Ex-Google, get over it!

A humorous post for the people who name-drop instead of focusing on the context

Alex Ewerlöf (moved to substack)
5 min readJun 18, 2022
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I was so surprised to hear that my colleague had worked for Google and kept it secret for so many years!
— Absolutely no one!

If someone has worked for a reputable company, we’re going to hear about it one way or another. Some even put “ex-Facebook”, “ex-Google”, “ex-Netflix” or even “ex-Spotify” at the top of their social media title.

It just sits there to seduce the naïve among us.

So, you come from Google; could you tell us how Google solved our problem?
— Absolutely no one!

But they’re gonna shove that insight down our throat, aren’t they? No matter how irrelevant to the challenges at hand, we must hear it. How else could we know that their ideas are the best?

Guy at the party

Some people fall for it, many are too polite to call it out. Here is a mental exercise to understand what’s going on:

Imagine you’re at a party and bump into a guy. The very first thing he says is that he’s been with a celebrity!

Hi! My name is Steve, or as people call me Britney’s ex.

As the conversation progresses, he casually brings up his ex as a point of reference.

Yeah, on changing car tires, as you know Britney has too much money, so whenever we got a flat, we’d just abandon the car and call a helicopter.

First, it’s amusing and entertaining, but at some point, you get fed up.

— “Why are you two not together anymore?”, you ask.

— “We didn’t match”, he admits.

— “Then there’s no point in talking about her all the time. Move on!”, you say.

He shuts up, self reflects and decides to start a new life with a liberated identity…

Or, more likely than not, he proceeds to his next victim!

He may think he’s raising his prestige. What he doesn’t know is that others may have had a relationship with his ex and an informed opinion!

The truth is: if you are going to abuse people’s prejudice, you have no idea of their perception of the labels you’re trying to attach yourself to.

Am I Jealous?

Most people are not amused by the name dropping. Not everyone dares or cares to protest. There’s a good risk that by shouting about this, I may come across as jealous, but if that works for you, so be it.

Personally, I’ve had my share of respected brands but at the end of the day I acknowledged that I’ve been just an employee. I will not claim credit for what others have done for a particular brand. The credit wasn’t entirely mine to begin with. I was part of a system. And by the time I left that door, we were done.

I also don’t think too highly of some of the big tech brands. But my own prejudice is the story for another time.

How to deal with that?

So many people try to push their “baggage” from a past job but:

  • Replace: Anytime someone tries to push an argument “because at my past job…” you can replace that phrase in your head with “because in my personal opinion…”
  • Call it out: they left that job, right? Should one compare their ex with their current partner? State: “but we’re not Google, let’s focus on the problem at hand”
  • Refocus the conversation: Their narrative of how it worked at their previous company may not even be true. Ask: “should we spend time researching how other companies do it or should we focus on the problem at hand?”
  • Ignore it: let them vent off. Don’t ask any questions back. Just say “moving on…” or “as we were saying about our problem at hand…”
  • Have fun: jokingly or seriously, say “We should start measuring TTX (Time To bring up an eX employer).”
  • Give feedback: if it’s repeated behavior, do them a service and give feedback: “Every time you bring your ex-employers to the conversation, I feel like the discussion gets derailed. Can we please detach the idea from the name and let the idea fair on their own”? You may even share this post.

Stay relevant

If the goal is to earn respect, you can do better on your own. FAANG has a high bar. If you have passed that bar, surely you can earn respect without name-dropping. Believe in yourself!

Saying that I come from Google certainly opens some doors.
— a xoogler confessed

So, you acknowledge that the door would be closed otherwise. Is it an unfair advantage, or pure deception to take advantage of people’s bias vulnerability?

The point is:

a solution from one company hardly applies to the problem context of another company.

Hell, it hardly works for all teams in the same company or sometimes the same team at different times!

The product, culture, business model, strategy, talent pool, leadership, process and tech is different. Internalize that fact and stop wasting time in irrelevant arguments and manutia.

At MY_EX_COMPANY we did it that way

…is NOT an argument!

We are not solving your ex-company’s problems here. If the idea is good enough, it can stand on its own without being attached to a brand. Instead, attach it to a problem context that is relevant.

Already at FAANG?

Stay where you are! Outside is a scary world! You’ll face grumpy people like me who have zero interest in hearing about your ex-company. Sit tight if you don’t want to deal with that. 😋

Update: I saw this on LinkedIn the other day and thought it was funny. So, I asked Mikael permission if I can share it (fun fact, he worked at Klarna):

A humurous way to namedrop, but not for bragging

Update: Len Markidan is next level genius:

Did you like what you read? Follow me on LinkedIn. I write about technical leadership, web architecture, reliability, and privacy. If you want to translate or republish this article, here’s a quick guide.

PS. This post is not only about ex-Googlers specifically. In my experience many ex-Googlers are smart enough to not do this. I picked Google because if we cover what most engineers see as a dream job, it should calm down others who come from less reputable companies.