Former Google employee Ian “Hixie” Hickinson has criticized Google CEO Sundar Pichai for displaying a “lack of visionary leadership” and disinterest in maintaining the ethos of Google that made it a successful company.
He also claimed that the employee morale at Google is at an all-time low and that the therapists in the Bay Area would say that all Googlers are “unhappy” with the company.
Hickinson, who is also popularly known as “Hixie”, left Google after 18 years at the company. He made some strong observations about the perceived decline of the Alphabet Inc.-owned (NASDAQ:GOOG) (NASDAQ:GOOGL) company compared to its peers.
He was particularly critical of the top leadership, including Pichai.
“Much of these problems with Google today stem from a lack of visionary leadership from Sundar Pichai, and his clear lack of interest in maintaining the cultural norms of early Google,” Hickinson said.
“A symptom of this is the spreading contingent of inept middle management,” he added. Apart from Pichai, Hickinson also called out Jeanine Banks, who is a vice president and general manager at Google, leading the Flutter team.
Missing ‘Old Google’
Hickinson is a software developer who has worked on modern web technologies, including Custom Style Sheets, or CSS, which is used in website development.
For the last nine years, Hickinson worked on Flutter at Google. Flutter is an open-source UI development kit that allows developers to build apps just once and deploy them on different platforms.
In his post, Hickinson sounded nostalgic about the “old Google” which he joined. He says Flutter was “one of the last projects to come out of the old Google, part of a stable of ambitious experiments started by Larry Page.”
He certainly misses this “old Google”, adding that it allowed product development while prioritizing users, transparency, and work-life balance.
“We essentially operated like a startup, discovering what we were building more than designing it,” Hickinson said.
‘Morale At An All-Time Low’
However, the creation of Alphabet seems to be where it all started falling apart for Hickinson.
“Google’s culture eroded. Decisions went from being made for the benefit of users to the benefit of Google, to the benefit of whoever was making the decision. Transparency evaporated,” he said.
There is a growing perception that Google is falling behind in bleeding-edge technologies like artificial intelligence (AI).
Rival Microsoft Corp. (NASDAQ:MSFT) was early to invest billions of dollars in OpenAI. It has also increasingly integrated ChatGPT and other technologies in its products – from Bing to Office and Windows.
On the other hand, Google Bard is one of the few consumer-facing AI services that the company currently has. It has also integrated bits of AI into its workspace offerings, but those don’t stand out as much.
Lending credence to this perception is a leaked memo by a top Google engineer earlier this year. “We have no secret sauce. We have no moat,” the letter said.
“Today, I don’t know anyone at Google who could explain what Google’s vision is. Morale is at an all-time low,” Hickinson added.
He claims that all Googlers visiting therapists in the San Francisco Bay Area are “unhappy” with the company.
‘Clock Is Ticking’
While Hickinson thinks that the old Google can still be saved, the “clock is ticking”.
“The deterioration of Google’s culture will eventually become irreversible because the kinds of people whom you need to act as moral compass are the same kinds of people who don’t join an organization without a moral compass,” he concluded.
Produced in association with Benzinga
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