If you trust your employees to do the right thing, everything gets easier

4,227 days at Google. Braden Kowitz writes about his first and last day and Google, and their organizational philosophy in between. 

Today is my last day at Google, but I still clearly remember my first day on the job. That morning I was parked in a training room for an onboarding lecture. My eyes were glazing over as some nice person explained the finer points of our healthcare plan. In my boredom, I noticed something truly amazing. There was a laptop in front of me, it was unlocked, and it had access to to the entire company intranet.

Laptop circa 2005

I immediately started digging around to see what I could find. It wasn’t long before I discovered the Launch Calendar, where upcoming products were listed for anyone to see. I was shocked that Google was building a Calendarand Chat app. Just think about how well those products would work with Gmail!

But more importantly, I couldn’t believe Google would let someone like me browse the details of these extremely secret projects on their very first day. Wasn’t it foolish to be so open and transparent with your plans? And what’s with this crazy 20% time they’re trying to explain? Are they really going to let us work on whatever we want?

It took me many years to understand that these weren’t crazy ideas, but instead the product of Google’s core values. I learned that if you trust your employees to do the right thing, everything gets easier. Trust allows teams to be open and transparent with their most sensitive information. Being transparent and vulnerable makes it easier for people to understand what teammates are doing, which leads to a shared sense of purpose. All this seemingly fluffy stuff provides the foundation for people to be creative, productive, inspired, and happy at work.

I admire that Google had a bold set of values and practices that were so very different than any other workplace I had known before. Those values kept me engaged and challenged for many years.

In 2010 I decided to leave “Big Google” to join Google Ventures, which was just a few people at the time. I had the privilege of working with over a hundred different startups over the years. For all their differences in scale, there was one thing in common across these startups: the culture and values of an organization greatly shape how work gets done. The more time I spent with startups, the more I wondered what it would be like to start my own company and help create those core values from the very beginning.

So today I’m following my heart, taking the leap, and leaving Google to found something new. I’m not exactly sure what it’ll be yet, but I do know that whatever I do next will be made better by the wisdom my colleagues have shared with me over the years.

To everyone at Google, thank you for the incredible, surreal, humbling, and wild journey. I wouldn’t be the person I am today without all of you.