IBM: A Management Beacon Shines Brightly

May 17, 2024

dinosaur30a_thumbThis essay is the work of a dinobaby. Unlike some folks, no smart software improved my native ineptness.

To be frank, I don’t know if the write up called “IBM Sued Again for Alleged Discrimination. This Time Against White Males” is on the money. I don’t really care. The item is absolutely delicious. For context, older employees were given an opportunity to train their replacements and then find their future elsewhere. I think someone told me that was “age discrimination.” True or not, a couple of interesting Web sites disappeared. These reported on the hilarious personnel management policies in place at Big Blue during the sweep of those with silver hair. Hey, as a dinobaby, I know getting older adds a cost burden to outfits who really care about their employees. Plus, old employees are not “fast,” like those whip smart 24 year olds with fancy degrees and zero common sense. I understood the desire to dump expensive employees and find cheaper, more flexible workers. Anyone can learn PL/I, but only the young can embrace the intricacies of Squarespace.

59 old time football

Old geezers and dinobabies have no place on a team of young, bright, low wage athletes. Thanks, ChatGPT. Good enough in one try. Microsoft Copilot crashed. Well, MSFT is busy with security and AI or is it AI and security. I don’t know, do you?

The cited article reports:

The complaint claims that in the pursuit of greater racial and gender diversity within the Linux distro maker, Red Hat axed senior director Allan Kingsley Wood, an employee of eight years. According to the suit, that diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiative within Red Hat “necessitates prioritizing skin color and race as primary hiring factors,” and this, and not other factors, led to him being laid off. Basically, Wood claims he was unfairly let go for being a White man, rather for performance or the like, because Red Hat was focused on prioritizing in an unlawfully discriminatory fashion people of other races and genders to diversify its ranks.

The impact? The professional has an opportunity to explore the greenness on the side of the fence closer to the unemployment benefits claims office. The write up concludes this way:

It’s too early to tell how likely Wood is to succeed in his case. A 2020 lawsuit against Google on similar grounds didn’t even make it to court because the plaintiff withdrew. On the other hand, IBM has been settling age-discrimination claims left and right, so perhaps we’ll see that happen here. We’ve reached out to Red Hat and AFL for further comment on the impending court battle, and we’ll update if we hear back.

I will predict the future. The parties to this legal matter (assuming it is not settled among gentlemen) will not get back to the author of the news report. In my opinion, IBM remains a paragon of outstanding personnel management.

Stephen E Arnold, May 17, 2024

Google Lessons in Management: Motivating Some, Demotivating Others

May 14, 2024

dinosaur30a_thumbThis essay is the work of a dinobaby. Unlike some folks, no smart software improved my native ineptness.

I spotted an interesting comment in “Google Workers Complain of Decline in Morale’ as CEO Sundar Pichai Grilled over Raises, Layoffs: Increased distrust.” Here’s the passage:

Last month, the company fired 200 more workers, aside from the roughly 50 staffers involved in the protests, and shifted jobs abroad to Mexico and India.

I paired this Xhitter item with “Google Employees Question Execs over Decline in Morale after Blowout Earnings.” That write up asserted:

At an all-hands meeting last week, Google employees questioned leadership about cost cuts, layoffs and “morale” issues following the company’s better-than-expected first-quarter earnings report. CEO Sundar Pichai and CFO Ruth Porat said the company will likely have fewer layoffs in the second half of 2024.

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Poor, poor Googzilla. I think the fearsome alleged monopolist could lose a few pounds. What do you think? Thanks, MSFT Copilot good enough work just like some security models we know and love.

Not no layoffs. Just “fewer layoffs.” Okay, that a motivator.

The estimable “real” news service stated:

Alphabet’s top leadership has been on the defensive for the past few years, as vocal staffers have railed about post-pandemic return-to-office mandates, the company’s cloud contracts with the military, fewer perks and an extended stretch of layoffs — totaling more than 12,000 last year — along with other cost cuts that began when the economy turned in 2022. Employees have also complained about a lack of trust and demands that they work on tighter deadlines with fewer resources and diminished opportunities for internal advancement.

