'Dear Google Boss'

This was cute just a few years ago. Now, maybe not so much. Plus a big welcome and 7 other things worth reading today...

I found this story endearing when I first wrote about it.

Now, it’s kind of weird. Maybe even a bit creepy.

It goes back to about 2016, when a 7-year-old girl in England asked her dad where he’d like to work if he could work anywhere.

Google, he told her, describing his impressions of the place: cutting edge work and the kind of perks a kid would love, like “bean bags, go-karts, and slides.”

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Sunda Pichai and Father Christmas

The girl decided she’d like to work there too. At her dad’s urging, she sent a letter to Google CEO Sunda Pichai:

Dear Google Boss,

When I am bigger I would like a job with Google. I also want to work in a chocolate factory and do swimming in the Olympics. ...

My dad told me to give you an application ... I don't really know what one of them is but he said a letter will do for now.

Thank you for reading my letter, I have only ever sent one other and that was to Father Christmas.

Good bye.

Pichai replied (or at least directed someone to reply with a letter over his signature), telling the little girl he hoped to hear from her when she’s done with school.

Someday, I thought at the time, this girl will have a great icebreaker story for real-life job interviews.

And, I thought, she’ll always have an affinity for Google.

Google, Facebook, Amazon

But now, I’m not so sure.

Because while we’ve all shared a sort of gallows humor when it comes to the big tech companies for some time now, I feel like we’ve encountered a sea change recently.

I think about Google.

I’ve been using Chrome forever. But I probably had three different people, none of whom I know from the same place, tell me about the post-beta launch of Brave (a self-described “privacy-first” browser that stops most tracking and blocks third-party ads).

Oh, and there’s the whole “secretly compiling millions of Americans’ private health data without their knowledge” thing.

I think about Facebook.

I got together with my wife in part because of Facebook. I helped build a media business on its back.

But now, the biggest online community in my town, with thousands of members, just left the platform because its organizers didn’t like Mark Zuckerberg’s congressional testimony and the fact that Facebook allows misleading political ads.

I think about Amazon.

I’ve been a customer since the late 1990s, and I’ve made good money in their affiliate program. But it’s hard to read one story about counterfeit products after another and not take notice.

In other words, I think about what other people are thinking about these companies.

Equifax and Blackwater

True, top engineers and others are still trying to work for these giants.

But the measure for me is that in the space of a few short years, the idea of young kids wanting to work for them when they grow up is a little less cute, and a little more scary.

If there’s one thing these companies all have in common, it’s an affinity for algorithms. Aren’t they seeing this danger?

We’re not quite into, “Daddy, how do I get a job at Equifax or Blackwater when I grow up?” territory, but it feels like the warning signs are there.

If so, all the go-karts and slides in the world won’t be enough.

Welcome welcome welcome

Thank you to all the new subscribers over the past 72 hours, who mostly found this website and newsletter on Pocket and (ironically) Facebook. Welcome to Understandably!

Other things worth reading…

  1. Why Washington DC no longer supports the Washington Redskins. (The Washington Post)

  2. The lonely, frustrating, secret, throat-scratching life of audio book stars. (The Guardian)

  3. Millennials: a generation of homebodies? Discuss. (Quartz)

  4. ‘Personal reward and resilience against a backdrop of stress, uncertainty and struggles with depression and anxiety.’ Life as a PhD candidate in 2019. (Nature)

  5. At least four different men all claim to have invented the everything bagel. (Taste)

  6. New career idea: independent Trader Joe’s social media influencer. (Vox)

  7. How FedEx cut its tax bill from 34 percent to zero in one year. (Seattle Times)

Story ideas and feedback actively solicited. Find me anytime at billmurphyjr@understandably.com, or on LinkedInFacebook, or Twitter.