Letting the Dust Settle on Job Hopping with Brian Hall

Episode Summary

This week Corey is joined by someone he has been antagonizing for years now. Brian Hall, VP of Product and Industry Marketing at Google Cloud, is here to chat about a disagreement that he and Corey had on the long worn question; how much time should one spend in a job? But thankfully, their conversation doesn’t limit itself to just that! Corey and Brian chat about how Twitter’s failure to capture nuance and context can lead to some unfortunate mis-interpretations. Brian offers some insight on his significant amount of time spent at Microsoft under various roles. He gives his perspective on how one should optimize their career path for where they want to go, and not just follow the money. Tune in to see how Corey and Brian let the dust settle, and develop what was a disagreement into a well rounded conversation.

Episode Show Notes & Transcript

About Brian
I lead the Google Cloud Product and Industry Marketing team. We’re focused on accelerating the growth of Google Cloud by establishing thought leadership, increasing demand and usage, enabling our sales teams and partners to tell our product stories with excellence, and helping our customers be the best advocates for us.

Before joining Google, I spent over 25 years in product marketing or engineering in different forms. I started my career at Microsoft and had a very non-traditional path for 20 years. I worked in every product division except for cloud. I did marketing, product management, and engineering roles. And, early on, I was the first speech writer for Steve Ballmer and worked on Bill Gates’ speeches too. My last role was building up the Microsoft Surface business from scratch and as VP of the hardware businesses. After Microsoft, I spent a year as CEO at a hardware startup called Doppler Labs, where we made a run at transforming hearing, and then two years as VP at Amazon Web Services leading product marketing, developer advocacy, and a bunch more marketing teams. 

I have three kids still at home, Barty, Noli, and Alder, who are all named after trees in different ways. My wife Edie and I met right at the beginning of our first year at Yale University, where I studied math, econ, and philosophy and was the captain of the Swim and Dive team my senior year. Edie has a PhD in forestry and runs a sustainability and forestry consulting firm she started, that is aptly named “Three Trees Consulting”. We love the outdoors, tennis, running, and adventures in my 1986 Volkswagen Van, which is my first and only car, that I can’t bring myself to get rid of.

Announcer: Hello, and welcome to Screaming in the Cloud with your host, Chief Cloud Economist at The Duckbill Group, Corey Quinn. This weekly show features conversations with people doing interesting work in the world of cloud, thoughtful commentary on the state of the technical world, and ridiculous titles for which Corey refuses to apologize. This is Screaming in the Cloud.

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Corey: Welcome to Screaming in the Cloud. I’m Corey Quinn. I’m joined today by a special guest that I’ve been, honestly, antagonizing for years now. Once upon a time, he spent 20 years at Microsoft, then he wound up leaving—as occasionally people do, I’m told—and going to AWS, where according to an incredibly ill-considered affidavit filed in a court case, he mostly focused on working on PowerPoint slides. AWS is famously not a PowerPoint company, and apparently, you can’t change culture. Now, he’s the VP of Product and Industry Marketing at Google Cloud. Brian Hall, thank you for joining me.

Brian: Hi, Corey. It’s good to be here.

Corey: I hope you’re thinking that after we’re done with our conversation. Now, unlike most conversations that I tend to have with folks who are, honestly, VP level at large cloud companies that I enjoy needling, we’re not going to talk about that today because instead, I’d rather focus on a minor disagreement we got into on Twitter—and I mean that in the truest sense of disagreement, as opposed to the loud, angry, mutual blocking, threatening to bomb people’s houses, et cetera, nonsense that appears to be what substitutes for modern discourse—about, oh, a month or so ago from the time we’re recording this. Specifically, we talked about, I’m in favor of job-hopping to advance people’s career, and you, as we just mentioned, spent 20 years at Microsoft and take something of the opposite position. Let’s talk about that. Where do you stand on the idea?

Brian: I stand in the position that people should optimize for where they are going to grow the most. And frankly, the disagreement was less about job-hopping because I’m going to explain how I job-hopped at Microsoft effectively.

Corey: Excellent. That is the reason I’m asking you rather than poorly stating your position and stuffing you like some sort of Christmas turkey straw-man thing.