What’s wrong with this management method? The answer: Absolutely nothing. The write up included this bit of information:

She [Ruth Porat, Google CFO, who is quitting the volleyball and foosball facility] also took the rare step of admitting to leadership’s mistakes in its prior handling of investments. “The problem is a couple of years ago — two years ago, to be precise — we actually got that upside down and expenses started growing faster than revenues,” said Porat, who announced nearly a year ago [in 2023] that she would be stepping down from the CFO position but hasn’t yet vacated the office. “The problem with that is it’s not sustainable.”

Ever tactful, Sundar Pichai (the straight man in the Sundar & Prabhakar Comedy Team is quoted as saying in silky tones:

“I think you almost set the record for the longest TGIF answer,” he said. Google all-hands meetings were originally called TGIFs because they took place on Fridays, but now they can occur on other days of the week. Pichai then joked that leadership should hold a “Finance 101” Ted Talk for employees. With respect to the decline in morale brought up by employees, Pichai said “leadership has a lot of responsibility here, adding that “it’s an iterative process.”

That’s a demonstration of tactful high school science club management-speak, in my opinion. To emphasize the future opportunities for the world’s smartest people, he allegedly said, according to the write up:

Pichai said the company is “working through a long period of transition as a company” which includes cutting expenses and “driving efficiencies.” Regarding the latter point, he said, “We want to do this forever.” [Editor note: Emphasis added]

Forever is a long, long time, isn’t it?

Poor, addled Googzilla. Litigation to the left, litigation to the right. Grousing world’s smartest employees. A legacy of baby making in the legal department. Apple apparently falling in lust with OpenAI. Amazon and its pesky Yellow Pages approach to advertising.

The sky is not falling, but there are some dark clouds overhead. And, speaking of overhead, is Google ever going to be able to control its costs, pay off its technical debt, write checks to the governments when the firm is unjustly found guilty of assorted transgressions?

For now, yes. Forever? Sure, why not?

Stephen E Arnold, May 14, 2024

AI Does Prediction about Humans: What Could Go Wrong

April 26, 2024

green-dino_thumb_thumb_thumbThis essay is the work of a dumb dinobaby. No smart software required.

The academic institution which took money from everyone’s favorite expert on exploitation has revealed an interesting chunk of research. Sadly it is about broader concept of exploitation than those laboring in his mansions. “MIT Study Reveals an AI  Model That Can Predict Future Actions of Human.” The title seems a bit incomplete, but no doubt Mr. Epstein would embrace the technology. Imagine. Feed in data about those with whom he employed and match the outputs to the interests of his clients and friends.

The write up says:

A new study from researchers at MIT and the University of Washington reveals an AI model that can accurately predict a person or a machine’s future actions.  The AI is known as the latent inference budget model (L-IBM). The study authors claim that L-IBM is better than other previously proposed frameworks capable of modeling human decision-making. It works by examining past behavior, actions, and limitations linked to the thinking process of an agent (which could be either a human or another AI). The data or result obtained after the assessment is called the inference budget.

Very academic sounding. I expected no less from MIT and its companion institution.

To model the decision-making process of an agent, L-IBM first analyzes an individual’s behavior and the different variables that affect it.  “In other words, we seek to model both what agents wish to do and what agents will actually do in any given state,” the researchers said. This step involved observing agents placed in a maze at random positions. The L-IBM model was then employed to understand their thinking/computational limitations and predict their behavior.

image

A predictive system allows for more efficient use of available resources. Smart software does not protest, require benefits, or take vacations. Thanks, MSFT Copilot. Good enough. Just four tries today.

The method seems less labor intensive that the old, cancer wizard IBM Watson relied upon. This model processes behavior data, not selected information; for example, cancer treatments. Then, the new system will observe actions and learn what those humans will do next.

