/ Shayon Mukherjee / blog

The 'At My Last Place...' Problem

November 25, 2020
~2 mins

The “At my last place…” problem, or also commonly discussed as

‘xooglers always be like “at google we…”’twitter

If you have been working at a place for a while and switch to a new gig, you may find yourself making a comparison or drawing from your past experiences about a project, tool, tech, or process you are working on. In fairness, I feel like Xooglers get a bad rap. Since in my limited experience, I have noticed this to be just as true for folks from any other tech company - AirBnb, Uber, Stripe, or similar.

It’s not uncommon for humans to draw comparisons or use past learning to inform a future decision. It’s something I faced too after my time at Intercom. Then every time, I began a sentence with “At my place…” I mentally put a dollar in a jar while feeling a rush of cringe through my body. On the one hand, I felt horrible for not bringing a rational, unbiased mind to a conversation. On the other hand, I considered the comparison a useful thought experiment to tease out the details.

Drawing from a past experience, naming a company, technology, or referencing a white paper are also some ways of bringing credibility to the table while sharing an honest opinion. In fairness, I looked back to all kinds of experiences, especially the ones with lessons learnt.

The problem to avoid here is not to get into a rut of doing something just because that’s how X company or team operated in the past. Or because it makes the decision process more comfortable, so you patch the problem at hand and move on to the next things.

You may notice that often what is also being proposed is a solution that more or less addresses the problem. Still, folks get too involved in solutionizing, so they miss the sight of the original problem. Going back to first principles is a nice way to reset the ground. Asking questions like “Does this address the problem, we are facing here today?” or “What problem is it trying to solve?” can be helpful.

One thing to remember is not giving yourself a hard time. Its also why companies hire people with past experiences so you can bring that knowledge and expertise to help solve current problems.

A smart person once said, “The important thing is not to stop questioning”. And I think that’s what matters at the end of the day is to be able to innovate while being fair.

last modified November 25, 2020