July 16, 2021
Amr Awadallah, Google Cloud’s vice president of developer relations and the co-founder of Cloudera, is out of a job. He faces accusations of misguided attempts to reconcile and renounce his own anti-Semitism, alongside toxic leadership.
The longtime computer scientist is well known in Silicon Valley and beyond. Prior to joining Google Cloud and establishing Cloudera, he worked for Accel Partners, Yahoo, Nortel Networks, Hewlett-Packard Labs and more.
News of Awadallah’s departure broke late Thursday after Eyal Manor, Google Cloud’s vice president of engineering and product, sent an email to employees.
“I wanted to share that today is Amr Awadallah’s last day at Google,” he wrote. CNBC has verified the message, as well as other materials that contributed to Awadallah’s departure.
The biggest reason appeared to boil down to a 15-chapter manifesto Awadallah posted last month on LinkedIn, and his references to it this week during an all-hands meeting. (Awadallah also posted the essay on YouTube and Twitter.)
In “We Are One!,” Awadallah, an Egyptian American who also calls himself a “proud Muslim with a touch of healthy agnosticism,” explains that he no longer hates Jews.
“Yes, I was anti-Semitic, even though I am a Semite, as this term broadly refers to the peoples who speak Semitic languages, such as Arabic and Hebrew, among others,” he wrote.
He then dives into his background, how his family and culture taught him to hate and fear Jewish people, before writing about his academic and entrepreneurial years. Awadallah even confesses to taking a “very cautious” approach to working with VMware founder Mendel Rosenblum, because of his last name (Rosenblum served as Awadallah’s Ph.D. thesis adviser and, later, he and his wife invested in Cloudera).
‘I’m Unsure Why You Write This Under Your Title’
“Mendel was my first ‘Jewish angel’; he solidified the elimination of prejudice from my heart,” Awadallah wrote. “Because of him, I learned not to fear the other, and not to label a whole group of people by the vile actions of the few. This was truly when I started to emerge from the Matrix of hate that I was nurtured on and see all of us only as humans. Thank you Mendel for changing me in such a fundamental way.”
Amr Awadallah also spends much of his 10,000-word essay discussing the impact of Yuvah Noah Harari’s book, “Sapiens,” on his views that the world is made up of abstract concepts.
Awadallah’s article earned him a number of plaudits and praise in the comments section — along with skeptics and detractors.
Daniel Golding, the director of network infrastructure and tech site lead at Google, stood out among the latter.
“Interesting comments,” he wrote. “On one hand, I’m grateful that you no longer hate my children. On the other, this has made my job as one of your colleagues much harder. The previous situation has made being a Jewish leader at Google tough. This has made it almost untenable. I’m unsure why you would write this under your title and company affiliation, and it frustrates me. You could simply have done this as a private person.”
Michael Spencer, editor in chief at The Last Futurist, agreed.
“Sharing on social media is not a productive pursuit for someone in a position of management,” he wrote. “That being said, everyone is …
… entitled to an opinion, a narrative of their own history that makes sense to them as they grow as a person.”
‘This Is Not an Enlightened Manifesto’
“For me the story: https://www.cnbc.com/2021/07/16/google-separates-with-cloud-vp-after-employees-complain-about-manifesto.html continues to illustrate Google’s internal toxic culture,” Spencer wrote. “Google for all its political correctness is and remains one of the most dysfunctional corporate cultures with a widening chasm between management and workers and a sense of what is actually right. This is highly problematic for a company with that much power. How many people have been fired … at Google for ideological differences or internal comms difficulties?
“This is not an enlightened manifesto and is very poorly expressed and it saddens me that one would have to lose one’s job or position due to the need to exhibit it,” he continued. “What it demonstrates however about Google’s internal culture is to me very troubling.”
CNBC reported on Thursday that several employees told the news outlet about a “contentious” staff meeting this past Wednesday. The meeting addressed anti-Semitism; the replay went to more than 100 workers, CNBC said. The anonymous employees (who feared retaliation) also told the cable network that when they voiced their opinions over Awadallah’s essay, he “doubled down” and insisted they misunderstood.
Those employees further told CNBC they had been frustrated with Awadallah’s leadership style for months. When they confronted him in Wednesday’s meeting, a human resources staffer had to intervene several times, the workers told CNBC.
Not Google’s First Diversity Controversy
Awadallah’s departure and employees’ discontent comes as Google faces questions about how it handles diversity among its leaders, as CNBC noted. Many staffers claim they are held to a more rigorous standard than their higher-ups; they get reprimanded for social media posts they feel are less offensive than Awadallah’s. They also told the cable news network that Awadallah’s post, which overlooked major events in Jewish history, has made their jobs harder as they interact with people inside and outside of Google.
This is not Google’s first brush with diversity struggles. The company earlier this year came under scrutiny for a “problematic” response to employee complaints of racism. And, in February, it settled a hiring-bias accusation suit for almost $4 million.
Google is not commenting.
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