For 14 years, Manu Cornet’s day job was to help speed up Google searches and develop new backgrounds for Gmail. But Cornet was better known inside Google for publishing hundreds of cartoons, known as Goomics, which initially poked fun at its culture and employees’ sense of entitlement and later became a blistering critique of senior leaders including CEO Sundar Pichai. In the process, he got the attention of former Google CEO Eric Schmidt, Google co-founder Sergey Brin and even Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella.
Now Cornet has quit, frustrated by a string of decisions Google made that he disagrees with, including working with the Trump administration on military efforts and developing a censored version of its search engine in China, along with the recent firing of two of its artificial intelligence researchers. His comics attacked those moves, and last week he made them publicly available online for the first time. “At some point I have to draw the line in the sand somewhere,” he said of his decision to leave.
Cornet is one of a number of high-profile dissidents to leave Google, reflecting how the tech giant’s internal culture has evolved from a freewheeling environment in which employees devoted time to pet projects and felt free to interrogate executives at weekly all-hands meetings into a buttoned-up corporation that emphasizes the bottom line.