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Tech What it's like to walk away from a job at Google to pursue a career in stand-up comedy

Three years ago, Sarah Cooper made an unusual career move.

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Sarah Cooper

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  • Comedian Sarah Cooper quit her job at Google three years ago to pursue a career in stand-up comedy.
  • Cooper chatted with Recode's Kara Swisher and former Twitter CEO Dick Costolo about the difficulty of giving up her job at Google, her observations on tech culture, and her aspirations as a comedian in a recent podcast.

Three years ago, Sarah Cooper made an unusual career move.

The Georgia Tech graduate had spent the past eight years working in user experience (UX) design at tech companies including Yahoo and Google, but now she was giving up her coveted career in tech to pursue her passion: comedy.

Cooper recently chatted about her decision to quit Google with journalist Kara Swisher and former Twitter CEO Dick Costolo — who once pursued a career in standup comedy himself — on Recode's latest Recode Decode podcast.

Cooper talked about how she first decided to take a stab at stand-up to improve her acting skills after graduating college. She downed eight beers before taking to the stage at an open mic in a downtown Atlanta lounge and was immediately hooked. "They couldn't get me off stage," she said. "I was up there for eight minutes and it was supposed to be five."

Shortly after, Cooper decided to move to New York in order to pursue a career in stand-up full time. After struggling to pay off her student loans, she applied for a job in UX design at Google's New York headquarters. "My fallback career turned out to be other people's main idea of a great career," she jokes.

At Google, she specialized in designing the toolbars for Google docs, sheets, and slides, and drew inspiration for her comedy from the company's culture. In 2014, she published a satirical office guide, "10 Tricks to Appear Smart During Meetings," that included tongue-in-cheek tips like "Draw a Venn diagram" and "Pace around the room." The post went viral almost immediately, clocking in at nearly 20,000 views on Medium.

The article's success inspired Cooper to return to her original passion, and, a few months later, she sat down with explained to her supervisor at Google that she intended to leave the company in order to focus full-time on her aspirations in comedy.

In an interview with The Observer, she describes the move as difficult. "It took six months of going back and forth," she said. "The fear you have is that nothing will be better than working at Google."

But Cooper's move paid off. It wasn't long before she had found an agent and began working on a book, "100 Tips to Appear Smart During Meetings," which was published in October 2016. Now, you can find her quick-witted observations on office culture and pitch-perfect tech industry observations chronicled on her website, The Cooper Review.

To hear Cooper's story in her own words, listen to Recode's full interview here.