A dozen people have left Google's Verily in a year — here's why

Verily, the life sciences division of Google, is experiencing a leadership exodus, with at least 12 managers, scientists and engineers leaving the company within one year, finds STAT. The reason for top talent leaving in mass numbers appears to be due to rocky relationships with Verily's chief executive Andrew Conrad.

Google is arguably the pinnacle of Silicon Valley, standing out among the troves of startups and technology companies seeking new, competitive talent. However, sitting at the helm of Verily, Andrew Conrad has been described as a "divisive and impulsive leader whose practices are driving off top talent and leaving openings for competitors," people who know or have worked with Mr. Conrad told STAT.

Some of the departed leaders left Verily for Google's main enterprise, while others left Google altogether to work for competing companies. Rob Enderle, a technology analyst who has tracked Google, told STAT  the fact people were leaving Google for other companies, especially for companies less profitable or that aren't as well-financed as Google, indicates they are losing confidence in Verily's leadership.

"Leaving a hot Google property for Amazon — you don't see that happening a lot at the top levels," Mr. Enderle told STAT.

Additionally, other Google units have not experienced similar movement within leadership, suggesting the turmoil is internal to Verily, reports STAT.

Current and former Verily employees did not speak openly with STAT about Mr. Conrad, but anonymously said he exaggerates the potential of Verily, was quick to claim other employees' ideas as ones he had already initiated and imposed stringent restrictions on employees. For example, employees said talking to a reporter without permission is grounds for firing.

"Many Silicon Valley techies are work-obsessed and used to long hours, but Verily has become so demanding, erratic and unforgiving an environment, a former employee said, that he regularly found himself at his desk at 11 p.m., in tears," reports STAT. "Crying, he added, was not uncommon inside Verily offices and restrooms."

Robert Langer, a professor at Massachusetts Institute of Technology who also serves on the board of a company collaborating with Verily, told STAT that their work together so far has been successful, and he applauded Google's commitment to research. With regards to the brain drain, Mr. Langer told STAT that Verily is "certainly moving very fast, so there may be growing pains."

Verily operates as a limited liability company and is known for its secrecy, offering minor details about projects. Some of those projects include the Baseline study to track molecular, genetic and microbiome data from individuals to learn what it means to be healthy, and a smart contact lens that continuously measures glucose levels in individuals with diabetes.

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