Brian: And I would argue that for many people, changing jobs is the best thing that you can do, and I’m often an advocate for changing jobs even before sometimes people think they should do it. What I mostly disagreed with you on is simply following the money on your next job. What you said is if a—and I’m going to get it somewhat wrong—but if a company is willing to pay you $40,000 more, or some percentage more, you should take that job now.

Corey: Gotcha.

Brian: And I don’t think that’s always the case, and that’s what we’re talking about.

Corey: This is the inherent problem with Twitter is that first, I tend to write my Twitter threads extemporaneously without a whole lot of thought being put into things—kind of like I live my entire life, but that’s neither here nor there—

Brian: I was going to say, that comes across quite clearly.

Corey: Excellent. And 280 characters lacks nuance. And I definitely want to have this discussion; this is not just a story where you and I beat heads and not come to an agreement on this. I think it’s that we fundamentally do agree on the vast majority of this, I just want to make sure that we have this conversation in a way, in a forum that doesn’t lend itself to basically empowering the worst aspects of my own nature. Read as, not Twitter.

Brian: Great. Let’s do that.

Corey: So, my position is, and I was contextualizing this from someone who had reached out who was early in their career, they had spent a couple of years at AWS and they were entertaining an offer elsewhere for significantly more money. And this person, I believe I can—I believe it’s okay for me to say this: she—was very concerned that, “I don’t want to look like I’m job-hopping, and I don’t dislike my team. My manager is great. I feel disloyal for leaving. What should I do?”

Which first, I just want to say how touched I am that someone who is early in their career and not from a wildly overrepresented demographic like you and I felt a sense of safety and security in reaching out to ask me that question. I really wish more people would take that kind of initiative. It’s hard to inspire, but here we are. And my take to her was, “Oh, my God. Take the money.” That was where this thread started because when I have conversations with people about those things, it becomes top of mind, and I think, “Hmm, maybe there’s a one-to-many story that becomes something that is actionable and useful.”

Brian: Okay, so I’m going to give two takes on this. I’ll start with my career because I was in a similar position as she was, at one point in my career. My background, I lucked into a job at Microsoft as an intern in 1995, and then did another internship in ’96 and then started full time on the Internet Explorer team. And about a year-and-a-half into that job, I—we had merged with the Windows ’98 team and I got the opportunity to work on Bill Gates’s speech for the Windows ’98 launch event. And I—after that was right when Steve Ballmer became president of Microsoft and he started doing a lot more speeches and asked to have someone to help him with speeches.

And Chris Capossela, who’s now the CMO at Microsoft, said, “Hey, Brian. You interested in doing this for Steve?” And my first reaction was, well, even inside Microsoft, if I move, it will be disloyal. Because my manager’s manager, they’ve given me great opportunities, they’re continuing to challenge me, I’m learning a bunch, and they advised not doing it.

Corey: It seems to me like you were in a—how to put this?—not to besmirch the career you have wrought with the sweat of your brow and the toil of your back, but in many ways, you were—in a lot of ways—you were in the right place at the right time, riding a rocket ship, and built opportunities internally and talked to folks there, and built the relationships that enabled you to thrive inside of a company’s ecosystem. Is that directionally correct?

Brian: For sure. Yet, there’s also, big companies are teams of teams, and loyalty is more often with the team and the people that you work with than the 401k plan. And in this case, you know, I was getting this pressure that says, “Hey, Brian. You’re going to get all these opportunities. You’re doing great doing what you’re doing.”

And I eventually had the luck to ask the question, “Hey, if I go there and do this role”—and by the way, nobody had done it before, and so part of their argument was, “You’re young, Steve’s… Steve. Like, you could be a fantastic ball of flames.” And I said, “Okay, if [laugh] let’s say that happens. Can I come back? Can I come back to the job I was doing before?”

And they were like, “Yeah, of course. You’re good at what you do.” To me, which was, “Okay, great. Then I’m gone. I might as well go try this.” And of course, when I started at Microsoft, I was 20, 21, and I thought I’d be there for two or three years and then I’d end up going back to school or somewhere else. But inside Microsoft, what kept happening as I just kept getting new opportunities to do something else that I’d learned a bunch from, and I ultimately kind of created this mentality for how I thought about next job of, “Am I going to get more opportunities if I am able to be successful in this new job?” Really focused on optionality and the ability to do work that I want to do and have more choices to do that.

