An ex-Googler’s guide to dev tools

Many years ago, I did a brief stint at Google. A lot has changed since then, but even that brief exposure to Google’s internal developer tools left a lasting impression on me. In many ways, the dev tools inside Google are the most advanced in the world. Google has been a pioneer not only in scaling their own software systems but in figuring out how to build software effectively at scale. They’ve dealt with issues related to codebase volume, code discoverability, organizational knowledge sharing, and multi-service deployment at a level of sophistication that most other companies have not yet reached. (For reference, see Software Engineering at Google.)

In other ways, however, Google’s internal tools are awfully limited. In particular, nearly all of them are tightly coupled with Google’s unique internal ecosystem. Unfortunately, that means you can’t take them with you when you leave.

The Google diaspora has seeded so many other organizations with amazing talented people who bring lessons learned from working inside one of the world’s leading technology organizations. But adapting to programming outside of Google can be tough, especially when you’ve come to rely on tools you no longer have at your disposal.

Over the years, I’ve learned from my own experience and the experience of lots of others who have left Google. Many of Sourcegraph’s early customers began with an ex-Googler missing code search after leaving Google. I worked closely with these people to understand the gap they were trying to fill, so that we could build Sourcegraph to meet their needs. Over time, patterns emerged in terms of how ex-Googlers sought to introduce new dev tools into their organizations, inspired by their experience with dev tools at Google. Some were successful and others were not.

I thought it would be helpful to write a guide to dev tools outside of Google for the ex-Googler, written with an eye toward pragmatism and practicality. No doubt many ex-Googlers wish they could simply clone the dev tools ecosystem inside of Google to their new company, but you can’t boil the ocean. Here is my take on where you should start and a general path I think ex-Googlers can take to find the tools that will make them—and their new teams—as productive as possible…