In the hours after Margaret Mitchell was fired by Google over email in February 2021, she ran to the bathroom and threw up. “I was just so terrified that I was never going to get a job in tech again, that my name had been scarlet lettered,” she told me over an hourlong Zoom this week, calling from her home outside Seattle.
That was not the case. In the ensuing days and weeks, as her firing received global media attention, Mitchell was flooded with job offers. It was “amazing,” she remembered. “I was just so surprised that my research had enough weight that whatever Google did, they couldn’t erase my work.”
A former artificial intelligence researcher at Google and Microsoft, Mitchell eventually signed on to become the chief ethics scientist at AI startup Hugging Face, a GitHub-like platform where users share AI models. The company, which she joined in November 2021, is not quite big tech, but it is big tech adjacent. Hugging Face has raised $160 million from Sequoia Capital and Lux Capital and notched a partnership deal with Amazon Web Services to make it easier to develop AI models using Amazon’s cloud. This means Mitchell once again has a front-row seat to how major tech companies are enlisting the latest AI.