Then the clever researchers arranged a game:

The researchers made the subjects play a reference game. The game involves a speaker and a listener. The latter receives a set of different colors, they pick one but can’t tell the name of the color they picked directly to the listener. The speaker describes the color for the speakers through natural language utterances (basically the speaker gives out different words as hints). If the listener selects the same color the speaker picked from the set, they both win. 

At this point in the write up, I was wondering how long the process requires and what the fully loaded costs would be to get one useful human prediction. The write up makes clear that more work was required. Now the model played chess with humans. (I thought the Google cracked this problem with DeepMind methods after IBM’s chess playing system beat up a world champion human.

One of the wizards is quoted in the write up as stating:

“For me, the most striking thing was the fact that this inference budget is very interpretable. It is saying tougher problems require more planning or being a strong player means planning for longer. When we first set out to do this, we didn’t think that our algorithm would be able to pick up on those behaviors naturally.

Yes, there are three steps. But the expert notes:

“We demonstrated that it can outperform classical models of bounded rationality while imputing meaningful measures of human skill and task difficulty,” the researchers note. If we know that a human is about to make a mistake, having seen how they have behaved before, the AI agent could step in and offer a better way to do it. Or the agent could adapt to the weaknesses that its human collaborators have. Being able to model human behavior is an important step toward building an AI agent that can actually help that human…

If Mr. Epstein had access to a model with this capability, he might still be with us. Other applications of the technology may lead to control of malleable humans.

Net net: MIT is a source of interesting investigations like the one conducted after the Epstein antics became more widely known. Light the light of learning.

Stephen E Arnold, April 26, 2024

Is Grandma Google Making Erratic Decisions?

April 24, 2024

green-dino_thumb_thumb_thumbThis essay is the work of a dumb dinobaby. No smart software required.

Clowny Fish TV is unknown to me. The site published a write up which I found interesting and stuffed full of details I had not seen previously. The April 18, 2024,  essay is “YouTubers Claim YouTube is Very Broken Right Now.” Let’s look at a handful of examples and see if these spark any thoughts in my dinobaby mind. As Vladimir Shmondenko says, “Let’s go.”

image

Grandma Googzilla has her view of herself. Nosce teipsum, right? Thanks, MSFT Copilot. How’s your security today?

Here’s a statement to consider:

Over the past 72 hours, YouTubers have been complaining on X about everything from delayed comments to a noticeable decline in revenue and even videos being removed by Google for nebulous reasons after being online for years.

Okay, sluggish functions from the video ad machine. I have noticed either slow-loading or dead video ads; that is, the ads take a long time (maybe a second or two to 10 seconds to show up) or nothing happens and a “Skip” button just appears. No ad to skip. I wonder, “Do the advertisers pay for a non-displayed ad followed by a skip?” I assume there is some fresh Google word salad available in the content cafeteria, but I have not spotted it. Those arrests have, however, caught my attention.

Another item from the essay:

In fact, many longtime YouTube content creators have announced their retirements from the platform over the past year, and I have to wonder if these algorithm changes aren’t a driving force behind that. There’s no guarantee that there will be room for the “you” in YouTube six months from now, let alone six years from now.

I am not sure I know many of the big-time content creators. I do know that the famous Mr. Beast has formed a relationship with the Amazon Twitch outfit. Is that megastar hedging his bets? I think he is. Those videos cost big bucks and could be on broadcast TV if there were a functioning broadcast television service in the US.

How about this statement:

On top of the algorithm shift, and on top of the monetization hit, Google is now reportedly removing old videos that violate their current year Terms of Service.

Shades of the 23andMe approach to Terms of Service. What struck me is that one of my high school history teachers  — I think his name was Earl Skaggs — railed against Joseph Stalin’s changing Russian history and forcing textbooks to be revised to present Mr. Stalin’s interpretation of reality. Has Google management added changing history to their bag of tricks. I know that arresting employees is a useful management tool, but I have been relying on news reports. Maybe those arrests were “fake news.” Nothing surprises me where online information is in the mix.

