Google lays off about 190 in Singapore: Former employees , Latest Singapore News - The New Paper

Google lays off about 190 in Singapore: Former employees

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Technology giant Google laid off about 190 employees in Singapore on Thursday night, accounting for about 6 per cent of its workforce of around 3,000 here, according to former employees.

The retrenchments affected those working on several tech products, including Google Pay, Google Cloud, Google Analytics, as well as several corporate divisions, including finance, legal, and trust and safety, they said.

According to Google, the Singapore cuts were part of a wider exercise of 12,000 retrenchments worldwide, announced by chief executive Sundar Pichai in January, but the company declined to share the number affected in Singapore.

At 6 per cent, the proportion retrenched here is in line with the proportion set to be axed globally.

The company’s Asia-Pacific headquarters is located at Mapletree Business City in Alexandra.

A long-time employee who was among those laid off in Singapore told The Straits Times that he found out only on Friday morning, as he had gone to bed by the time the e-mails were sent to them on Thursday night.

“The first feeling I had upon reading the e-mail was disbelief: You know you could be one of them but always thought it won’t be you,” he said.

The mood was one of anxiety among his colleagues here and abroad following Mr Pichai’s announcement, he added. “We didn’t know what the rationale or basis of selection was going to be – tenure, performance or anything else.”

Nonetheless, the employee said the “singular incident” would not change his perception of the firm and noted that the e-mails sent to affected staff members were comprehensive and clear.

“I received more or less the same severance as (those in) the United States, maybe slightly better in quantum,” he said.

In a memo published on the Google corporate blog, Mr Pichai said US employees would be paid a severance package of 16 weeks’ salary, plus two weeks for every additional year at Google.

Affected US employees were also paid in lieu of at least 60 days’ notice, their bonuses for 2022, their remaining vacation time, and had some stock options vest ahead of time.

Healthcare, job placement services and immigration support were also offered, with employees outside the US receiving support “in line with local practices”.

However, informing affected employees over e-mail, rather than face to face, may come across as impersonal, said Mr Christopher Fong, founder of Xoogler, a global community of former Google employees.

“Now, people know that Google – at least in this regard – is not so different from other large tech firms,” said Mr Fong, who left the firm in 2015 to pursue other opportunities after eight years.

He added that the staff he has spoken to report low morale and that their trust in the firm is broken, an outsized cost compared with how much retrenching 6 per cent of staff would save the firm. He also noted reports that Google is under investor pressure to cut jobs further.

“Google will still be able to get high-calibre people to apply for roles, but those still inside do not know if another layoff is coming and are now more open to conversations with recruiters from other firms. This is the best time to hire someone from within Google,” he said.

Mr Fong and other tech practitioners have rallied around those affected, offering help including networking sessions with recruiters and support groups.

Some affected employees in Singapore have taken to professional networking platform LinkedIn to share their feelings and seek support.

One of them was Mr Sriram Mahendran, who identified himself as a product marketing manager.

“While it is tempting to write a sugar-coated post littered with toxic positivity, I want to be honest and acknowledge that layoffs are tough, and being laid off is never easy.”

He added: “I’m taking this as an opportunity to recalibrate and figure out what’s next. One silver lining here is that I’m planning to use the extra time to upskill and work on areas where I need to improve.”