Five years ago, Google wanted to much more seriously compete with Microsoft. It needed to hire someone who knew the enterprise software business.
At the time, Google was losing out on big contracts for Google Apps because the company couldn't work with enterprises on their terms: handle a complicated, global request for proposal; provide enterprise-grade technical support; or even offer a product roadmap.
So it poached long-time Oracle executive Amit Singh to teach it that stuff.
Today, Google Apps has become Google for Work and it's a lot more than Apps. It includes a bunch of products from cloud computing to videoconferencing.
It's starting to win some huge customers. While Google doesn't release revenue for the unit, one analyst estimated that it was a $1.6 billion for Google in 2014. That may be tiny compared to Google's $66 billion in revenues in 2014, mostly from selling ads. But $1 billion+ business is nothing to sneeze at.
In other words, Singh has a pretty fantastic job, and has done well at it.
But at the time, moving to Google felt like a big risk, he told Business Insider.
For one thing, he and his family were living in Boston. So it meant moving them far away, to Mountain View, California.
For another, cloud software was a pretty minor project at Google at the time.
"Google wasn’t mentally there for investing that far ahead," Singh remembers. "Google for Work, that was risky. I asked them, ‘Are you really committed to this? Are you sure you want me to come?’ I was moving my family here, from Boston," he remembers.
In fact, cloud computing wasn't really all that popular among enterprises, five years ago. Many of them were still shunning it, worried it wasn't safe and reliable.
"I believed that the cloud would be big. This is like, now 'duh' five years later. But at that time, it wasn’t necessarily like a given, that wasn’t what people were thinking," he says.
And he had a great thing going at his current job. He had been at Oracle for 20 years, working his way up to a vice president of sales. At once point, he almost left Oracle, but they talked him out of it. "They said, no, no don’t go. We’ll create a role for you." He wound up helping Oracle build an enterprise app business after it acquired PeopleSoft and Siebel.
The ultimate kick in his pants that got him to leave Oracle was the support of his family.
"My kids said. ‘Hey, I love Google! You should go work for them.’ That helped tremendously because they had to make the move from Boston to San Francisco."
Looking back, what he learned is good advice. "When you are at that moment: take the chance. I mean some might feel that this was a small chance for me, [moving from Oracle to Google] but it didn’t feel like that to me at the time. I had a great career going at Oracle, so to shift here was a big thing," he says.
"So yeah, I’ve taken a sideways move to get to something bigger, which may not be obvious right away."
To sum that up: sometimes you've got to go sideways to go up, but you'll never go anyway if you don't take a chance.
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