I noted this remarkable statement in the Clown Fish TV essay:

Google was the glue that held all these websites together and let people get found. We’re seeing what a world looks like without Google. Because for many content creators and journalists, it’ll be practically worthless going forward.

I have selected a handful of items. The original article includes screenshots, quotes from people whom I assume are “experts” or whatever passes as an authority today, and a of Google algorithm questioning. But any of the Googlers with access to the algorithm can add a tweak or create a “wrapper” to perform a specific task. I am not sure too many Googlers know how to fiddle the plumbing anymore. Some of the “clever” code is now more than 25 years old. (People make fun of mainframes. Should more Kimmel humor be directed at 25 year old Google software?)

Observations are indeed warranted:

  1. I read Google criticism on podcasts; I read criticism of Google online. Some people are falling out of love with the Google.
  2. Google muffed the bunny with its transformer technology. By releasing software as open source, the outfit may have unwittingly demonstrated how out of touch its leadership team is and opened the door to some competitors able to move more quickly than Grandma Google. Microsoft. Davos. AI. Ah, yes.
  3. The Sundar & Prabhakar School of Strategic Thinking has allowed Google search to become an easy target. Metasearch outfits recycling poor old Bing results are praised for being better than Google. That’s quite an achievement and a verification that some high-school science club management methods don’t work as anticipated. I won’t mention arresting employees again. Oh, heck. I will. Google called the police on its own staff. Slick. Professional.

Net net: Clown Fish TV definitely has presented a useful image of Grandma Google and her video behaviors.

Stephen E Arnold, April 24, 2024

So Much for Silicon Valley Solidarity

April 23, 2024

green-dino_thumb_thumb_thumbThis essay is the work of a dumb dinobaby. No smart software required.

I thought the entity called Benzinga was a press release service. Guess not. I received a link to what looked like a “real” news story written by a Benzinga Staff Writer name Jain Rounak. “Elon Musk Reacts As Marc Andreessen Says Google Is ‘Literally Run By Employee Mobs’ With ‘Chinese Spies’ Scooping Up AI Chip Designs.” The article is a short one, and it is not exactly what the title suggested to me. Nevertheless, let’s take a quick look at what seems to be some ripping of the Silicon Valley shibboleth of solidarity.

image

The members of the Happy Silicon Valley Social club are showing signs of dissention. Thanks, MSFT Copilot. How is your security today? Oh, really.

The hook for the story is another Google employee protest. The cause was a deal for Google to provide cloud services to Israel. I assume the Googlers split along ethno-political-religious lines: One group cheering for Hamas and another for Israel. (I don’t have any first-hand evidence, so I am leveraging the scant information in the Benzinga news story.

Then what? Apparently Marc Andreessen of Netscape fame and AI polemics offered some thoughts. I am not sure where these assertions were made or if they are on the money. But, I grant to Benzinga, that the Andreessen emissions are intriguing. Let’s look at one:

“The company is literally overrun by employee mobs, Chinese spies are walking AI chip designs out the door, and they turn the Founding Fathers and the Nazis black.”

The idea that there are “Google mobs” running from Foosball court to vending machines and then to their quiet space and then to the parking lot is interesting. Where’s Charles Dickens of Tale of Two Cities fame when you need an observer to document a revolution. Are Googlers building barricades in the passage ways? Are Prius and Tesla vehicles being set on fire?

In the midst of this chaotic environment, there are Chinese spies. I am not sure one has to walk chip designs anywhere. Emailing them or copying them from one Apple device to another works reasonably well in my experience. The reference to the Google art is a reminder that the high school management club approach to running a potential trillion dollar, alleged monopoly need some upgrades.

