After spending 5 and a half years working at Google in the Bay Area, I moved home to Houston, Texas to be closer to family. Shortly after, I joined the incredible team at TaxJar in May of 2016.

Let me start by saying that I loved working at Google, no ill-will. For the time I was there I was part of some amazing teams, made some wonderful friends, and learned and grew professionally more than I could have imagined. I’m incredibly thankful that I started my career there, but this post is about why despite the amazing benefits and free food, there was something missing for me. This post is about why I chose to leave, and what I’ve found at TaxJar that’s brought me more joy and happiness than I had working at Google.

I wouldn’t trade any of my time at Google. I even met my husband there!

Let’s get started. I’ll take you through my own journey to find happiness in my career, and the things I’ve evaluated and learned, as I’ve made the choices that I have.  Keep in mind that these may not be true for everyone, but this is my personal story on how I’ve found happiness in what I do every day for work.

We’re a young company

The first thing that most people think about when they think about how happy they are is compensation. What I’ve learned about salary is that it is important, but it only goes so far in making you actually feel happy.  At TaxJar, we’re a young company. We don’t pay the highest salary out of the gate, because we’re still growing. We’re also proud to say that we’re profitable and in control of our own future.  

While cash is king in the real world, taking a full look at the compensation package across equity, quality of health benefits, perks, etc. helps make up for any discrepancies that might exist in evaluating a base salary.  

Of all the perks available, benefits and equity are two pieces that drive the biggest portion of career happiness for me when it comes to compensation. Finding a company that not only cares about my health and well-being, but also values me being invested in their future makes for a healthy start to a new company relationship.

(Note: If you’re evaluating an offer from Taxjar and need help figuring out what an equity portion is worth, just ask! We can help you understand what that actually means for you.)

The biggest thing I’ve learned in my own career search is that once you reach a certain point in salary where you basic needs are met, the money ceases to be a motivating factor in achieving happiness in your work. That’s when you start to look for something else. Something more. A purpose.

I’ve done some salary-soul-searching (while still at Google) and on my own time and these have been some great resources for benchmarking how much salary you may meet to  reach a point where you can focus on yourself, and not on meeting your basic needs for survival.

So if it’s not a bigger salary that makes me happier at TaxJar. What is it?

I bet it’s the remote thing!

If you’ve been reading our Life at TaxJar blog for a while, you may be thinking that this is the point in the post where all things point to REMOTE WORK as the answer to everything. Well, not this time.

Working remotely can certainly be a great thing, but back at Google I also had the same flexibility and responsibility to do what I needed to do on my own time. I could come and go as I pleased and was able to work remotely from home or their offices all over the country. The only reason I didn’t work remotely more often was because the free food is in the office, not at home. 😀  But in both roles, I do believe that having the flexibility to control your own schedule is a hugely important part of overall job satisfaction and I’m incredibly thankful to have also found that at TaxJar.

As a side-note: The most important thing to me about working remotely is not really the “perks” of getting your laundry done on a call or or being able to schedule Comcast to come anytime.  It’s the ability to be productive no matter where you are. Being able to be there for your family when they need it, and knowing that you can get your work done from anywhere you need to be is a powerful tool.

Bonus: At TaxJar, if something comes up, you also know you’ve got an all-star team standing behind you to help.

Okay you’re probably getting impatient here. If it’s not the remote thing making me happier to work at TaxJar than Google, then what is it?

Let’s dig into what’s really made me happier in my job that I’ve found here at TaxJar: Impact, Trust, Culture, & People.

Impact

One of the biggest differences in my job here at TaxJar is seeing all our hard work pay off in the form of happy customers. I’m the type of person that’s motivated by productivity and seeing actual results. Earlier this year, I planned and ran the marketing campaign for our 50-state AutoFile launch.   When all the pieces were in place, I got to watch the AutoFile enrollments roll in. It’s incredibly satisfying to put a plan into action and then see all the hard work pay off.