Corey: You are also on a I almost want to call it a meteoric trajectory. In some ways. You effectively went from—what was your first role there? It was—

Brian: The lowest level of college hire you can do at Microsoft, effectively.

Corey: Yeah. All the way on up to at the end of it the Corporate VP for Microsoft Devices. It seems to me that despite the fact that you spent 20 years there, you wound up having a bunch of different jobs and an entire career trajectory internal to the organization, which is, let’s be clear, markedly different from some of the folks I’ve interviewed at various times, in my career as an employer and as a technical interviewer at a consulting company, where they’d been somewhere for 15 years, and they had one year of experience that they repeated 15 times. And it was one of the more difficult things that I encountered is that some folks did not take ownership of their career and focus on driving it forward.

Brian: Yeah, that, I had the opposite experience, and that is what kept me there that long. After I would finish a job, I would say, “Okay, what do I want to learn how to do next, and what is a challenge that would be most interesting?” And initially, I had to get really lucky, honestly, to be able to get these. And I did the work, but I had to have the opportunity, and that took luck. But after I had a track record of saying, “Hey, I can jump from being a product marketer to being a speechwriter; I can do speechwriting and then go do product management; I can move from product management into engineering management.”

I can do that between different businesses and product types, you build the ability to say, “Hey, I can learn that if you give me the chance.” And it, frankly, was the unique combination of experiences I had by having tried to do these other things that gave me the opportunity to have a fast trajectory within the company.

Corey: I think it’s also probably fair to say that Microsoft was a company that, in its dealings with you, is operating in good faith. And that is a great thing to find when you see it, but I’m cynical; I admit that. I see a lot of stories where people give and sacrifice for the good of the company, but that sacrifice is never reciprocated. And we’ve all heard the story of folks who will put their nose to the grindstone to ship something on time, only to be rewarded with a layoff at the end, and stories like that resonate.

And my argument has always been that you can’t love a company because the company can’t love you back. And when you’re looking at do I make a career move or do I stay, my argument is that is the best time to be self-interested.

Brian: Yeah, I don’t think—companies are there for the company, and certainly having a culture that supports people that wants to create opportunity, having a manager that is there truly to make you better and to give you opportunity, that all can happen, but it’s within a company and you have to do the work in order to try and get into that environment. Like, I worked hard to have managers who would support my growth, would give me the bandwidth and leash early on to not be perfect at what I’m doing, and that always helped me. But you get to go pick them in a company like that, or in the industry in general, you get—just like when a manager is hiring you, you also get to understand, hey, is this a person I want to work for?

But I want to come back to the main point that I wanted to make. When I changed jobs, I did it because I wanted to learn something new and I thought that would have value for me in the medium-term and long-term, versus how do I go max cash in what I’m already good at?

Corey: Yes.

Brian: And that’s the root of what we were disagreeing with on Twitter. I have seen many people who are good at something, and then another company says, “Hey, I want you to do that same thing in a worse environment, and we’ll pay you more.”

Corey: Excellence is always situational. Someone who is showered in accolades at one company gets fired at a different company. And it’s not because they suddenly started sucking; it’s because the tools and resources that they needed to succeed were present in one environment and not the other. And that varies from person to person; when someone doesn’t work out of the company, I don’t have a default assumption that there’s something inherently wrong with them.

Of course, I look at my own career and the sheer, staggeringly high number of times I got fired, and I’m starting to think, “Huh. The only consistent factor in all of these things is me. Nah, couldn’t be my problem. I just worked for terrible places, for terrible people. That’s got to be the way it works.” My own peace of mind. I get it. That is how it feels sometimes and it’s easy to dismiss that in different ways. I don’t want to let my own bias color this too heavily.

Brian: So, here are the mistakes that I’ve seen made: “I’m really good at something; this other company will pay me to do just that.” You move to do it, you get paid more, but you have less impact, you don’t work with as strong of people, and you don’t have a next step to learn more. Was that a good decision? Maybe. If you need the money now, yes, but you’re a little bit trading short-term money for medium-and long-term money where you’re paid for what you know; that’s the best thing in this industry. We’re paid for what we know, which means as you’re doing a job, you can build the ability to get paid more by knowing more, by learning more, by doing things that stretch you in ways that you don’t already know.