Where’s the Elon in this? I think I am supposed to realize that Elon and Andreessen are on the same mental wave length. The Google is not. Therefore, the happy family notion is shattered. Okay, Benzinga. Whatever. Drop those names. The facts? Well, drop those too.

Stephen E Arnold, April 23, 2024

Google AI: Who Is on First? I Do Not Know. No, No, He Is on Third

April 23, 2024

green-dino_thumb_thumb_thumbThis essay is the work of a dumb dinobaby. No smart software required.

A big reorg has rattled the Googlers. Not only are these wizards candidates for termination, the work groups are squished like the acrylic pour paintings thrilling YouTube crafters.

image

Image from Vizoli Art via YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/@VizoliArt

The image might be a representation of Google’s organization, but I am just a dinobaby without expertise in art or thing Googley. Let me give you an example.

I read “Google Consolidates Its DeepMind and Research Teams Amid AI Push” (from the trust outfit itself, Thomson Reuters). The story presents the date as April 18, 2024. I learned:

The search engine giant had merged its research units Google Brain and DeepMind a year back to sharpen its focus on AI development and get ahead of rivals like Microsoft,  a partner of ChatGPT and Sora maker OpenAI.

And who moves? The trust outfit says:

Google will relocate its Responsible AI teams – which focuses on safe AI development – from Research to DeepMind so that they are closer to where AI models are built and scaled, the company said in a blog post.

Ars Technica, which publishes articles without self-identifying with trust. “Google Merges the Android, Chrome, and Hardware Divisions.” That write up channels the acrylic pour approach to management, which Ars Technica describes this way:

Google Hardware SVP Rick Osterloh will lead the new “Platforms and Devices” division. Hiroshi Lockheimer, Google’s previous head of software platforms like Android and ChromeOS, will be headed to “some new projects” at Google.

Why? AI, of course.

But who runs this organizational mix up?

One answer appears in an odd little “real” news story from an outfit called Benzinga. “Google’s DeepMind to Lead Unified AI Charge as Company Seeks to Outpace Microsoft.” The write up asserts:

The reorganization will see all AI-related teams, including the development of the Gemini chatbot, consolidated under the DeepMind division led by Demis Hassabis. This consolidation encompasses research, model development, computing resources, and regulatory compliance teams…

I assume that the one big happy family of Googlers will sort out the intersections of AI, research, hardware, app software, smart software, lines of authority, P&L responsibility, and decision making. Based on my watching Google’s antics over the last 25 years, chaos seems to be part of the ethos of the company. One cannot forget that for the AI razzle dazzle, Code Red, and reorganizational acrylic pouring, advertising accounts for about 60 percent of the firm’s financial footstool.

Will Google’s management team be able to answer the question, “Who is on first?” Will the result of the company’s acrylic pour approach to organizational structures yield a YouTube video like this one? The creator Left Brained Artist explains why acrylic paints cracked, come apart, and generally look pretty darned terrible.

image

Will Google’s pouring units together result in a cracked result? Left Brained Artist’s suggestions may not apply to an online ad company trying to cope with difficult-to-predict competitors like the Zucker’s Meta or the Microsoft clump of AI stealth fighters: OpenAI, Mistral, et al.

Reviewing the information in these three write ups about Google, I will offer several of my unwanted and often irritating observations. Ready?

  1. Comparing the Microsoft AI re-organization to the Google AI re-organization it seems to be that Microsoft has a more logical set up. Judging from the information to which I have access, Microsoft is closing deals for its AI technology with government entities and selected software companies. Microsoft is doing practical engineering drawings; Google is dumping acrylic paint, hoping it will be pretty and make sense.
  2. Google seems to be struggling from a management point of view. We have sit ins, we have police hauling off Googlers, and we have layoffs. We have re-organizations. We have numerous signals that the blue chip consulting approach to an online advertising outfit is a bit unpredictable. Hey, just sell ads and use AI to help you do it without creating 1960s’ style college sophomore sit ins.
  3. Get organized. Make an attempt to answer the question, “Who is on first?

