Archive for December, 2014

Learning new things

Posted in Software on December 3rd, 2014 at 00:06:07

One kind of sad thing about learning new things about software while working for Google: It is unlikely anything that you learn about specific tools outside of Google will be relevant to the tools you use for work inside, and vice versa.

In general, Google has a massive set of awesome tools for everything from deployment to monitoring; and a broad codebase with libraries that can do everything under the sun. However, that means that when you go outside of the Google environment, you’re suddenly stuck a bit out in the cold — the tools that you use inside Google can’t be used outside, so you have to have a completely separate infrastructure (both literal infrastructure, and code infrastructure).

This means that, contrary to prior experiences, where tools I learned on my own time could be useful to me at work, and vice versa, that isn’t true anymore.

In most cases, this is overall a positive thing. At the moment, I’m learning about ansible and vagrant, tools for spinning up VMs locally and provisioning them. However, my work at Google can’t really use this — Google’s toolchain and build/deployment process are totally different. In the other direction, I’ve been setting up monitoring of my services inside Google, but the massive monitoring infrastructure investment that that work is based in is completely unavailable outside of Google.

It’s not a big deal, but it does make the motivation to learn new things outside of Google a bit lower. It also likely contributes to the well-known artifacts of most people who disappear into Google no longer generating as much code outside of Google — once you live in a completely different environment which has some nice things going for it, the idea of learning new tools to replace what you’ve already got seems kinda silly, doubly so since you can’t re-use those tools for work.

On the “scale of things to be upset about at your job”, of course, this is a pretty minor complaint. ;) It’s just something I realized while doing some experimentation with new tools: sharing my “new shiny” at work tomorrow isn’t really going to have the same effect it might have in the past.