Lizzy Greenburg Head of Marketing TaxJar

You can argue that Google, too has a huge impact on the world, and I couldn’t agree more. But here’s the difference. In my previous role, my quota was in the billions. Yep, with a “B.”  All of the special projects, round-tables, microsites, client summits, marketing decks, betas and alphas I worked on were operating at such massive scale that it was tough to see what one thing actually did. Did they all have impact? You bet. But it takes a lot of millions to make up that big billion number, and when you’re working on such massive opportunities, it’s really hard to see how your work ends up paying off.

I love that working at TaxJar means that we all have the ability to make real meaningful change, track our results, and optimize quickly. This is something rare to find in the corporate world, and something that you only get when working at a small company like TaxJar.

Trust

When I take the time to reflect on what else drives my happiness here at TaxJar, the second thing that comes to mind is trust. The level of trust that the company and leadership has in my own capabilities, combined with the confidence that we all have for each other creates an atmosphere where everyone is motivated to do their best, but also safe to fail when that sometimes happens.

At TaxJar, I can not only feel free to share my ideas, but then I also see them prioritized and brought to fruition. Further, TaxJar is extremely transparent about all aspects of the growth of the business and our overall performance. This helps breed a continued culture of trust and accountability that drives us to become more invested in the company as a team.

You can’t run a business without trusting your own team, but stepping back and recognizing the moment when the team trusts you back is equally as important. There’s a high level of trust here at TaxJar, and there’s no question that drives my happiness quota up a zillion points.

People & Support

This one can sometimes sound so trite. “It’s the people that matter.” It feels like you read it off a marketing catalog for a major corporation. But more than ever, I’ve learned that this is so incredibly true.

Shortly after joining TaxJar, one thing that surprised me was the genuine and authentic support that my teammates give each other day in and day out. We’ve been incredibly lucky to have hired such amazing and talented people and have created a working environment where everyone is not only competent in their own roles, but amazingly supportive and encouraging of everyone around them.

Lizzy FD life post

Waking up to a message like this on our group chat (Flowdock) is pretty incredible.

In a Google culture of type-A, high-performers that I was used to, nobody ever took the time to say something so kind and supportive to each other. And if you did receive a nice note, it probably wasn’t very genuine because at the end of the day you were in competition with that person for your quarterly performance review (or PERF).

The TaxJar culture of building each other up and supporting each other (with no politics) has really been a big part of my overall happiness here at TaxJar, and its one of the reasons why I’m so lucky to have found this group. (On top of the fact that we don’t have to spend hours every quarter writing PERF, which is definitely is a great perk 🙂 ).

Working remotely, we have fun, we poke fun, and there’s a lot of personal conversation that you might not expect from a remote role. The people that make up this team are amazing and if we weren’t all remote, I’d definitely be friends with them here in Houston.

Wrap it up!

Folks used to say that “At Google, you work with the best and brightest,” and while that’s true, there are some truly brilliant people walking around the Googleplex, there are also a lot of brilliant minds not walking around the Googleplex.   I can say confidently that everyone I work with here at TaxJar is at the top of their game for what they do, and I’m so glad that I’ve found an entirely new group of teammates that I think are truly, the best and brightest. Working with amazing people does amazing things for your own job satisfaction and personal happiness.

One of my old directors at Google once told me “If you love what you do, you’ll never work another day in your life.” And once I heard that, I knew there was something else out there that I had to find. I’m thankful for the opportunities and learnings that that I’ve had in all of my previous roles, but incredibly thankful that they have led me to where I am here today. I’m glad I’m at TaxJar, and I’m truly happy and I haven’t looked back since.

Check out the TaxJar Jobs page for more about working at TaxJar.

  • Josh Evilsizor

    Great article Lizzy — looks like you came to conclusions very similar to Frederick Herzberg’s… but with much less research, and most importantly, at a very young age:

    https://hbr.org/2003/01/one-more-time-how-do-you-motivate-employees

    Kudos to you! Not only is money not everything, it barely even ranks in vertical job loading (enrichment) factors (6th or 7th place?).

    Your remarks about performance reviews were also interesting. As a part-time military officer, I’ve spent a lot of time building startups (in the civilian world) and writing “PERFs” (officer evaluation reports (OERs), in military parlance). So I know your pain, all too well, unfortunately.

