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Episode #2: January marks two years since I left my corporate job at Google to blog full-time. It’s still the #1 thing I get asked about, so I thought I’d dive into it and share my experience in my first solo episode! I chat all the details on my experience working at Google for five years: the good, bad, and the ugly. I also get into what led me to make the decision to leave my cushy Google salary and benefits behind to run What The Fab full-time. I dive into:
– The moment I knew I had to quit Google
– The exact amount of money I made from my blog in order to feel comfortable ditching my 9-5
– The two things that had held me back from ditching the corporate world and pursuing my dreams, and how I let go of them
– How I prepared myself to take that leap and leave my full-time job
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Hello. Hello. Welcome to The What The Fab Podcast and my very first solo episode! So to kick us off, I thought I would cover one of the most frequently asked questions that I receive, which is why and how did I leave my full-time job at Google.
So I worked at Google for a little over five years and overall it was an amazing experience. All of the things that you hear about Google are true. There is a reason that it consistently lands as number one on Forbes’ best companies in the world to work for list. It really does deserve those accolades. The benefits are amazing. They go above and beyond. I got to a point where I was getting a 30-minute massage once a week. And if I’m being honest, that’s probably one of the things that I miss the most about working at Google. It’s not the free food, which the free food is amazing, but I really don’t mind cooking for myself. And it sounds a little shitty to say, but it’s not the people because the people that I loved, I did make some really amazing friendships there, I still hang out with them. I mean, not during the pandemic, but we still keep in touch. So I don’t really miss them. But man, those weekly massages, those just came in clutch and you know, you’re well compensated. The stock options are insane.
I was on an events team, so I was getting to literally travel the world with Google. I put on events in India, Australia, Brazil. I mean, it’s just, I could go on and on. Being part of a company like that, that is so ubiquitous it’s honestly, it’s an honor. It felt very weird. I think it took me a year to get used to being out in public and just hearing the stranger next to me, talking about the company that I worked for now.
All those amazing things being said, I still had this yearning within myself to do my own thing and run my own business.
I had started my blog back in 2012, so I was already blogging before I got my job at Google and I just continued to run my blog on the side. It was my side hustle. I spent my nights and weekends on it. I always just kind of had this dream of a different reality where I didn’t work for anyone, but myself.
And I think the idea of being an entrepreneur had enticed me from an early age because I had that modeled for me. Both of my parents own their own businesses. My mom worked from home for her business. So when I was a kid, I would see her, you know, in her office, like in her bathroom, working from home. And I remember thinking like, that looks pretty sweet.
And I think the other thing that’s compounded with it is just my personality. I hate being told what to do. Like I hate it. It grates on my soul. And when you work for someone else, you have a manager, you have a boss, you have somebody that sometimes they’re going to tell you to do things that you don’t agree with, or you think are stupid or a waste of time.
And a good employee will, you know, maybe present reasons why this isn’t a good use of time or other solutions, but sometimes you just have to do that thing. And for me, oh, that was tough. I also really liked the satisfaction of creating something, like having an idea, making it happen, putting it out there and seeing the results. And if I screw up learning from it, iterating and trying again.
I’ve just kind of realized through trial and error that I don’t particularly love large scale program management, where I’m managing like a bunch of different teams. I don’t love people management. We’ll get into that later in this episode, because obviously if you are climbing the corporate ladder, that’s kind of expected of you that you’re going to start managing people and then starting to manage bigger and bigger teams.
And I realized that that just wasn’t where my passions lie. I also had kind of a funny experience during my first year at Google. So the first job that I had at Google was on the channels team in staffing. And it was rough. I mean, I’m so grateful for the opportunity. It was my foot in the door at Google, and it was also how I discovered the events team that I eventually landed on and spent the majority of my years at Google with and truly loved, but the job just didn’t align with my passions or personality. Basically my role was to troll the internet, LinkedIn, Github, whatever, and try to find engineers that I would then reach out to like cold email, cold call, and try to convince them to interview at Google, even though they were probably perfectly happy wherever they were.
