Microsoft Manager James Whittaker Explains Why He Left Google

Posted Mar 14, 2012

James Whittaker was an Engineering Director at Google before he left to rejoin Microsoft as a Partner Development Manager. Before working at these companies, he was a professor of computer science at Florida Institute of Technology and he was a consultant at IBM. Whittaker said that when he worked at Google, the time there was fun. He had become passionate about the company when he worked there and was able to keynote 4 Google Developer Day events and two Google Test Automation Conferences.

“The Google I was passionate about was a technology company that empowered its employees to innovate. The Google I left was an advertising company with a single corporate-mandated focus,” stated Whittaker. “Technically I suppose Google has always been an advertising company, but for the better part of the last three years, it didn?t feel like one. Google was an ad company only in the sense that a good TV show is an ad company: having great content attracts advertisers.”

When Eric Schmidt was CEO, ads were always in the background and Google was run like it was an innovation factory. There were peer bonuses, 20% time, and founder’s awards. Now 20% time meant “half-assed” according to Whittaker.

My favorite line from his blog post was: “Google was the rich kid who, after having discovered he wasn?t invited to the party, built his own party in retaliation. The fact that no one came to Google?s party became the elephant in the room.”

It appears that Mark Zuckerberg seems to be driving Google crazy and they are losing the passion that their employees once had for the company because of it. What Google needs to accept is that other technology companies will come up and they are already dominant in their search position. Nobody is ever going to go to Facebook for their search engine needs, nobody is going to sign up for a Google newsletter to get daily deals like Groupon, and nobody is going to play Facebook games through Google like Zynga. We will use Google for our search, for our mobile operating systems, for their e-mail, for web browsing needs, etc.