnout is a slow creeper and I didn't know when that scale tipped until I talked with others. And, teamwork is a powerful force. I was on Android early on. I was a survivor. I lived and breathed Android and I wasn't going to be weak.
But sometimes you need change just because you need change, and that's ok.