Corey: In 2006, I bluffed my way through a technical interview and got a job as a Unix systems administrator for a university that was paying $65,000 a year, and I had no idea what I was going to do with all of that money. It was more money than I could imagine at that point. My previous high watermark, working for an ethically challenged company in a sales role at a target comp of 55, and I was nowhere near it. So okay, let’s go somewhere else and see what happens. And after I’d been there a month or two, my boss sits me down and said, “So”—it’s our annual compensation adjustment time—“Congratulations. You now make $68,000.”

And it’s just, “Oh, my God. This is great. Why would I ever leave?” So, I stayed there a year and I was relatively happy, insofar as I’m ever happy in a job. And then a corporate company came calling and said, “Hey, would you consider working here?”

“Well, I’m happy here and I’m reasonably well compensated. Why on earth would I do that?” And the answer was, “Well, we’ll pay you $90,000 if you do.” It’s like, “All right. I guess I’m going to go and see what the world holds.”

And six weeks later, they let me go. And then I got another job that also paid $90,000 and I stayed there for two years. And I started the process of seeing what my engagement with the work world look like. And it was a story of getting let go periodically, of continuing to claw my way up and, credit where due, in my 20s I was in crippling credit card debt because I made a bunch of poor decisions, so I biased early on for more money at almost any cost. At some point that has to stop because there’s always a bigger paycheck somewhere if you’re willing to go and do something else.

And I’m not begrudging anyone who pursues that, but at some point, it ceases to make a difference. Getting a raise from $68,000 to $90,000 was life-changing for me. Now, getting a $30,000 raise? Sure, it’d be nice; I’m not turning my nose up at it, don’t get me wrong, but it’s also not something that moves the needle on my lifestyle.

Brian: Yeah. And there are a lot of those dimensions. There’s the lifestyle dimension, there’s the learning dimension, there’s the guaranteed pay dimension, there’s the potential paid dimension, there is the who I get to work with, just pure enjoyment dimension, and they all matter. And people should recognize that job moves should consider all of these.

And you don’t have to have the same framework over time as well. I’ve had times where I really just wanted to bear down and figure something out. And I did one job at Microsoft for basically six years. It changed in terms of scope of things that I was marketing, and which division I was in, and then which division I was in, and then which division I was in—because Microsoft loves a good reorg—but I basically did the same job for six years at one point, and it was very conscious. I was trying to get really good at how do I manage a team system at scale. And I didn’t want to leave that until I had figured that out. I look back and I think that’s one of the best career decisions I ever made, but it was for reasons that would have been really hard to explain to a lot of people.

Corey: Let’s also be very clear here that you and I are well-off white dudes in tech. Our failure mode is pretty much a board seat and a book deal. In fact, if—

Brian: [laugh].

Corey: —I’m not mistaken, you are on the board of something relatively recently. What was that?

Brian: United Way of King County. It’s a wonderful nonprofit in the Seattle area.

Corey: Excellent. And I look forward to reading your book, whenever that winds up dropping. I’m sure it’ll be only the very spiciest of takes. For folks who are earlier in their career and who also don’t have the winds of privilege at their backs the way that you and I do, this also presents radically differently. And I’ve spoken to a number of folks who are not wildly over-represented about this topic, in the wake of that Twitter explosion.

And what I heard was interesting in that having a manager who has your back counts for an awful lot and is something that is going to absolutely hold you to a particular company, even when it might make sense on paper for you to leave. And I think that there’s something strong there. My counterargument is okay, so you turn down the offer, a month goes past and your manager gives notice because they’re going to go somewhere else. What then? It’s one of those things where you owe your employer a duty of confidentiality, you owe them a responsibility to do your best work, to conduct yourself in an ethical manner, but I don’t believe you owe them loyalty in the sense of advancing their interests ahead of what’s best for you and your career arc.

And what’s right for any given person is, of course, a nuanced and challenging thing. For some folks, yeah, going out somewhere else for more money doesn’t really change anything and is not what they should optimize for. For other folks, it’s everything. And I don’t think either of those takes is necessarily wrong. I think it comes down to it depends on who you are, and what your situation is, and what’s right for you.

Brian: Yeah. I totally agree. For early in career, in particular, I have been a part of—I grew up in the early versions of the campus hiring program at Microsoft, and then hired 500-plus, probably, people into my teams who were from that.