As Abbott and Costello explained:

Costello: Well, all I’m trying to find out is what’s the guy’s name on first base?

Abbott: Oh, no, no. What is on second base?

Costello: I’m not asking you who’s on second.

Abbott: Who’s on first.

Exactly. Just sell online ads.

Stephen E Arnold, April 23, 2024

Harvard University: A Sticky Wicket, Right, Old Chap?

April 22, 2024

green-dino_thumb_thumb_thumbThis essay is the work of a dumb dinobaby. No smart software required.

I know plastic recycling does not work. The garbage pick up outfit assures me it recycles. Yeah, sure. However, I know one place where recycling is alive and well. I watched a video about someone named Francesca Gino, a Harvard professor. A YouTuber named Pete Judo presents information showing that Ms. Gino did some recycling. He did not award her those little green Ouroboros symbols. Copying and pasting are out of bounds in the Land of Ivory Towers in which Harvard has allegedly the ivory-est. You can find his videos at https://www.youtube.com/@PeteJudo1.

image

The august group of academic scholars are struggling to decide which image best fits the 21st-century version of their prestigious university: The garbage recycling image representing reuse of trash generated by other scholars or the snake-eating-its-tail image of the Ouroboros. So many decisions have these elite thinkers. Thanks, MSFT Copilot. Looking forward to your new minority stake in a company in a far off land?

As impressive a source as a YouTuber is, I think I found an even more prestigious organ of insight, the estimable New York Post. Navigate through the pop ups until you see the “real” news story “Harvard Medical School Professor Massively Plagiarized Report for Lockheed Martin Suit: Judge.” The thrust of this story is that a moonlighting scholar “plagiarized huge swaths of a report he submitted on carcinogenic chemicals, according to a federal judge, who agreed to remove it as evidence in a class action case against Lockheed Martin.”

Is this Medical School-related item spot on? I don’t know. Is the Gino-us activity on the money? For that matter, is a third Harvard professor of ethics guilty of an ethical violation in a journal article about — wait for it — ethics? I don’t know, and I don’t have the energy to figure out if plagiarism is the new Covid among academics in Boston.

However, based on the drift of these examples, I can offer several observations:

  1. Harvard University has a public relations problem. Judging from the coverage in outstanding information services as YouTube and the New York Post, the remarkable school needs to get its act together and do some “messaging.” When the plagiarism pandemic is real or fabricated by the type of adversary Microsoft continually says creates trouble, Harvard’s reputation is going to be worn down by a stream of digital bad news.
  2. The ways of a most Ivory Tower thing are mysterious. Nevertheless, it is clear that the mechanism for hiring, motivating, directing, and preventing academic superstars from sticking their hand in a pile of dog doo is not working. That falls into what I call “governance.” I want to use my best Harvard rhetoric now: “Hey, folks, you ain’t making good moves.”
  3. The top dog (president, CFO, bursar, whatever) you are on the path to an “F.” Imagine what a moral stick in the mud like William James would think of Harvard’s leadership if he were still waddling around, mumbling about radical pragmatism. Even more frightening is an AI version of this sporty chap doing a version of AI Jesus on Twitch. Instead of recycling Christian phrases, he would combine his thoughts about ethics, psychology, and Harvard with the possibly true stories about Harvard integrity herpes. Yikes.

Net net: What about educating tomorrow’s leaders. Should these young minds emulate what professors are doing, or should they be learning to pursue knowledge without shortcuts, cheating, plagiarism, and looking like characters from The Simpsons?

Stephen E Arnold, April 22, 2024

AI RIFing Financial Analysts (Juniors Only for Now). And Tomorrow?

April 19, 2024

green-dino_thumb_thumb_thumbThis essay is the work of a dumb dinobaby. No smart software required.

