A software engineer at Google has skewered the company’s efforts to pivot to AI, calling out the tech giant’s executives out as being “profoundly boring and glassy-eyed.”
In a widely circulating LinkedIn post, Massachusetts-based engineer Diane Theriault didn’t hold back.
“Right now, all of these boring, glassy-eyed leaders are trying to point in a vague direction (AI) while at the same time killing their golden goose,” she wrote. Theriault was responding to the latest round of layoffs, which affected hundreds of employees in the company’s ad sales team.
“Given that they have no real vision of their own, they really need their subordinates to come up with cool stuff for them,” she added.
And more layoffs are reportedly on the way. Last week, Google CEO Sundar Pichai told Google employees in an internal memo obtained by The Verge to expect more cuts.
“We have ambitious goals and will be investing in our big priorities this year,” he wrote. “The reality is that to create the capacity for this investment, we have to make tough choices.”
Pichai claimed the latest firings were about “removing layers to simplify execution and drive velocity in some areas.”
Just today, the company’s “moonshot” division X was hit with layoffs continuing the company’s ongoing efforts to scale back its headcount.
At the same time, Google has gotten caught in the AI hype wave, digging deep in its pockets for a $2 billion investment in OpenAI competitor Anthropic.
In December, The Information reported that Google was looking to reassign or let go of sales workers whose jobs were automated by the company’s new AI tools — a notable change, considering Google’s advertising business has long been its “golden goose,” as Theriault put it, making up a huge chunk of the company’s revenue.
But the continuous layoffs that have hit the tech giant are taking their toll. Employees are dispirited and unmotivated.
Theriault accused leaders of “randomly firing people, torching institutional knowledge, and blowing up perfectly functional teams.” As a result, there’s a “pervasive sense of nihilism that has taken hold.”
“The buildings are half empty at 4:30 [pm],” Theriault wrote. “I know a lot of people, myself included, who used to happily do extra work evenings and weekends to get the demo done or just out of boredom. That’s gone.”
Theriault isn’t the only employee to call out executives at the company. In November, former Googler Ian “Hixie” Hickinson called out Pichai for displaying a “lack of visionary leadership.”
The numbers back up this broken morale among employees. In a company-wide, internal survey called Googlegeist earlier this year, as reviewed by Business Insider, only 45 percent of respondents thought the company had a clear vision.
Current and former employees told BI at the time that 2023 had shaken the company to its core. One employee summed up the year inside Google in “one word: grim.”
Meanwhile, the company made a big show out of the launch of its latest large language model, dubbed Gemini, the “biggest upgrade yet” to its chatbot called Bard. But despite flashy headlines claiming it had just “beat” OpenAI’s GPT-4, the cracks started to show almost immediately.
At the time, the company was called out for faking the demonstration — reminiscent of the time its Bard chatbot was caught spewing misinformation during its first unveiling in February.
Was the company tripping over its own feet? In late 2022, around the beginning of the emerging ChatGPT craze, Pichai reportedly issued a “code red” over its competitors like OpenAI pulling far ahead in the AI race, which could help explain the company’s doubling down in the following year.
Ironically, generative AI is wreaking havoc with Google’s core search product, filling results with SEO filler and scams.
Are rolling layoffs and a pivot to AI a sign of things still to come? Given Theriault’s comments, Google’s actions have left a mark and only time will tell if its substantial investments in AI will pay off.
“Google really was a magical place, not very long ago,” Theriault wrote. “And for some reason, executives are cashing out their human capital at the very moment it seems to me like they really need it.”
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