On 5th August 2016, I was sacked from Google.  

As a 20-year-old who had little job experience beyond the army, landing this job had been a godsend. We were mapping out areas in Singapore with a new technology called Tango.  

But I messed up.  

I had disagreements with my team and couldn’t work well with them.  

That afternoon, at 3pm, I was called into the office. The writing had been on the wall. But when I walked into the office, I still thought there was some hope of salvaging the situation. I thought they would let me off with a warning. My manager, based in the US, had stayed up past midnight to discuss the options with our local manager.  It looked like I was so bad, that they couldn’t keep me for another day, or save the decision for the next morning.  

I was told to leave.  I was crushed. What had I done wrong? I had given my best and tried to build a better product.  

This was what I got, for giving my best? For days, I sat in a daze, not knowing what to do next.  

Disappointed man sitting down
Image Source: iStock by Getty Images

Maybe that sounds like you today.  

As you pack up your items in the office, you feel a deep sense of anger. You can’t believe why you’ve been let go, despite your best efforts to contribute.  

Or you might be feeling a deep sense of grief, as you wonder what you should do next.

Wherever you are in your journey, I’m sorry.  

But I hope this article offers some consolation and hope, based off my personal experience of being sacked from Big Tech.


It may not be your (or their) fault 

Often the biggest blame we put on getting laid off isn’t just our company.  

It’s ourselves 

Dig beneath the anger and grief, and you will realise that what lies deeper is a disappointment with yourself. You might have heard yourself repeating scripts such as,  

If only I…  

What if I had…  

This replaying of scripts within your head may not be the best thing to do. Instead, it might work better to recognise:  

It’s not your fault.  


Nor is it your employer’s fault.  

It’s simply a reflection of the realities of the current economic market, and the changes that abound in technologies such as generative Artificial Intelligence.  

What, then, can you do to recover from such a setback? 


How to give emotional first aid

A plush heart with a plaster on it being held by two hands
Image Source: xtendlife

Being sacked is not an easy experience to deal with. Often, the biggest blow one faces is to one’s self-confidence. Following my sacking, I found myself losing my appetite, feeling blue, and wondering whether I could do anything else of note. When I tried things like giving tuition, I found that I would often second-guess myself.  

I would be stuck in self-doubt, wondering if I was doing the right thing.  

Here’s where psychologist Guy Winch’s advice can help.  

Winch, in his book, Emotional First-Aid, shares that being retrenched may leave one feeling deeply rejected.  

If left untreated, this wound can fester. It can leave one unable to have the confidence to hold one’s own in front of yet another interview.  

A lady being interviewed
Image Source: ISC Professional

You might already see this happening. You go to your next interview and find the ghosts of your past haunting you. They whisper in your ear: 

Are you sure you can do this? 

You were sacked!  

Guy Winch’s advice? Write a love letter to yourself.  

Hold on. Before you throw your mouse at me, there’s more to this.  

It’s about writing down  

  1. 5 qualities you see in yourself  
  1. And how you’ve embodied them in the past 

For example, it could be:  

Dear John,  

I love you because you’re so brave.  

You dare to take on challenges like this tech job, even though you didn’t have the full expertise in it. You still dare to move on, even though you’ve been laid off.  

This love letter does wonders in pumping up your self-esteem, reminding you of the good that exists in yourself.  

Try writing it, and then reading it out loud to yourself.  

An excerpt of an exercise to practise emotional first-aid
Image Source: Live Young and Well blog

I’ve used it many times in my own counselling practice to support those who’ve gone through similar situations. Each time, they either end up smiling or in tears (of joy).  

They realise that they are not as worthless as layoffs tell them they are.  


Play Aikido with grief, using grief for growth  

But beyond just celebrating what you can bring to the table, it’s also important to play aikido with the grief you’re feeling.  

If you’re not familiar with Aikido, it’s the sport that uses the opponent’s energy against himself. If an opponent rushes towards you, you use his momentum to flip him off you. 

You can do the same with grief.  

It’s about recognising that grief can serve as an impetus for growth.  

2 questions you can ask yourself:  

  1. What did I do well in this job?  
  1. What can I do better?  

Focus more on what worked, rather than what didn’t.  

My sacking led me to see the precariousness of jobs, and to eventually decide to create my own job. I decided that I would rather not put my financial wellbeing in the hands of someone else. 


Retrenchment as my source of inspiration 

Someone throwing out their hands in celebration
Image Source: Save the Social Worker blog

In July 2023, I was invited to Google for a partner event.  

We had been implementing IT solutions for businesses and were there as part of Google’s efforts to raise awareness of its Cloud offerings.  

It was bittersweet to see the familiar surroundings again, and to admire the free flow of food.  

But this time, I was in a different position. Sure, Google was still earning much more money than I did.  

But it was no longer in control of my financial destiny, as before.  

Text "Can't" in strikethrough and "Can" written below it
Image Source: Pixabay

Retrenchments can be painful, especially when it occurs at a young age. But that pain is never permanent, unless you allow it to be.  

For me, pain can push us to become greater. But more importantly, pain can pull us towards our core, towards what truly matters in our lives.  

At the end of my Google journey, I realised that working at a brand name company was great, but it wasn’t really what I wanted.  

Rather, Google served as a guiding light to say,  

Hey, this is what can happen when two seemingly crazy guys in Sergey Brin and Larry Page believe they can change the world.  

My retrenchment inspired me to build a company.  

What will your retrenchment do for you? 

Only you can answer that.  

Top Image: Image source: Shutterstock