I read “Bill Gates Worries AI Will Take His Job, Says, ‘Bill, Go Play Pickleball, I’ve Got Malaria Eradication’.” Mr. Gates is apparently about becoming farmer. He is busy buying land. He took time out from his billionaire work today to point out that AI will nuke lots of jobs. What type of jobs will be most at risk? Amazon seems to be focused on using robots and smart software to clear out expensive, unreliable humans.

But the interesting profession facing what might be called an interesting future are financial analysts. “AI Is Coming for Wall Street: Banks Are Reportedly Weighing Cutting Analyst Hiring by Two-Thirds” asserts:

Incoming classes of junior investment-banking analysts could up being cut as much as two-thirds, some of the people suggested, while those brought on board could fetch lower salaries, on account of their work being assisted by artificial intelligence.

Okay, it is other people’s money, so no big deal if the smart software hallucinates as long as there is churn and percentage scrapes. But what happens when the “senior” analysts leave or get fired? Will smart software replace them, or it the idea that junior analyst who are “smart” will move up and add value “smart” software cannot?

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Thanks, OpenAI. This is a good depiction of the “best of the best” at a major Wall Street financial institution after learning their future was elsewhere.

The article points out:

The consulting firm Accenture has an even more extreme outlook for industry disruption, forecasting that AI could end up replacing or supplementing nearly 75% of all working hours in the banking sector.

Let’s look at the financial sector’s focus on analysts. What other industrial sectors use analysts? Here are several my team and I track:

  1. Intelligence (business and military)
  2. Law enforcement
  3. Law
  4. Medical subrogation
  5. Consulting firms (niche, general, and technical)
  6. Publishing.

If the great trimming at McKinsey and the big New York banks deliver profits, how quickly will AI-anchored software and systems diffuse across organizations?

The answer to the question is, “Fast.”

Stephen E Arnold, April 19, 2024

Google Gem: Arresting People Management

April 18, 2024

green-dino_thumb_thumb_thumbThis essay is the work of a dumb dinobaby. No smart software required.

I have worked for some well-managed outfits: Halliburton, Booz Allen, Ziff Communications, and others in the 55 year career. The idea that employees at Halliburton Nuclear (my assignment) would occupy the offices of a senior officer like Eugene Saltarelli was inconceivable. (Mr. Saltarelli sported a facial scar. When asked about the disfigurement, he would stare at the interlocutor and ask, “What scar?” Do you want to “take over” his office?) Another of my superiors at a firm in New York had a special method of shaping employee behavior. This professional did nothing to suppress rumors that two of his wives drowned  during “storms” after falling off his sail boat. Did I entertain taking over his many-windowed office in Manhattan? Answer: Are you sure you internalized the anecdote?

! google gems

Another Google management gem glitters in the public spot light.

But at the Google life seems to be different, maybe a little more frisky absent psychological behavior controls. I read “Nine Google Workers Get Arrested After Sit-In Protest over $1.2B Cloud Deal with Israel.” The main idea seems to be that someone at Google sold cloud services to the Israeli government. Employees apparently viewed the contract as bad, wrong, stupid, or some combination of attributes. The fix involved a 1960s-style sit in. After a period of time elapsed, someone at Google called the police. The employee-protesters were arrested.

I recall hearing years ago that Google faced a similar push back about a contract with the US government. To be honest, Google has generated so many human resource moments, I have a tough time recalling each. A few are Mt. Everests of excellence; for example, the termination of Dr. Timnit Gebru. This Googler had the nerve to question the bias of Google’s smart software. She departed. I assume she enjoyed the images of biased signers of documents related to America’s independence and multi-ethnic soldiers in the World War II German army. Bias? Google thinks not I guess.