Oh, and by the way, most of my team hated me because I was one of the first people to be hired full time into this type of role. Previously they always hired contractors for it. And I mean, I had people on my team that were like 30-year-old men that had spent their entire career on recruiting. And then they hire me 25 year old, you know, sprightly me with a background in marketing and communications.
And they hated me and I don’t blame them, but it definitely didn’t make for a very fun work environment when it’s super competitive and most of your team hates you. Oh. And by the way, you don’t even like the work that you’re doing. So it was a rough start to my time at Google, but like I said, it led me to the team that I ended up with for the last four years and loved.
So anyways, the funny experience was while I was on the staffing team, they made us do the personality assessment, True Colors. If you haven’t done true colors, I definitely recommend it. [You can take a free online assessment to find your color and what it means here] I find those kinds of personality tests. So enlightening. And that was the case with this one. I took the test and I was very much an orange.
So if you’re not familiar with the different colors and what they mean, an orange is basically somebody that needs to have a lot of variety. They really don’t like monotony in their work. It specifically said things like oranges can’t be chained to their desk. They need to be managing a bunch of different projects and variety is the spice of life. They’re super creative. They’re rule breakers. They like to try new things. And I’m reading this and I’m like, okay, great. So you’re basically telling me that I am definitely in the wrong job. I mean, our lead at the time had literally implemented a butts in seats rule where from nine to five, you had to have your ass at your desk. Which is like, so unlike the majority of Google. He was fired by the way, he doesn’t work there anymore. But the role itself was just so monotonous. I was having the exact same conversations on the phone. Like I literally thought what if I could record myself and just like, press play. And then pause when I would wait to hear the other person on the end of the line, responding.
It was just the same thing over and over. And it brought me zero joy. So anyways, I learned that I was an orange. I did my time. Anytime you are in a new role at Google, you’re pretty much expected to be in that role for at least a year. So I did my time. And it led me to finding the events team that I spent the rest of my career at Google with.
And to be honest, that team was a dream. And I was really happy on that team for a while, until years later, I realized it was time for me to leave. So what started as a quiet voice in the back of my mind, that was more kind of like, what if like, wouldn’t it be cool if I could run my blog full-time over the years, just continue to grow and grow and become a louder voice that was like, look, girl, Google is great. But you’ve got this other calling.
And for a few years, I was like, maybe I’ll just do this forever. Maybe I’ll just work at Google forever and travel with Google and have fun doing my blog on the side and enjoy the other opportunities that come from my blog, like partnering with tourism boards, you know, just the fact that I enjoy it.
And it’s fun. The free clothes, like nobody minds that. Having an extra supplemental income, like maybe I’ll just do both forever because I really felt like if I didn’t have this other calling and an interest in pursuing and running my own business I would have probably stayed at Google. I mean, definitely a very long time, but maybe forever.
It’s such a big company and there’s so much opportunity to move around and try different things. And in my mind it was like, it really can’t get better than this in terms of working for a large corporation. And that’s, for me personally, Google had just always been my dream company to work for. And so for a little while, I was like, maybe I’ll just have the best of both worlds and do both.
And then I’m not putting pressure on my blog to be my full-time income and I’m just having fun.
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So I did that for several years and would work on my blog nights and weekends, and it just continue to grow. And then 2017, 2018 was when I really saw a lot of growth on Instagram and my blog traffic was really starting to pick up.
And then that was coupled with the fact that the influencer marketing industry was really experiencing a huge growth as well. And so what I mean by that is brands were really starting to invest in influencer marketing. And I see it all the time now, when there’s a campaign that I’m working on, for example, I just did one for Instacart.
I hear their ads on Spotify. I see their ads on Hulu. I see their ads on different websites and they’re obviously incorporating influencer marketing. So it’s more of this kind of like all-encompassing marketing campaign with different touch points and for a lot of companies now, adding that influencer marketing piece is just a given, which is great for me and other influencers, because that means that there’s more opportunities to make money.
