Normally I don't screengrab reader mail and publish it. Paul Ogle at Tippit summarized the current zeitgeist so well, though, that he deserves a hit. "How can I save my job?" That's the only question on any Google engineer's mind right now. I'm starting to get why two Stanford grad-school dropouts hired an army of Ph.D. degree holders. Right now, you Googlers are saving your jobs like there's no tomorrow. And in academia, as I learned as an MIT sysadmin, there is no tomorrow. Publish or perish, people. Thank God you have America's CTO to handle the big issues, like which of you gets fired.
Northern California is an enlightened haven of multiculturalism, and globalization requires a diverse workforce. Unless you're a startup, in which case you're going to hire people who look like you. Take, for example, the workforce of Automattic, the maker of WordPress, a blogging program.The company, founded by white male Matt Mullenweg, has just increased its white maleness with the acquisition of PollDaddy, a two-white-males Irish firm. Are we being too harsh on Automattic? Should we give it credit for not being 100 percent white and male? After all, Google prides itself that 32 percent of its employees are women; that it views that level as an achievement shows how imbalanced Silicon Valley's scales of equity are. Still, look at the Automattic company photograph, taken at a staff retreat in Breckenridge, Colo. If I were a woman or a minority working at this company, I'd hide in the corner, too.
Until now, we'd only heard of Austin-based interactive ad agency Tocquigny because of its beautiful if bizarre office design. After seeing a video documenting the agency's 2008 summer interns, put together in hopes of luring a crop for 2009, we kind of wish things had stayed that way. Shouldn't a culturally-in-touch ad agency know not to play Bon Jovi for a bunch of millennials? The video, below. A warning: Those prone to grinding their teeth should not proceed.
Dutch Valleywag reader Dirk Dijksma has come up with a clever twist on the old metasearch engine: He's collected all the sites that HR people use to suss out job applicants, and put them into one page called CVGadget with expanding/collapsing widgets that only show the top few of each set of results from Facebook, Google Documents, etc. It popped up an old resume of mine in five seconds. Note to Dirk: Most Americans have no idea what a CV is, but no worries — they didn't know what a googol was either.
At the Start conference yesterday, Automattic founder Matt Mullenweg, creator of the popular WordPress blog software, startled the audience by claiming his company didn't have any employees. Instead, he said, they're all independent contractors. "Is that legal?" some audience members whispered. We're not employment lawyers here, so we can't say. But we note that the IRS says independent contractors are "generally free to seek out business opportunities" and "are available to work in the relevant market." Translation: Mullenweg has just announced that his programmers are available for the poaching! If, that is, you don't mind the occasional security hole. Update: Audience members missed Mullenweg saying this was true of Automattic's foreign workers only. U.S. employees have full benefits, he tells us. Only the offshore workers are eligible for poaching! (Photo via Ma.tt)
Yahoo employes received calls to nominate colleagues for the company's annual Superstar Awards. What a depressing exercise to force on workers: Will they not, inevitably, think of all of the people they'd like to put forward for the prize — but aren't eligible because they've left Yahoo? Past winners have received cash prizes of as much as $75,000; recently, Yahoo switched to stock-option grants instead, which seem less appealing. The program was the brainchild of departed HR chief Libby Sartain. Since it can only highlight the company's paucity of talent, one wonders how much it will outlast her.
"We have a preference for those who like to work and play hard," the search giant candidly informs potential candidates for openings for a compliance manager, senior internal auditor, financial project analyst, senior internal controls auditor, management accountant, internal audit treasury manager, accounting manager, internal audit manager, and technology risk analyst. Doesn't exactly conjure up the image of a white-haired 58-year-old Type II diabetic, does it?
Despite local radio ads, sources tell Silicon Alley Insider Yahoo has frozen its hiring until July. Or it's freezing its hiring in July. One of the two. The point is that purse strings are tight at Yahoo. The news jibes with what we heard shortly after Yahoo reported its first quarter earnings in April, sources told us Yahoo was cutting back on travel expenses. Still, budgeted or no, sometimes Yahoo knows talent when it sees it and goes hard after it. How else to explain the email below?
A splashy hire for Yahoo in 2001, Libby Sartain's reputation as "Chief People Yahoo" rapidly dwindled. She was pushed out in March, but Yahoo didn't make a big to-do about her successor, David Windley, who was promoted from within. Windley ran HR for the advertiser-and-publisher group when now-president Sue Decker ran it; while Windley reports to CEO Jerry Yang, one's inclined to think his loyalties lie with Decker. Human resources is a useful function to control in the midst of a power grab.
It's true: Facebook held a prom for its employees in San Francisco last night at the Metreon. The shopping mall-cineplex's fourth floor was tastefully decorated with white flowers, and the gathered Facebookers were dressed up — and so youthful, you might think it was an actual prom, save for the booze being poured at the open bars. (Ubiquitous photographee Julia Allison, who was invited, did not attend, staying in New York for a book party instead.) Why throw a prom? Facebook is going all-out for prom season this year, with a tie-in to Sony's Prom Night and a prom-dress partnership with Sears. Why not reward employees working on prom marketing campaigns with a throwback prom of their own?
The people who really matter — Yahoo shareholders — are angry about the way Yahoo CEO Jerry Yang handled negotiations with Microsoft. But there are angry Yahoo employees, too. Problem is, top Yahoo management doesn't seem to want to hear from either group. Watch this excerpt from Tech Ticker as Yahoo president Sue Decker dismisses Yahoo dissenters as people who are "tired and feeling late stages in their career."
Google's business goal is to organize the world's information. Ambitious. Google's goal for hiring women engineers? "We're very focused on having about 25 percent of our technical workforce be women," Google VP Marissa Mayer tells a Bay Area public-radio interviewer in this clip. Google's cupcake princess added that Sergey Brin — he's the cofounder she didn't date — and Larry Page — the one she did — came up with that target shortly after they founded the company.
The Brazil Renewable Energy Company, or Brenco, was the target of the Brazilian Labor Ministry's slave-labor investigation unit last month. Brenco produces ethanol from sugarcane, which is more carbon-efficient than corn-based ethanol but incredibly labor-inefficient — cane farming is some of the hardest work on Earth. How did the company, backed in part by Vinod Khosla's VC firm, address this inefficiency? By paying workers less than a dollar an hour, packing them cheek-to-jowl in substandard living conditions, preventing them from leaving the unsanitary housing on their free time, feeding them poorly, and (rather ironically for an ethanol manufacturer) banning alcohol.
Despite such perks as "all the porn you can watch if you've a mind to," a former employee of Adult FriendFinder, the user-generated porn site now owned by Penthouse, plans to sue the company. He says the company fired him because of "his activism on behalf of gay, lesbian, and other alternative lifestyle folk." The ex-employee says he isn't gay himself, but that he "pissed off" FriendFinder president Rob Brackett by criticizing the company for not serving the needs of "the alternative lifestyle community." Also, he says FriendFinder's office isn't wheelchair accessible. So there. For more such rants, this ex-employee has set up a blog called 445shermanesque, titled for FriendFinder's street address in Palo Alto. Until Craigslist took it down, he'd also posted an ad soliciting stories from other ex-employees who had been "Rode Hard and Put Away Wet." A screenshot of the pulled ad is below, in case you'd like to participate in the fun.