Corey: You also do the same thing at AWS if I’m not mistaken. You launched their first college hiring program that I recall seeing, or at least that’s what scuttlebutt has it.

Brian: Yes. You’re well-connected, Corey. We started something called the Product Marketing Leadership Development Program when I was in AWS marketing. And then one year, we hired 20 people out of college into my organization. And it was not easy to do because it meant using, quote-unquote, “Tenured headcount” in order to do it. There wasn’t some special dispensation because they were less paid or anything, and in a world where headcount is a unit of work, effectively.

And then I’m at Google now, in the Google Cloud division, and we have a wonderful program that I think is really well done, called the Associate Product Marketing Manager Program, APMM. And what I’d say is for the people early in career, if you get the opportunity to have a manager who’s super supportive, in a system that is built to try and grow you, it’s a wonderful opportunity. And by ‘system built to grow you,’ it really is, do you have the support to get taught what you need to get taught on the job? Are you getting new opportunities to learn new things and do new things at a rapid clip? Are you shipping things into the market such that you can see the response and learn from that response, versus just getting people’s internal opinions, and then are people stretching roles in order to make them amenable for someone early in career?

And if you’re in a system that gives you that opportunity—like let’s take your example earlier. A person who has a manager who’s greatly supportive of them and they feel like they’re learning a lot, that manager leaves, if that system is right, there’s another manager, or there’s an opportunity to put your hand up and say, “Hey, I think I need a new place,” and that will be supported.

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Corey: I have a history of mostly working in small companies, to the point where I consider a big company to be one that has more than 200 employees, so, the idea of radically transitioning and changing teams has never really been much on the table as I look at my career trajectory and my career arc. I have seen that I’ve gotten significant 30% raises by changing jobs. I am hard-pressed to identify almost anyone who has gotten that kind of raise in a single year by remaining at a company.

Brian: One hundred percent. Like, I know of people who have, but it—

Corey: It happens, but it’s—

Brian: —is very rare.

Corey: —it’s very rare.

Brian: It’s, it’s, it’s almost the, the, um, the example that proves the point. I getting that totally wrong. But yes, it’s very rare, but it does happen. And I think if you get that far out of whack, yes. You should… you should go reset, especially if the other attributes are fine and you don’t feel like you’re just going to get mercenary pay.

What I always try and advise people is, in the bigger companies, you want to be a good deal. You don’t want to be a great deal or a bad deal. Where a great deal is you’re getting significantly underpaid, a bad deal is, “Uh oh. We hired this person to [laugh] senior,” or, “We promoted them too early,” because then the system is not there to help you, honestly, in the grand scheme of things. A good deal means, “Hey, I feel like I’m getting better work from this person for what we are giving them than what the next clear alternative would be. Let’s support them and help them grow.” Because at some level, part of your compensation is getting your company to create opportunities for you to grow. And part of the reason people go to a manager is they know they’ll give them that compensation.

Corey: I am learning this the interesting way, as we wind up hiring and building out our, currently, nine-person company. It’s challenging for us to build those opportunities while bootstrapped, but it is incumbent upon us, you’re right. That is a role of management is how do you identify growth opportunities for people, ideally, while remaining at the company, but sometimes that means that helping them land somewhere else is the right path for their next growth step.

Brian: Well, that brings up a word for managers. What you pay your employees—and I’m talking big company here, not people like yourself, Corey, where you have to decide whether you reinvesting money or putting in an individual.

Corey: Oh, yes—

Brian: But at big companies—

Corey: —a lot of things that apply when you own a company are radically departed from—

Brian: Totally.

Corey: —what is—

Brian: Totally.

Corey: —common guidance.

Brian: Totally. At a big company, managers, you get zero credit for how much your employees get paid, what their raise is, whether they get promoted or not in the grand scheme of things. That is the company running their system. Yes, you helped and the like, but it’s—like, when people tell me, “Hey, Brian, thank you for supporting my promotion.” My answer is always, “Thank you for having earned it. It’s my job to go get credit where credit is due.” And that’s not a big part of my job, and I honestly believe that.

Where you do get credit with people, where you do show that you’re a good manager is when you have the conversations with them that are harder for other people to have, but actually make them better; when you encourage them in the right way so that they grow faster; when you treat them fairly as a human being, and mostly when you do the thing that seems like it’s against your own interest.