The protest occurs as the Google tries to cope with increased market pressure and the tough-to-control costs of smart software. The quick fix is to nuke or RIF employees. “Google Lays Off Workers As Part of Pretty Large-Scale Restructuring” reports by citing Business Insider:

Ruth Porat, Google’s chief financial officer, sent an email to employees announcing that the company would create “growth hubs” in India, Mexico and Ireland. The unspecified number of layoffs will affect teams in the company’s finance department, including its treasury, business services and revenue cash operations units

That looks like off-shoring to me. The idea was a cookie cutter solution spun up by blue chip consulting companies 20, maybe 30 years ago. On paper, the math is more enticing than a new Land Rover and about as reliable. A state-side worker costs X fully loaded with G&A, benefits, etc. An off-shore worker costs X minus Y. If the delta means cost savings, go for it. What’s not to like?

According to a source cited in the New York Post:

“As we’ve said, we’re responsibly investing in our company’s biggest priorities and the significant opportunities ahead… To best position us for these opportunities, throughout the second half of 2023 and into 2024, a number of our teams made changes to become more efficient and work better, remove layers and align their resources to their biggest product priorities.

Yep, align. That senior management team has a way with words.

Will those who are in fear of their jobs join in the increasingly routine Google employee protests? Will disgruntled staff sandbag products and code? Will those who are terminated write tell-alls about their experiences at an outfit operating under Code Red for more than a year?

Several observations:

  1. Microsoft’s quite effective push of its AI products and services continues. In certain key markets like New York City and the US government, Google is on the defensive. Hint: Microsoft has the advantage, and the Google is struggling to catch up.
  2. Google’s management of its personnel seems to create the wrong type of news. Example: Staff arrests. Is that part of Peter Drucker’s management advice.
  3. The Google leadership team appears to lack the ability to do their job in a way that operates in a quiet, effective, positive, and measured way.

Net net: The online ad money machine keeps running. But if the investigations into Google’s business practices get traction, Google will have additional challenges to face. The Sundar & Prabhakar Comedy team should make a TikTok-type,  how-to video about human resource management. I would prefer a short video about the origin story for the online advertising method which allowed Google to become a fascinating outfit.

Stephen E Arnold, April 18, 2024

RIFed by AI? Do Not Give Hope Who Enter There

April 18, 2024

Rest assured, job seekers, it is not your imagination. Even those with impressive resumes are having trouble landing an interview, never mind a position. Case in point, Your Tango shares, “Former Google Employee Applies to 50 Jobs that He’s Overqualified For and Tracks the Alarming Number of Rejections.” Wrier Nia Tipton summarizes a pair of experiments documented on TikTok by ex-Googler Jonathan Javier. He found prospective employers were not impressed with his roles at some of the biggest tech firms in the world. In fact, his years of experience may have harmed his chances: his first 50 applications were designed to see how he would fare as an overqualified candidate. Most companies either did not respond or rejected him outright. He was not surprised. Tipton writes:

“Javier explained that recruiters are seeing hundreds of applications daily. ‘For me, whenever I put a job break out, I get about 30 to 50 every single day,’ he said. ‘So again, everybody, it’s sometimes not your resume. It’s sometimes that there’s so many qualified candidates that you might just be candidate number two and number three.’”

So take heart, applicants, rejections do not necessarily mean you are not worthy. There are just not enough positions to go around. The write-up points to February numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics that show that, while the number of available jobs has been growing, so is the unemployment rate. Javier’s experimentation continued:

“In another TikTok video, Jonathan continued his experiment and explained that he applied to 50 jobs with two similar resumes. The first resume showed that he was overqualified, while the other showed that he was qualified. Jonathan quickly received 24 rejections for the overqualified resume, while he received 15 rejections for the qualified resume. Neither got him any interviews. Something interesting that Javier noted was how fast he was rejected with his overqualified resume. From this, he observed that overqualified candidates are often overlooked in favor of candidates that fit 100% of the qualities they are looking for. ‘That’s unfortunate because it creates a bias for people who might be older or who might have a lot more experience, but they’re trying to transition into a specific industry or a new position,’ he said.”

Ouch. It is unclear what, if anything, can be done about this specificity bias in hiring. It seems all one can do is keep trying. But, not that way.

Cynthia Murrell, April 18, 2024

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