And then also around that same time period of 2017 and kind of leading into 2018 while my blog is heating up and picking up, I also got a really exciting opportunity on my team at Google. And that was to be our global program manager for our international women’s day event series. And so this event series meant so much to me. It was my favorite event that I worked on and I had worked on a few of them as like an individual site program manager, which means I had put on an event for one location. But the global program manager, it was their job to really wrangle across all of these different teams, all of these different individual events and sites and people, you know, working with the engineering teams to put on these code labs and workshops and making sure that just everyone’s staying on track for producing these large events all over the world. And it was definitely one of the most visible and like high profile events series that my team put on, so to be asked to be the global PM for it, was a really big deal. And it was something that I was really nervous for but super excited to take on.
So I kicked off planning for this event during the summer, and then the first event happens in March for international women’s day. So I spent seven or eight months program managing and working on this event series, which is a really big chunk of my year. And there was just, I felt so much pressure, but it was also a really great learning opportunity. And you know, I had been on this events team for a few years now. I was definitely one of the more like senior individual contributors on the team. And after a few years, you know, it’s kind of time to figure out what your next step is going to be. So I had been thinking that maybe I would move into a large-scale program manager role on an engineering team. And so managing this international women’s day event series was kind of a really clear path and stepping stone to that because I would be getting more experience with that larger scale program management.
Well, did that, the events were amazing. I was so proud of my team. It was incredible seeing them all come to life at different offices around the world, but I realized some things. I realized that there were parts of that experience that I loved, and there were parts that I fucking hated. And that sounds harsh, but I am so glad that I realized that because I think it would have been really easy to, you know, step into a new role on a different team that involves large scale program management and think like, I’m going to love it, it’s going to be great. And then quickly realized like, Oh, there are parts of this that I just can’t stand. So, for me, I realized that I really like being the one that produces the work. I don’t like managing other people’s workflows and making sure that other people are on task and on time. I like to have accountability to myself and I like to produce that work and I like to see the results and yeah, that was just a major realization that I had.
So, the events happen all around the world, like I said, super rewarding to see my team produce these incredible events for women in tech, and to see that come to life. After that, I took about a month off because I was just so burnt out. I forgot to mention that for a few months during this time, I was also given another cool opportunity to manage Google’s presence at the Grace Hopper India conference, which was really exciting.
But time zone aside, when you’re working with teams in India, it is just, there’s such cultural differences and it really was such an awesome experience and I’m so glad that I was able to work on that, but it was definitely stressful at times. And having both of those going on at the same time, there were certainly a couple of times where I had little mental breakdowns and just fell into a puddle and was crying and Omied, my husband, had to like pick me back up and be like, it’s going to be okay. Can I make you some tea? Like, you’re gonna get through this. If anyone can do it, you can. Like, he’s such a great hype man.
So that was a lot. And especially leading up to the events, sometimes I would be working until like 10:00 PM, midnight, and then you go to sleep and you wake up and you do it all over again.
And so needless to say, my blog was not getting a lot of love during this time period and was really far back on the back burner because my usual time when I would work on the blog nights and weekends were now getting filled with these events that I was working on. And that was okay with me because I was super committed to them. I knew that they were big opportunities for me and I was excited about them. But then, when these events were over and I was traveling for a month afterwards, I really had time to kind of take a step back and just like take stock and reflect and think about how did that go? How did I feel? Like what’s my next move from here? Do I feel like I have a clear path because I kind of thought I was going to do this next step at Google and after going through this process, I’m realizing, I don’t think that’s for me. And if I’m really truly honest with myself, what is it that I want to do? Well, I knew right away it was that I wanted to run my blog full time. Like, money numbers aside, if I could pick anything, what would I do? That was it. And I’m going to be really open and honest with you guys about some financial numbers about my blog, because I know that people are curious and I frankly think that women don’t talk about money and concrete numbers enough. So here we go!
So during that year where I had this kind of eight month period where I was just working crazy hard at Google, I ended up making $40,000 from my blog and that to me was a really important signal because for most of the year I was really not touching my blog because I was so focused on the work that I was doing for Google, and my evenings and weekends were, were far less open than they usually were. So to me, the fact that I was able to make that kind of money with such limited time and energy available to put towards my blog, I was like, I think I can do, you know, double, triple who knows if I were to put my full-time energy into it.
