One of the problems of having a common name is name collisions :)
One day I came into my Google office and was hacking away as normal. As the day went on, I started getting mysterious failures, losing access to various systems with credential failures. I was boggled and eventually consulted Tech Stop (Google tech support) about what was going on. I sat there chuckling as I watched myself lose access to internal systems one by one. For kicks I went to see my compensation page which I discovered to be amusingly empty. No biggie, I didn’t need my salary/vacation/stock anyway. I sat there wondering if Google was trying to subtly fire me. First they take my stapler, then they take me off the payroll, and next thing I know my manager will be moving me to the basement.
Eventually Tech Stop found out who was writing all the changes to my accounts - HR. They were about to call up HR to find out why I was getting deleted from Google when they noticed that a new William Chan was entering the system, taking my spot. Apparently we had a new acquisition, which of course had their own employee accounts, and this new William Chan had the same username as me, and HR was overwriting me with William Chan v2. I think I scared away the imposter because I don’t recall him being around later when I searched for other William Chans who could possibly be receiving my office mail.
Good thing we had backups. It’s kinda nice getting paid.
Losing my “chance” to be a co-founder
Back in 2002, I had the good fortune of hanging out with a wonderful fellow by the name of Rolland Yip. We were both Stanford computer science students studying abroad in Japan and working internships in Tokyo. Fast forward nearly a decade and we had totally lost touch (I’m terrible at that), but Rolland was going to do a new startup in Hong Kong. So, of course he thinks about finding a clever co-founder to help him get things rolling. Apparently I made a good impression on him all those years ago (haha, fooled him!), so he went to look me up. He goes through the various social networks looking up William Chan, Stanford, Google, etc and finds “me”.
Little did he know, I’m not the only William Chan who graduated from Stanford with a CS degree and went to work at Google. This William Chan actually sat down the hall from me at Google in building 43, and we regularly received each others’ mail. He’s a swell fellow though, so he always returned my new camera lenses I ordered off Amazon, my recompensation checks from when I bought Google stuff on my own account (quite hilarious since he could actually cash those checks), etc. After he left Google, I did discover that he had used one of my free massage credits though, the bastard! :P
So Rolland reaches out, and discovers that he got the wrong William Chan, but the William Chan he contacted is totally interested in moving to Hong Kong and doing a startup. 2012 comes around and Google flies me to Tokyo for a HTTP standardization meeting, and I decide to take a slight detour to visit my old classmate in Hong Kong, where I get the lowdown on how these two fellows became co-founders. Hah! Great guys, I’m glad it worked out for them. Especially since I didn’t really have any intention of moving to Hong Kong nor leaving Google at that point in my life, so it’s great Rolland found a William Chan who did :)