Let’s examine the case of Jeff Huber, Google’s senior vice president of geo and commerce.
Is he falling down on the job, as some claim, or is he just a low-profile executive who got stuck with a tough assignment?
At Google, Jeff is the executive in charge of several products: Payments, Offers, Shopping, Local Search, Maps & Earth and Travel.
Huber was put into the role early in 2011, after Larry Page took over as Google CEO and re-organised the company.
There are two views on the job that Huber is doing.
One is very negative.
Last week, a Google insider told us: “Jeff’s org is a mess. [There are] constant reorgs and attrition. He is well known to be the weakest and least respected member on Larry’s staff. This is the view internally at Google and on the senior staff levels. Also very well known throughout Jeff’s senior org.”
But another view of Huber is that, last year, when Page re-organised, Huber drew the short straw. See: pretty much everyone else reporting to Page was put in charge of an organisation that already existed. Sundar Pichai got to keep running the Chrome team. Andy Rubin stayed in charge of Android. Salar Kamangar was told to keep running YouTube. And so on.
Huber, meanwhile, got a new organisation, Commerce & Local, stuffed with a mishmash or products. For example: There’s a connection between Payments and Shopping, between Shopping and Local Search, and between Local Search and Google Maps; but if you don’t connect the dots, it’s hard to figure why Payments should be in the same org as Google Earth.
Does the team working on making Google’s flight search better than Kayak really need to be in the same organisation with the team that is worrying about how to deploy NFC payments on Android?
In this view, Huber is a plenty talented and competent executive; he’s just been stuck with an impossible assignment.
One reader defended Huber in a comment last week: “I work on Jeff’s team and he’s one of the smartest and hardest working people I’ve worked with. He doesn’t hog the spotlight, but has been the man behind the scenes that made Ads a machine and who built Google Apps, two of Google’s biggest successes.”
Either way – Huber stinks or he doesn’t – the results for his group have been pretty poor. Google Maps just got booted from the iPhone. Google Wallet was a total flop. Google Offers isn’t a material business.
We’d like to hear from people who work in and with Huber’s team at Google. We’ll keep you anonymous, of course. You can reach 646-376-6014 or [email protected]
Quite understandably, Google PR declined to comment on this story. (It’s a little too messy for that.)
UPDATE: We’re starting to hear from Googlers and ex-Googlers. One writes us: “I’d like to be half as awesome as Jeff Huber. I’ve known him since he joined Google, and spent a few years as part of his org. I left Google, but my read on the set of projects he got in the re-org is that (a) he got to keep things that he has built his career on (eg: Ads, 99% of Google’s revenue), and (b) he got handed a bunch of tough problems that no one else could be trusted to solve. Clearly Larry trusts him to take on a lot and deal with it well.”
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