Excellence withers without an adversary: the time for us to see how great it is, how much its force, is when it displays its power through endurance. I assure you, good men should do the same: they should not be afraid to face hardships and difficulties, or complain of fate; whatever happens, good men should take it on good part, and turn it to a good end; it is not what you endure that matters, but how you endure it.

— Seneca, On Providence

There were a lot of not fun times at Intel. Although I’m happy to be no longer be there today, it yet turned out to be a time of technical creativity and building something I’m still proud of.

In spite of the insanity, I can’t say I completely regret that time today. Maybe some of that is the passage of time, the dulling of the memories of the stress, forgetting the feeling of powerlessness when the politics were churning. Some of it is knowing that in the end, it actually all worked out ok.

Google prides itself on the whole “Googliness” idea, the idea that everyone there is a good happy friendly person, that everyone’s helping each other and all pulling in the same direction. It’s basically so: I’ve only had to deal with the sharp-elbowed kind of politics once in five years and that instance was quickly shut down by management. There’s definitely none of the co-workers actively undermining you stuff. As far as I’ve seen, those sorts of tactics are quickly rejected by Google’s cultural antibodies.

Google’s a pleasant place to be. I wouldn’t want it to be any other way. But sometimes I struggle with the question of whether there are trade-offs.

Would I have written volta in a more Googley environment?

More to the point: would I have written it in an environment where there weren’t a few influential jerks who I really wanted to prove wrong?

To be clear, I’ve also done a few things at Google that I think went well without that motivation—it’s a great environment to work in. I don’t think jerks are a necessary ingredient for progress, but I can’t help wondering if in the end, they may have contributed to ispc in their own way.

Maybe Seneca’s on to something.

Thanks for reading this far. Tomorrow we’ll start in on my memoir of Larrabee. I kid, I kid. We’re done. No way I’m going there and I’m overdue for a blogging vacation.