    As a builder of teams, I’m always looking for the next great (valid) idea on a number of topics — employee reviews (that aren’t useless or painful), being one of them. I ran across this article recently:

    http://blog.idonethis.com/google-snippets-internal-tool/#qualtrics

    Although slightly dated (in the tech realm, at least), still very intriguing to me on at least two topics: remote work and performance evaluations.

    Relevant to this conversation (or at least, my remarks 😉 was the author’s discussion about Shopify’s homegrown and crowdsourced performance system: Unicorn. Particularly interesting to me because a system like this would seemingly do well to weed out high-performing but otherwise toxic individuals before they’re promoted into leadership positions (culture crushers, if you will). Large organizations (the military, in particular) continue to struggle with this — as do any companies really, especially as they transition from small, to medium, to large organizations.

    If TaxJar does something like this, I’d be curious to know what it is, how it works, and how you like it. Assuming it’s nonproprietary and all that jazz. 🙂

    Either way, thanks for sharing, and congrats on figuring out some of the mysteries of life, so early on in yours!

    Cheers!

  • Josh Evilsizor

    Great article Lizzy — looks like you came to conclusions very similar to Frederick Herzberg’s… but with much less research, and most importantly, at a very young age:

    https://hbr.org/2003/01/one-more-time-how-do-you-motivate-employees

    Kudos to you! Not only is money not everything, it barely even ranks in vertical job loading (enrichment) factors (6th or 7th place?).

    Your remarks about performance reviews were also interesting. As a part-time military officer, I’ve spent a lot of time building startups (in the civilian world) and writing “PERFs” (officer evaluation reports (OERs), in military parlance). So I know your pain, all too well, unfortunately.

    As a builder of teams, I’m always looking for the next great (valid) idea on a number of topics — employee reviews (that aren’t useless or painful), being one of them. I ran across this article recently:

    http://blog.idonethis.com/google-snippets-internal-tool/#qualtrics

    Although slightly dated (in the tech realm, at least), still very intriguing to me on at least two topics: remote work and performance evaluations.

    Relevant to this conversation (or at least, my remarks 😉 was the author’s discussion about Shopify’s homegrown and crowdsourced performance system: Unicorn. Particularly interesting to me because a system like this would seemingly do well to weed out high-performing but otherwise toxic individuals before they’re promoted into leadership positions (culture crushers, if you will). Large organizations (the military, in particular) continue to struggle with this — as do any companies really, especially as they transition from small, to medium, to large organizations.

    If TaxJar does something like this, I’d be curious to know what it is, how it works, and how you like it. Assuming it’s nonproprietary and all that jazz. 🙂

    Either way, thanks for sharing, and congrats on figuring out some of the mysteries of life, so early on in yours!

    Cheers!

    • Hi Josh,
      Thanks so much for taking the time to share your thoughts and the helpful links above. It sounds like you’ve done a lot of research on your end to this same type of findings which is great to hear as well. kudos to you for already diving into your journey to finding out what makes you happy too!

      To your question regarding a homegrown or outsourced performance systems, at this time we don’t use anything or I’d be happy to share it with you. We’re in the midst of evaluating a few different options to get some more feedback from our team before we head down a path of building or choosing a third party tool.

      We’re growing fast, but we’re still a relatively small team (<30) so we've been able to get by communicating openly and often, but as we grow it's definitely becoming more challenging to scale giving/received feedback to ensure everyone's voice is heard.

      Something that we're working on is similar to what we had at Google called "Googlegeist" that was really helpful in taking a pulse on what was going on in the company and gave great insight into employee satisfaction. Here's a bit more on that if you're curious: http://www.slate.com/articles/technology/technology/2013/01/google_people_operations_the_secrets_of_the_world_s_most_scientific_human.html

      I'll definitely check out the link you shared to Shopify's unicorn too!

      Thanks again for your thoughts 🙂

      Lizzy

  • This rings true with me on every level. It made my decision to apply to be part of the team, very easy.