So these are all the thoughts that I’m having. I’m coming to grips with the fact that I don’t actually see myself at Google anymore. And that this is what I truly want to do during this time period, when I’m taking this month off, I met up with my family in Tokyo, which was amazing. It was cherry blossom season and I’m half Japanese, so my sister and I, we like, since we were kids, we had promised each other that we would go to Japan together someday. So to get to experience that as a family was really, really special. And during that trip, I told my dad, I think I want to leave Google. I think I want to do my blog full-time and just see if I can make it, like, this is what I want to do. And he, it’s so funny because his whole career has been full of risks. He’s taken some really big leaps of faith and like made some risky decisions and it’s worked out great for him. But when it comes to his daughters, he’s very risk averse. And so, he was really trying to convince me not to do that. He was like, stay with Google. Like you can totally do it. Like you can run your own business someday. I have total faith in you, but I really think that you should stay with Google. Like if you want to start a family, you should take advantage of that six-month maternity leave that they give you, like have your babies with Google. Right out there’s going to be another recession, like right out the next recession and we argued a bit about it, but then I was like, maybe he’s right. Like maybe that is what I should do. And I still had like two or three weeks of my trip left at that point. And Omied met me in Australia and then we went to Fiji and I spent the rest of my trip, convincing myself that, that was what I was going to do, that I was going to give it a few more years. Take advantage of all of the perks that come with being at Google, I was just about to hit my five-year anniversary, and once you hit five years, you get 25 days of PTO a year, which is amazing. And just all of the flexibility and travel that came with Google. I was like, I convinced myself like, okay, I’m going to ride it out for at least a few more years.
When I got back to San Francisco and the next day went to the office, I stepped foot in there and I was like, Oh, I can’t do this one more day. Let alone a few more years. Like, I just felt it in my soul. And I knew it to be true. And that, I just knew. So from there, I basically put together my own little exit strategy and plan. And I made a pact with myself and I told myself that if I made a livable salary from my blog that year, just from doing it nights and weekends, that I would leave Google. And so I gave myself the year and I also started doing things like setting up processes and systems that maybe had been a little bit sloppy or messy in the past, because I just hadn’t dedicated time to them. So for example, I used QuickBooks for my invoicing, but sometimes, you know, if a brand was late on a payment, I wouldn’t notice until like a couple of weeks later and I’d have to chase them and just things like that. So I set up systems for myself so that I would get a ping and like immediately know, like this brand is one day late, like get on them. And I also pitched my ass off to brands and started forming more relationships there because that was a really big chunk of my income was doing those brand sponsorships.
By the end of that year, I had made $75,000 from my blog and while that’s maybe not necessarily a huge salary to live on for someone in San Francisco because damn that city is expensive. I knew I could make it work. Even if I didn’t make a penny more than that. And I also knew that realistically, if I could make that amount while only working nights and weekends on the blog, who knows what I could do, if I put my full time 40 hour workweek behind it. So there I was, it was the end of 2018. I had met the goal. I had set for myself and I was freaked the fuck out. I took the holidays to just like decompress. I did a lot of self reflection journaling because even though I had told myself, if I make a livable salary, I will do this thing and I will leave Google, I still was like, wait, am I really going to do this thing? Like, this is crazy. Like people would kill for a job at Google. And so there were really two things holding me back. There was that guilt and then also obviously the money and the steady income and the comfort and security of working for a huge company like Google. On the guilt side, I felt like so many people would kill for this job, like I should just be grateful that I have this and not rock the boat. And then on the money side, I mean, there was a reason they call it golden handcuffs. Like it’s, they make it so hard to leave because it’s just, it’s so sweet there. But ultimately I made the decision I was going to put in my notice. After the new year and Omied was so supportive, bless his soul. He was like, you’ve got this. And while I didn’t put together a formal business plan, because I felt like I was already making money from the blog, I just wanted to go full-time with it and make more money from it. I did spend a lot of time doing financial planning and budgeting and Omied and I sat