Corey: That resonates. The moments of my career as a manager that I’m proud of stuff are the ones that I would call borderline subversive: telling a candidate to take the competing offer because they’re going to have a better time somewhere else is one of those. But my philosophy ties back to the idea of job-hopping, where I’m going to know these people for longer than either of us are going to remain in our current role, on some level. I am curious what your approach is, given that you are now at the, I guess, other end for folks who are just starting out. How do you go about getting people into Cloud marketing? And, on some level, wouldn’t you consider that being a form of abuse?

Brian: [laugh]. It depends on whether they get to work with you or not, Corey.

Corey: There is that.

Brian: I won’t tell you which one’s abuse or not. So first, getting people into cloud marketing is getting people who do not have deeply technical backgrounds in most cases, oftentimes fantastic—people who are fantastic at understanding other people and communicating really well, and it gives them an opportunity to be in tech in one of the fastest-growing, fastest-changing spaces in the world. And so to go to a psych major, a marketing major, an American studies major, a history major, who can understand complex things and then communicate really well, and say, “Hey, I have an opportunity for you to join the fastest growing space in technology,” is often compelling.

But their question kind of is, “Hey, will I be able to do it?” And the answer has to be, “Hey, we have a program that helps you learn, and we have a set of managers who know how to teach, and we create opportunities for you to learn on the job, and we’re invested in you for more than a short period of time.” With that case, I’ve been able to hire and grow and work with, in some cases, people for over 15 years now that I worked with at Microsoft. I’m still in touch with many of the people from the Product Marketing Leadership Development Program at AWS. And we have a fantastic set of APMMs at Google, and it creates a wonderful opportunity for them.

Increasingly, we’re also seeing that it is one of the best ways to find people from many backgrounds. We don’t just show up at the big CompSci schools. We’re getting some wonderful, wonderful people from all the states in the nation, from the historically black colleges and universities, from majors that tend to represent very different groups than the traditional tech audiences. And so it’s been a great source of broadening our talent pool, too.

Corey: There’s a lot to be said for having people who’ve been down this path and seeing the failure modes, reaching out to make so that the next generation—for lack of a better term—has an easier time than we did. The term I’ve heard for the concept is ‘send the elevator back down,’ which is important. I think it’s—otherwise we wind up with a whole industry that looks an awful lot like it did 20 years ago, and that’s not ideal for anyone. The paths that you and I walked are closed, so sitting here telling people they should do what we did has very strong, ‘Okay, Boomer’ energy to it.

Brian: [laugh].

Corey: There are different paths, and the world and industry are changing radically.

Brian: Absolutely. And my—like, the biggest thing that I’d say here is—and again, just coming back to the one thing we disagreed on—look at the bigger picture and own your career. I would never say that isn’t the case, but the bigger picture means not just what you’re getting paid tomorrow, but are you learning more? What new options is it creating for you? And when I speak options, I mean, will you have more jobs that you can do that excite you after you do that job? And those things matter in addition to the pay.

Corey: I would agree with that. Money is not everything, but it’s also not nothing.

Brian: Absolutely.

Corey: I will say though you spent 20 years at Microsoft. I have no doubt that you are incredibly adept at managing your career, at managing corporate politics, at advancing your career and your objectives and your goals and your aspirations within Microsoft, but how does that translate to companies that have radically different corporate cultures? We see this all the time with founders who are ex-Google or ex-Microsoft, and suddenly it turns out that the things that empower them to thrive in the large corporate environment doesn’t really work when you’re a five-person startup, and you don’t have an entire team devoted to that one thing that needs to get done.

Brian: So, after Microsoft, I went to a company called Doppler Labs for a year. It was a pretty well-funded startup that made smart earbuds—this was before AirPods had even come out—and I was really nervous about the going from big company to startup thing, and I actually found that move pretty easy. I’ve always been kind of a hands-on, do-it-yourself, get down in the details manager, and that’s served me well. And so getting into a startup and saying, “Hey, I get to just do stuff,” was almost more fun. And so after that—we ended up folding, but it was a wonderful ride; that’s a much longer conversation—when I got to Amazon and I was in AWS—and by the way, the one division I never worked at Microsoft was Azure or its predecessor server and tools—and so part of the allure of AWS was not only was it another trillion-dollar company in my backwater hometown, but it was also cloud computing, was the space that I didn’t know well.

