Google takes a lot of criticism for being undisciplined and unfocused – playing with windmills and robot cars when it should be focused on its core businesses.That’s probably wrong for one simple reason: Google’s reputation as a place where engineers can work on — and get support for — their pet projects is its biggest draw to counteract the steady departure of talented engineers.
Any company as big as Google will see a lot of people come and go, of course, but Google loses a lot more top engineers than it attracts.
The reason for this is pretty simple: top engineers are very much in demand, and a lot of them think they can do better for themselves at a startup, where their equity could explode in value if things go well, than at a huge corporation that isn’t growing as fast as it used to. Working at a new, cutting edge company is also a much sexier proposition.
Google can counteract that to a certain degree by offering lots of cash and job security, but that hasn’t been enough.
Letting engineers have their “20% time,” during which they can work on essentially whatever they want, is an important part of its pitch to engineers. Sure, you aren’t at an exciting new startup, but you can work on your big idea. If it pans out, Google will put its weight behind it, and working on it could become your full time job. If it doesn’t, you lose nothing, and you still have a well-paying job.
So, go nuts Google. Build robot cars, and buy human-powered monorails. Do everything you can to spread the idea that Google is a fun, innovative place where talented people can pursue their dreams.
It hasn’t stopped Google engineers from heading for the exits, but we expect it’s a lot better than nothing. And we wouldn’t want to see things get any worse.
Don’t believe us?
Title: Senior Product Manager, Android
New job: Head of Mobile Products, Facebook
Left: May 12, 2010
Tseng will become Facebook's head of mobile products, according to VentureBeat, reporting to Chris Cox, Facebook's VP of Product. Henri Moissinac will remain Facebook's director of mobile.
'Erick has a long track record of building engaging experiences for people on mobile devices,' Facebook says in a statement. 'We are thrilled to have Erick join us as Facebook continues to help build products and features that enable people to share and connect at anytime, from anywhere.'
Title: Staff Software Engineer, Android
New job: Engineering Lead, Square
Left: January 6, 2010
Twitter cofounder Jack Dorsey has recruited a top engineer away from Google's Android project for his new mobile payments startup, Square.
'Crazy' Bob Lee will join Square to head up development of its Android software, TechCrunch's MG Siegler reports.
Title: Engineering director
New job: Engineering director at VMware
Left: July 14, 2009
Google engineering director Mark Lucovsky will quit the company and join VMware.
The news is a bit ironic because when Google hired Mark from Microsoft (MSFT) in 2004, it angered Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer so much that he threw a chair and called Google CEO Eric Schmidt 'a fucking pussy.'
Title: Chief information officer, VP of engineering
New job: Recently resigned as EMI's president of digital
Left: April 1, 2008
News on the move, from the Business Insider:
Anyway, it's an interesting move for a couple reasons:
A big brain at Google thinks there's an opportunity to do interesting stuff in the music business -- and to do it at one of the four giant music labels that still control the industry (for now).
Unless we're missing something, Douglas has zero experience in entertainment or music. Which is in keeping with newish EMI boss Guy Hands' plan to staff his company with outsiders.