Former Google veteran Claire Stapleton organized companywide protest Google Walkout For Change amid executive misconduct allegations. She’s since become a voice of employee organizing industry-wide.
It’s been a year since Claire Stapleton left Google, claiming she was unfairly pushed out. Now she’s seeking to reprise her early days at Google by offering practical advice to tech workers with an informal weekly newsletter called Tech Support.
Stapleton told CNBC it’s part of a calling of sorts. She wants to take what she learned in her 12 years at Google and use it to help tech workers with questions both mundane and existential. The first edition, which comes out Friday, will focus on the topic of marketing employees grappling with the nature of their work at major tech platforms, she said. Another will be about handling bad managers.
Stapleton, a former employee at Google’s YouTube division led a massive, companywide walkout in 2018 in response to a report in The New York Times that Google had paid a $90 million severance package to former executive Andy Rubin, despite credible allegations of sexual misconduct while at the company. (Rubin has denied all wrongdoing.) She left the company a year ago, claiming retaliation by company leaders, CNBC reported. The company denied her claims.
Since then, Google employees past and present have cited her and the Google walkout as examples of employee activism and management’s role in its culture change. She’s also garnered attention beyond Silicon Valley for essays describing her experience at the tech giant.
The newsletter comes as tension between employers and their workers have caused internal strife at tech companies — including at Google.
Stapleton said she started Tech Support due to an onslaught of questions she received from Google and non-Google employees since she left the company last June.
“After the walkout happened, I would constantly get messages from Googlers and it was so strange. I did a lot of coffees and hangouts with people. I was like ‘what you looking for?’ Turned out, a lot of issues could be boiled down to bad managers and toxic environments.”
She also said that because of Covid-19’s economic impact, she knows people can’t just quit. “People aren’t going to be quitting in protest right now,” she said. “There’s a motivation to resolve their issues and work them out mentally. I think there’s room to offer some really practical advice.”
Former Google employee Claire Stapleton who organized Google Walkout, goes back in the industry to offer advice to tech workers through a new newsletter called Tech Support.
Tech Support newsletter art created by Shane Neufeld
She said that before and after she left Google, employees often tried to explain management issues in technical terminology but sometimes lacked emotional empathy, which she said she hopes to provide in her newsletter. While at YouTube, she ran into people who struggled to find how their work was impactful, especially as the company faced controversy and lawsuits, she said.
“People are trying to figure out their role in these companies and they’re asking things like, ‘Should I just run off and join the Peace Corps? What does a meaningful work-life look like?’” she said. “Googlers have posed questions about coming to terms of this dream they had — the death of the Google dream is still in the air.”
Stapleton said she’s also received questions from non-Google employees such as an employee at Uber dealing with layoffs.
“I have no answers, really, but I have years of experience with management and trauma to riff on the questions” she said. “I feel like ‘put me back in coach’ a little bit. I feel called to try and contribute in some way.”
It’s also the reason she joined former Google Ventures head Bill Maris at his new firm, Section 32, along with some fellow ex-Google employees.
“Working at Section 32, with Google alumni, reminds me of my many happy years I had at Google,” she said. “I’m trying to get this environment. It’s very start-up-y and empowering.”
Watch: Google employees walk out to protest the handling of sexual harassment allegations