And they knew that I knew the discipline of product marketing and a bunch of other things quite well, and so I got that opportunity. But I did realize about four months in, “Oh, crap. Part of the reason that I was really successful at Microsoft is I knew how everything worked.” I knew where things have been tried and failed, I knew who to go ask about how to do things, and I knew none of that at Amazon. And it is a—a lot of what allows you to move fast, make good decisions, and frankly, be politically accepted, is understanding all that context that nobody can just tell you. So, I will say there is a cost in terms of your productivity and what you’re able to get done when you move from a place that you’re good at to a place that you’re not good at yet.

Corey: Way back in episode 10 of this podcast—as we get suspiciously close to 300 as best I can tell—I had Lynn Langit get on as a guest. And she was in the Microsoft MVP program, the AWS Hero program, and the Google Expert program. All three at once—

Brian: Lynn is fantastic.

Corey: It really is.

Brian: Lynn is fantastic.

Corey: I can only assume that you listened to that podcast and decided, huh, all three, huh? I can beat that. And decided that—

Brian: [laugh].

Corey: —instead of being in the volunteer to do work for enormous multinational companies group, you said, “No, no, no. I’m going to be a VP in all three of those.” And here we are. Now that you are at Google, you have checked all three boxes. What is the next mountain to climb for you?

Brian: I have no clue. I have no clue. And honestly—again, I don’t know how much of this is privilege versus by being forward-looking. I’ve honestly never known where the heck I was going to go in my career. I’ve just said, “Hey, let’s have a journey, and let’s optimize for doing something you want to do that is going to create more opportunities for you to do something you want to do.”

And so even when I left Microsoft, I was in a great position. I ran the Surface business, and HoloLens, and a whole bunch of other stuff that was really fun, but I also woke up one day and realized, “Oh, my gosh. I’ve been at Microsoft for 20 years. If I stay here for the next job, I’m earning the right to get another job at Microsoft, more so than anything else, and there’s a big world out there that I want to explore a bit.” And so I did the startup; it was fun, I then thought I’d do another startup, but I didn’t want to commute to San Francisco, which I had done.

And then I found most of the really, really interesting startups in Seattle were cloud-related and I had this opportunity to learn about cloud from, arguably, one of the best with AWS. And then when I left AWS, I left not knowing what I was going to do, and I kind of thought, “Okay, now I’m going to do another cloud-oriented startup.” And Google came, and I realized I had this opportunity to learn from another company. But I don’t know what’s next. And what I’m going to do is try and do this job as best I can, get it to the point where I feel like I’ve done a job, and then I’ll look at what excites me looking forward.

Corey: And we will, of course, hold on to this so we can use it for your performance review, whenever that day comes.

Brian: [laugh].

Corey: I want to thank you for taking so much time to speak with me today. If people care more about what you have to say, perhaps you’re hiring, et cetera, et cetera, where can they find you?

Brian: Twitter, IsForAt: I-S-F-O-R-A-T. I’m certainly on Twitter. And if you want to connect professionally, I’m happy to do that on LinkedIn.

Corey: And we will, of course, put links to those things in the [show notes 00:36:03]. Thank you so much for being so generous with your time. I appreciate it. I know you have a busy week of, presumably, attempting to give terrible names to various cloud services.

Brian: Thank you, Corey. Appreciate you having me.

Corey: Indeed. Brian Hall, VP of Product and Industry Marketing at Google Cloud. I am Cloud Economist Corey Quinn, and this is Screaming in the Cloud. If you’ve enjoyed this podcast, please leave a five-star review on your podcast platform of choice, whereas if you’ve hated this podcast, please leave a five-star review on your podcast platform of choice, along with an insulting comment in the form of a PowerPoint deck.

Corey: If your AWS bill keeps rising and your blood pressure is doing the same, then you need The Duckbill Group. We help companies fix their AWS bill by making it smaller and less horrifying. The Duckbill Group works for you, not AWS. We tailor recommendations to your business and we get to the point. Visit duckbillgroup.com to get started.

Announcer: This has been a HumblePod production. Stay humble.
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