Diversity advocate says he was told to "avoid posting on controversial topics. " A former Google engineer named Cory Altheide says he left the company two years ago after managers pressured him to stop agitating for greater workplace diversity in internal company discussion forums. His memo explaining his departure was published by Gizmodo on Thursday evening. Altheide is going public in the wake of controversy over the firing of another Google engineer, James Damore. Damore sued Google earlier this week, arguing that Google discriminates against white men. Ideologically speaking, Altheide is Damore's opposite. Where Damore had argued that Google's diversity policies went too far, Altheide argued that Google was doing too little to promote workplace diversity. Altheide said that his efforts to raise this issue in internal Google discussion forums in 2015 earned him a reprimand from management. He was so frustrated by these interactions that he left the company months later. "I've been bullied by a senior vice president with ten thousand full time employees—arguably the most powerful SVP in the company," Altheide wrote, referring to Google executive Urs Hölzle. "I don't want to work with jerks." Altheide's saga began in August 2015, when an internal Google discussion forum called Industryinfo hosted a long-running thread called "if you think women in tech is just a pipeline problem, you haven't been paying attention. " The thread became so contentious that two of the most senior Google managers—Urs Hölzle and Sridhar Ramaswamy —ultimately shut the discussion down. "I respectfully ask that everyone stop engaging on this thread," Ramaswamy wrote. " Google is not a debate club or a philosophy class. We are a workplace and we have an obligation to make sure our discussions remain respectful." A few days later, Altheide writes, "I started a new thread to show, hey, look, here's why people begin to suspect you might not be 'just asking questions' if you constantly only ask questions on diversity topics." Altheide's new post pointed to a blog run by an anonymous Google employee who subscribed to the openly racist " neoreactionary" ideology. That blogger wrote things like "blacks are not equal to whites. Therefore, the 'inequality' between these races is expected and makes perfect sense." "This is one of your coworkers," Altheide wrote in his September 2, 2015 post. "I understand some folks can't comprehend why Social Justice Warriors (or, as I like to call us, 'people who care about other people') raise their hackles when yet another diversity thread is beset by a stream of 'reasonable, well-intentioned' (derailing) questions. It's because at least some of those 'questions` are— well, let's just say they're not coming from a position of good faith." Altheide says this post earned him a surprise meeting with an HR representative and his manager. In the meeting, they pointed Altheide back to Ramaswamy's earlier request that people stop engaging on the gender diversity thread—a not-very-subtle hint to stop posting on this kind of topic. Altheide ignored these hints. Instead, he says he "continued posting (without commentary) articles of relevance to our industry about bias, discrimination, and social justice, as I believed (and continued to believe) these are important topics to address if any improvements are to be made." He began adding a footer to these posts to "avoid wasting time in future spurious HR investigations": After posting a handful of additional posts about diversity issues, Altheide was summoned to an urgent meeting with Hölzle. Hölzle is one of Google's most senior managers, with thousands of engineers reporting to him, directly or indirectly. There were several layers of management between the two men, and Altheide says those middle managers weren't involved in the meeting. Hölzle asked Altheide to explain why he had been making these postings. "I don't think anything I will say right now will be a sufficient answer for you," Altheide said. When Hölzle insisted, Altheide said he wanted to "point out that blanket assumptions of good faith in diversity topics aren't data driven, given that the data shows not everyone is acting from a position of good faith." Altheide says Hölzle told him that "if the majority of your coworkers are Nazis, it is better if you don't know about it." Altheide adds: "This I remembered verbatim because I thought it was a savagely tactless analogy for a Swiss man to be making." "From now on I request that you avoid posting on controversial topics," Hölzle wrote in a post-meeting email. "I believe your intention is to make Google better; nevertheless I ask you to refrain from such posts since they are prone to inciting others to comment in a way which violates our policies." Altheide says he decided to leave Google after his interactions with Urs Hölzle. "I'm leaving because I don't trust Urs," Altheide wrote in his memo. "I'm afraid of Urs. He inserted himself into what should have been a conversation with my direct manager. " We asked Google for comment about Altheide's memo on Thursday evening . We'll update if we get a response.
A memo written by a former Google engineer claims that senior executives at the company intervened to stop employees discussing matters involving diversity and hiring policies. The memo, written in 2016 and shared publicly this week on Google Docs, is the work of former Google security engineer Cory Altheide, according to a report from Gizmodo. Altheide was employed by Google between 2010 and 2016, and says he chose to leave after confrontations with executives and HR over the posting of pro-diversity comments and articles in internal discussion groups. The memo is titled What happened to Cory? and was originally written as an explanation of his departure to co-workers. In it, Altheide says that from July 2015 he participated in a sadly contentious internal thread discussing the pipeline problem in tech — the idea that tech companies dont hire more inclusively because of a lack of available talent. Altheide says that two Google executives, senior VP of technical infrastructure Urs Hölzle and senior VP of ads and commerce Sridhar Ramaswamy, got involved in the thread to try and calm the discussion. The thread reportedly stopped when Ramaswamy posted the following message: As both the tech diversity lead at Google and someone who cares deeply about our workplace culture, I respectfully ask that everyone stop engaging on this thread. [ Emphasis his.] While there have been some great ideas and stories shared here, this thread as a whole has turned negative rather than constructive. Google is not a debate club or a philosophy class. We are a workplace and we have an obligation to make sure our discussions remain respectful. Debates around topics like product excellence can support a wide variety of viewpoints and are great to have. I dont think the same can be said for debates around sensitive issues such as gender, religion, race, or sexual orientation. In September that year, Altheide started a new email chain titled Just Asking Questions, which he says was intended to highlight the fact that some Google employees may not be discussing questions of diversity in good faith. As evidence, he linked to external blogposts allegedly written by a Google employee that espoused views like Blacks are not equal to whites. Therefore the inequality between these races is expected and makes perfect sense. Later in the month, Altheide says he was called into a video meeting by a HR business partner. When he joined the call, though, senior VP Hölzle was also present, and told Altheide he was there to discuss his worrying pattern of posting topics that are divisive going back to 2013. Altheide told Gizmodo that he thinks Hölzle saw his discussion as rabble rousing. He says that Hölzles attitude was one of dont ask, dont tell, and claims that the VP, who is Googles eighth employee, told him: If the majority of your coworkers are Nazis, it is better if you dont know about it. Altheide says he wrote this comment down verbatim after the meeting because I thought it was a savagely tactless analogy for a Swiss man to be making. After these events, Altheide decided to leave the company in January 2016. Im leaving because I dont trust Urs. Im afraid of Urs. He inserted himself into what should have been a conversation with my direct manager, and requested I stop doing talking [sic] about things he doesnt want me to talk about, he wrote in his memo. Altheides account provides a counterpoint to the description of Google by former engineers James Damore and David Gudeman. Damore was fired from the company last year for writing a 10-page internal memo that claimed biological differences between men and women accounted for the predominantly male staff at Google. Damore and Gudeman are now suing the company for allegedly discriminating against conservative white men. In an interview with Gizmodo, Altheide said: The idea of trying to alter a companys culture all by yourself is almost as stupid as the myth of meritocracy the tech industry is so in love with. The only way to even begin to attempt to create positive change inside an organization purpose-built exclusively for the task of providing value to shareholders is through collective action. You can read Altheides memo in full here. Weve reached out to Google for comment and will update this post when we hear back.