Alex Collins worked at Google for four years before he made the scary decision to ditch his comfortable, well-salaried job to make music.
The company hired him back in 2010 as part of its associate product manager program, one of Google’s most elite entry-level positions. After that two-year rotational, he took a product management position with the search ads team.
Collins has always been really passionate about music, though. He started playing piano and trombone at a young age. Later in life, he got into producing and mixing; DJ’ing several parties a week helped him pay for his last two years of college. Last year, he realised how much he missed it, and started spending all his free time writing and producing music. He took a two-month leave from Google to see if it was something he could picture himself pursuing full time and it felt right. This July, he decided to quit Google entirely.
“I think my parents are still coming to terms with it,” he laughs. “They’re like, ‘Oh, this Google thing seemed like a really good gig. Why are you screwing it up?'”
But Collins knew he had to give music a try. He plans to release an EP or album under the name Edison Field by the beginning of the new year. Collins told Business Insider that a big part of his decision to take the leap came from an approach to goal-setting that he learned at Google.
“At Google, I learned how to create structure where there is none,” he says. “As a product manager, you’ll be given, like, ‘Go design a self-driving car or a computer you can wear on your head or a brand-new ad format.’ And it’s kind of limitless. And you have to figure out, OK, how do I actually do that, what are the steps?”
Google can take on huge projects by breaking them down using what’s called the OKR organizational system, which guides people through objectives and key results. Collins used the same idea when he quit Google, building himself a very defined structure and timeline.
In September he completed a “30-in-30” challenge where he had to create a completely new track every day. He plans to spend October refining those beginnings and picking the best ones. In November he will mix and master them. In December he will begin his marketing efforts. Then, in January, he will release the album. By turning a nebulous idea like quitting his job to “make music” into a set of concrete steps with clear, quantifiable results, he felt emboldened to take on his dream.