The head of the Google+, the search company's social network, has left the company after eight years, he announced today.
Vic Gundotra was the driving force behind the service Google designed to compete with Facebook, and has extensively integrated the service across search, Gmail, YouTube and chat.
“Today I'm announcing my departure from Google after almost 8 years,” said Gundotra, perhaps inevitably in a Google+ post. “I have been incredibly fortunate to work with the amazing people of Google. I don't believe there is a more talented and passionate collection of people anywhere else.”
'We pour our heart and soul into our work'
“I'm also forever in debt to the Google+ team. This is a group of people who built social at Google against the skepticism of so many. The growth of active users is staggering, and speaks to the work of this team,” Gundotra said.
Gundotra suggested that a death in the family had contributed to his decision to leave his high-profile role, describing how it made him reflect on how “we pour our heart and soul into our work”.
Gundotra's sister-in-law said she and her father would talk every day on the phone, always starting the conversation with: "And then?"
"Her father viewed each conversation as a continuation of the last, and what pained her the most was that there were to be no more 'and thens'. I cried."
"Since then I've thought a lot about how similar this is to our life's endeavors. We pour our heart and soul into our work and it becomes something we love and cherish. But even the challenges we work on today will one day become 'and thens' as we move on to the next."
Google’s chief executive, Larry Page, confirmed Gundotra’s departure, thanking him for his eight years at the company, again on the Google+ social network.
“You cut your teeth on our mobile apps and developer relations, turning our disparate efforts into something great,” said Page. “Then you built Google+ from nothing. There are few people with the courage and ability to start something like that and I am very grateful for all your hard work and passion.”
Still investing in Google+
Page confirmed that the company would continue investing in Google+ despite an admission from its executive chairman Eric Schmidt that Google was late to introduce a social networking tool. Despite building 300 million monthly active users by October 2013, Google+ is still dwarfed by Facebook's userbase of 1.28 billion monthly active users.
“We’ll continue working hard to build great new experiences for the ever increasing number of Google+ fans,” said Page.
A Google spokesperson would not comment on a report that Google is shifting resources away from Google+ to other areas of Google’s development teams, including its Android mobile software teams.
From India via Microsoft
Gundotra was a high-profile Google engineer, who moved from India to join Microsoft in the US in 1991, rising to take charge of Microsoft’s online Windows Live services, including its instant messaging and email products.
Gundotra then joined Google in 2007 as vice president of social and was instrumental in the development of Google+ as it was integrated with other Google services.
Gundotra's comments on the impact of family events combined with the commitment of a high intensity job reflects a bigger challenge for those in the technology industry. Like many, Gundotra chose to work notoriously long hours.
Despite famously generous staff perks and benefits at Google, including on-site medical teams, gyms, and new-parent bonuses, a long-hours culture is notorious among Silicon Valley firms, despite attempts to encourage greater productivity.
“We’re constantly searching for unique ways to improve the health and happiness of our Googlers,” explains a Google site describing company benefits.
• The technology industry is driven by Indian talent, including Google's Vic Gundotra and the father of the USB Ajay Bhatt
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