2019 in Review


I’ve always looked forward to the holiday season. Yes, I love big meals, endless desserts, gifts (giving them especially), ice skating, and the crisp smell of winter air, but there’s something deeper that I love about the holidays. Specifically, there’s something to how the holiday season shifts my perspective on time. Normally, life sweeps my attention down countless disparate paths: a chaotic montage of past achievements and mistakes, future hopes and anxieties, and occasionally—if I can manage it—the present. But every year, sometime after Thanksgiving, Mariah Carey’s voice first drifts down a department store aisle to tell us exactly what is on her Christmas wish list (hint: there’s only one thing), and reminds me to reflect with gratitude on the past year, to be present with the friends and family around me, and to look forward with intention and hope to the new year. The holidays are a time for me to listen to the bigger, slower rhythms in life, measured in months and years, and yet also a time to cherish the minutiae that so easily slip by otherwise: friendly smiles, an unexpected sprinkle of nutmeg, and warm blankets while the wind howls outside. It is this unique temporal tapestry of past, present, and future that I love most about the holidays.

“Let’s put away our phones and capture this moment in the fuzzy, imperfect VCRs of our memories,” words that Jillian Meyers shared with a crowd of us sweaty, physically tired, and mentally energized dancers toward the end of her dance workshop. The quote is an approximation; I don’t remember her exact words, nor do I remember the choreography anymore. I don’t even remember when I took the workshop. But I remember how I felt: recorded far more vividly than any specific detail, yet dynamic and malleable, shifting and transmuting with new layers of meaning on every recall. Like learning and performing a dance: each subsequent rendering taking on its own life and meaning by filling the context around it. Sometimes small and hidden—sneaky hand dancing while waiting at a stop light—other times ebullient and reckless, buoyed by the electric energy of a crowd. We don’t just watch, or even relive, our memories—we perform them.

In trying to remember what happened this past year, my inclination was to open my calendar. As I scrolled back to January, my first disorienting realization was that a huge chunk of my calendar was missing; this September, I left my job at Google and joined Airtable. My dense, sprawling Google corporate calendar is now a jumbled haze of freeze-frames and flashbacks. As my first job out of college, Google had been a home and a family to me for 8 years. As difficult as it was to leave, some of my closest friends helped me realize that I never intended on staying at Google forever (maybe just a long time), and that I had so much to experience from stepping out into the unknown. Below is the email I sent to my colleagues at Google on my last week:

My dear friends,

This Friday, September 6th, will be my last day at Google.
It’s been almost exactly 8 years, and still I vividly remember my first day. I had to take an uncomfortably early shuttle from SF to make it to orientation in time. I remember warily finding the shuttle stop and worrying if I was waiting at the correct unmarked street corner. Fun fact: on my first day of kindergarten, I missed the bus. Luckily, history wouldn’t repeat itself that morning. Slowly and silently others began forming a polite queue, and eventually an imposing white bus rounded the corner. “GBUS TO MTV”, it visually exclaimed. I started my journey. And as tired and bleary-eyed as I was, what I remember most was feeling overwhelmed with excitement — I was going to work for Google!

From getting picked up that day from Noogler orientation by a full contingent of 4 of my new colleagues, warmly welcoming me to GWS team, to the internship the previous summer working on the Android Calendar app, to taking a deep breath before stepping on stage to present at TGIF, to becoming a manager and striving to support and lead my team through ups and downs, to taking a leap into the unknown and joining Medical Brain, to performing at some spectacular events with Googapella, to countless brainstorming sessions, summits, partner visits, and meaningful conversations, I’ve learned and experienced more than a starry-eyed new grad on a cold SF morning could have ever possibly hoped.

I thought it would be harder to try to summarize what I’ve learned through my journey, but one lesson has been both clear and constant throughout: the awesome and singular combination of an unstoppable optimism to do good and the immovable support of the people around me. I recall countless moments, stepping into a new project, responding to a crisis, or launching a new system, where I was afraid and nearly convinced that I couldn’t do it. And every time, someone was there to tell me, “You can do this; we’re in this together.” And every time, we did it. That, to me, is Google at our best, and it has been my absolute privilege to have experienced it with you all.

I find myself now at another turning point in my journey. On Monday, September 9th, I’ll be starting at Airtable, working to democratize software creation for everyone. As I’ve never done it before, and I tend to be scared of things I haven’t done before, the prospect of working anywhere other than Google scares me. But I’m excited for what’s next, and I feel emboldened and supported by all the wonderful people I’ve gotten to know here, and who have made these past 8 years so very special to me. I wouldn’t be where I am or who I am today without you all, and for that you have my deepest gratitude.

Please keep in touch. I wish you all the very best, and I sincerely hope that our paths will cross again. I’ll be around for the rest of the week, come say hi! And I’ve put my personal contact info below, and would love to hear from you.

- Mason

Here I am now, again filled with optimism and gratitude. I started 2019 with an intention to push myself out of my comfort zone. I left my first job and started a new one in a brand new domain (if you’re curious about Enterprise engineering at Airtable, let’s chat!). I traveled to some marvelous places: Spain, Portugal, Austin, Disneyland, Big Sur, Point Reyes, Kauai, Napa, Chicago. For the first time in my life since probably middle school, I took several weeks off to just…be. I performed in a contemporary dance project, presented to VPs, represented my team to external partners and customers, and baked a bunch of bread and cookies. At times, I was very uncomfortable. Through so many of those uncomfortable moments, I leaned on the support and guidance of my friends and family who believed in me even when I didn’t. At Google, we often spoke about 10x opportunities—my 10x opportunity this year has been the difference between what I could have achieved on my own compared to what I did achieve, and how meaningful it was, with the support of everyone around me.

To all of you, thank you. I’m profoundly grateful to have spent 2019 with you, and so excited to spend 2020 together.


Now read this

Treasure Box

My mom is the best cook. I know I’m far from the only person to feel strongly about a parent’s cooking. I’ve had many conversations with friends about parents’ cooking where we recall stories of improvised last-minute masterpieces,... Continue →