Page last updated at 09:34 GMT, Thursday, 8 May 2008 10:34 UK

Google denies staff 'brain drain'

By Maggie Shiels
Technology reporter, BBC News, Silicon Valley

Elliot Schrage
Elliot Schrage was a senior executive at Google

Google has denied there is a brain drain of talent at the firm following the departure of its communications boss to social network Facebook.

Elliot Schrage's departure as head of global communications and public affairs is the latest in a string of senior Google staff to have quit.

Google spokesman Matt Furman said: "Elliot was a valued member of the Google team and we wish him well."

He added: "We have a deep management pool at Google."

The Mountain View company says it gets 1,300 resumes every day. That adds up to nearly a half a million a year from people who want to come and work at the Googleplex HQ, famed for its free gourmet lunches and on site massages.

Facebook's CEO Mark Zuckerberg clearly sees its latest recruit as something of a coup, telling staff in an email: "Hey everyone. I am writing to you from India to share the really good news that Elliot Schrage will be joining our management team."

"This is a really important role for us and one that we've been trying to find the right person for a while."

"Elliot's role will be critical to helping us scale based on our culture that values transparency, openness and honest internal communications."


In the last few months those that have jumped ship to Facebook from Google include leading executives such as Sheryl Sandberg, who is now the network's chief operating officer, following time as vice president of global sales at Google.

Google campus, Mountain View
Is the Google campus losing its allure?

Other hires from Google to Facebook include Ben Ling who is now director of platform product marketing and Ethan Beard, a former director of social media and now director of business development.

Gideon Yu was previously the chief financial officer (CFO) at YouTube who left shortly after Google acquired it in 2006 and has moved to Facebook to become its CFO.

Facebook has even managed to poach a Google executive chef, Josef Desimone.

A host of other senior engineers and managers have also left in recent months. Some have gone on to start up their own companies or join other early stage ventures such as Zillow, FriendFeed, Twitter and Xobni.

Such defections are being seen by some recruiters in a partially negative light.

John Pulsipher, president of Silicon Valley recruitment firm Wollborg/Michelson, told BBC News: "It does of course not look very good for Google."

He added: "But for a start up company it's great. They are always going to be attracted to the big names that helped take a start up like Google to the top.

"They are seen as stars given where they came from. They are like artists who have had a hit song and are also expected to have a hit song the next time out."

The Google of yesterday

So why has Google lost something of its cachet among the technorati workforce?

Facebook is hot just now but everybody knows that hot can get cold
John Pulsipher, Silicon Valley recruiter

Some commentators have noted that it is no longer the firm it once was.

Far from being a search engine firm with idealistic goals to 'do no evil', it has morphed into a behemoth that rivals other large tech companies.

It now has 16,800 employees worldwide. And the opportunities to strike it rich have diminished. Google's stock option package is not as tempting as it once was now that shares are trading close to $600.

Perhaps more importantly for some, Google no longer has that "anything goes" approach that most start ups possess.

Google campus
A number of senior staff has left Google recently

Senior engineer Justin Rosenstein sent an e-mail to friends describing his new Facebook employer as "the Google of yesterday, the Microsoft of long ago".

He wrote: "That company where large numbers of stunningly brilliant people congregate and feed off each other's genius. That company that's doing with 60 engineers what teams of 600 can't pull off."

Another ex-Googler Chris Sacca, who was head of special initiatives, wrote in an email: "In a start up it's easy and it's encouraged for folks to wear multiple hats. As a company gets bigger, inevitably, it begins to organise itself vertically and employees are pushed to specialise."

Mr Pulsipher says getting in on the ground floor with Facebook makes good economic sense if the share option package is sound but he believes it's wrong for ex employees to put down the company that helped make them a desirable hire for someone else.

"That's a mistake. The reason they got the job at Facebook in the first place is because of the chances they got at Google and the talent they worked with. People are not an island unto themselves."

He added: "Facebook is hot just now but everybody knows that hot can get cold."

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