down together and did a lot of it as well. And we just talked through like, here’s what our monthly expenses are. Here are the needs. Here are the nice to haves. Here are the things that we’re willing to cut back on, depending on how things go with my new business. I think that in the future, I’ll do an episode that is all about, you know, something like 10 things to do or to think about before you take the leap and make your side hustle your full-time business, because I think that there are a lot of things to think through before making a big decision like that. And there are a few pieces that are really key to have in place. So something that I will record for a future episode. So first week of January rolls around, I have a meeting with my manager and I had butterflies in my stomach, felt like I was going to throw up all over him, but I told him, I let him know and he was very gracious about it. I had a really wonderful manager that was super supportive my last few years at Google and afterwards I felt, so free. I can’t even tell you guys, it was like, not like free from like the man and the corporation. I mean, yeah, I was, but it was more like, I was free from my own kind of mental strife of going back and forth of like, knowing that this was what I really wanted, but like blocking myself from that. If that makes sense. It was, I kind of had always had this, like, we’ll she, won’t she like, are you going to do it? Like, don’t do it. And. Being free of that and just being like, no, this is what I’m doing. That was such an amazing feeling. I just felt like I had such clarity in that moment and it was so clearly the right decision for me, and that feeling has never left me since then. That was two years ago now. And I have never looked back my first year. I had more financial success from my blog than I ever dreamed. I remember when I started my blog in 2012 and after like a year or two, I started finding ways to monetize it. And the first year I started monetizing my blog, I think I made $3,000 from it and I was like, Oh, my gosh, like this is so cool. I’m making money from this thing that I completely spun up out of nothing. Like, wouldn’t it be cool if someday this could be my full-time job, but I also was like, hmm, that seems a little, a little far-fetched. I just made $3,000 and I’m like excited about it, but an actual business that sustains me. I don’t know.
So for it to be well into the six figures range during the first year of launching my blog full time, that is truly something that I did not think was possible. And this past year, my business survived a pandemic and did pretty damn well. And, I love working for myself. It is truly the best fit for me, my personality and what drives me and motivates me. Like, I go to bed thinking about what I’m going to work on the next day and feeling excited. Like I just think that’s really special and there’s so much that went into setting myself up to be able to do this full-time and I think I’ll do another episode that’s more about the nitty-gritty of like systems and things that I had in place so that I could have my side hustle and how I was able to work full-time and run my blog. But I just want to say that, I worked full time and side hustled on my blog for six and a half years before I got to that point where I was ready to let my full-time job go. So I feel like I’m really reaping the rewards, finally. Now, years later of all of those nights that I stayed up late working on the blog weekends, where it probably would have sounded a lot nicer to like go to Dolores park and hang out and day drink. But instead I was shooting and editing and writing for the blog.
So yeah, that’s my story. That’s my career at Google, how I ended up following my true path and how it led me to where I am today.
So be sure to subscribe, leave a review on the podcast. I hear that that’s something that is important, um, for helping your podcasts do well. So I would really appreciate that and do me a favor. If you enjoyed, listening to this episode, screenshot it, share it on your Instastories. Tag me. I’m @wtfab. I’d love to reshare it and I’d love to just hop in your DMs and just hear what you think. Coming up in some later episodes, I will be recording some specifics on time management, productivity, my favorite apps, like I mentioned, how I manage my time and was able to blog and work full-time.
These are all questions that I get a lot. So we’re going to dive into more of those like specifics, but kind of wanting to set the scene with this one that gives a little bit more background on me and my story.
So talk to you next time, bye!
Elise Armitage is an entrepreneur and founder of What The Fab, a travel + lifestyle blog based in California. At the beginning of 2019, Elise left her corporate job at Google to chase her dreams: being an entrepreneur and helping women find fabulous in the everyday. Since then, she’s launched her SEO course Six-Figure SEO, where she teaches bloggers how to create a passive revenue stream from their website using SEO. Featured in publications like Forbes, Elle, HerMoney, and Real Simple, Elise is a firm believer that you can be of both substance and style.