All I want for christmas is to get unbanned from Google

Dec 24, 2019 143 Comments

Edit: I'm sorry, guys, I'm giving up, I can't cope with this again. Thanks for trying

tldr: Someone on a recruiter-level hiring committee tagged my account with something (in secret) that prevents me from being hired indefinitely. No one will discuss it with me (or even acknowledge the ban's existence), and I believe the reasons for the ban to be unfounded.

[It's worth pointing out that it would be trivial to work out who I am, and I made it no secret who I am. If anyone messages me, I'd be happy to give direct links etc, I think its just cleaner if this thread isn't being indexed against my name.]

So, this might be a long one.

-------------------
BACKGROUND

Earlier in my career, I interned at Google, did work they were extremely happy with, saved them $x million/year in a $billion subsidiary etc, and always thought I'd end up long-term at Google. I left with multiple full-time hire recommendations on my profile.

I then went to a top business school, and while I was there, I ended up stumbling into a large fraud within the school's financial aid system. We're talking half a billion dollars in liability due to decades of internal and external fraud. It was bad.

-------------------
WHAT I DID

I tried to work with the staff members involved to resolve any issues that might exist, but was being lied to, challenged to prove wrongdoing and otherwise threatened. I wasn't sure who knew what within the administration, so I wrote up what I had found in a report.

It was a purely scientific paper with no emotion or rhetoric and only followed the data science. I really, really had no agenda. It included what I had found, how it was different than what the school was saying publically (/illegal), the implications of the findings and how the school could start reversing out of the situation it found itself in.

That section included legitimate legal strategies on how to avoid getting sued into oblivion, how to manage the internal and external communications, as well as the blueprints for a brand new, market-leading financial aid system. The report was really written _for_ the school and was not an attack.

[Its worth pointing out that the school actioned nearly every one of my strategies, and eventually adopted my financial aid system with great success. They were very, very happy with the outcome, just not that the bad stuff was found out.]

-------------------
WHAT HAPPENED AFTER THE REPORT

Long-er story short, I handed in the report to the Dean, repeatedly met with him and senior staff and walked them through the process. I wanted nothing, I asked for nothing, and I made it very clear we were on the same team. Anything they wanted help with, I was there working overnight while trying to survive in an MBA program.

A few weeks into this process, the Dean suddenly cut off contact with me, and decided to make the whole ordeal public, against my advice and that of his staff. He refused to liase with the university's legal department beforehand, and instead blew the story themselves.

To both the internal and external communities, the school sold it that I had essentially attacked them with this, and that I was the one which made it public. All I did was hand in a report to my boss, after dedicating 1,000's of hours to covering their asses. In return, they essentially put out a burn notice on me.

What was worse was after this initial PR, the school flatly refused to interact with the press. 100's of articles containing varying levels of guesswork and in some cases Buzzfeed levels of integrity started sprouting it, and it was left to me to request corrections to curtail sensationalism. I did my best to reduce the impact on the school as best they could, but I was just one, very depressed person trying my best to help everyone.

-------------------
WHAT HAPPENED WITH GOOGLE [PM HIRING]

I found recruiting very difficult out of school, despite being at the top school because my profile was of a specialist generalist. I'd been a founder, consultant for top execs (on my own), been an expert in the early days of Bitcoin etc, but didn't fit the mold of any one job. Being international and graduating into a Trump administration didn't exactly help, more so because the school had no idea how to react to the constriction of jobs and help international students.

6 months after graduation, after having about 10 referrals on my account from Googlers, I finally got into the pipeline for MBA PM. At last! I passed the recruiter screening and was sent for the first interview. I was kind of surprised it went so well that the (quite senior) interviewer waived a lot of the questions and wished me luck in the next round.

I was in the hospital about a week later when I got a call from the recruiter telling me that they had declined to proceed with my application. I was devastated, confused, and tried my best to convince her to give me another chance. She declined and said there was nothing she could do, but that she and her team [Austin, TX] had decided I wasn't a good fit. I had provided 19 references at Google including 15 PMs who could vouch for me, but none of the references were pulled.

I had emailed my interviewer following up on some points we'd discussed, and thanked him for his time even though I wasn't to proceed. He replied with "Hey, that's surprising to hear given my feedback. Did you have another interview before or after mine? Just reached out to the recruiter...". The only way I can interpret this is that he passed me through that interview, but was rejected by the recruiters themselves - something which isn't really meant to happen at this stage.

A few friends at Google tried to enquire as they were equally surprised, but each time were told different reasons. I wasn't technical enough (??? bachelors and masters in engineering), I didn't have enough tech experience (??? I had 6-8 years in the tech industry) or not enough pm experience (??? I never had the title of PM, but had led product development and strategy for product lines in the $100's of millions). In any case, plenty of my non-engineering classmates had been hired with zero PM or even tech experience, so it didn't add up.

Overall, I was told that I couldn't go into PM, but that I should look for other roles within the company and that's exactly what I did.

-------------------
GETTING BANNED AT GOOGLE

I spent the next 4-6 months networking heavily for strategy, ops, entrepreneurship roles within the company, but something very strange kept happening.

I'd convince a hiring manager directly to consider me, and they'd send me to recruiting to arrange an interview. But I'd neither hear from recruiting again, nor that hiring manager. I would usually get entirely ghosted. This happened 9 or 10 times in a row, including by hiring managers who had reached out to me offering positions! Similarly with recruiters, I'd get a warm reception but then get the same cold, copy-pasted message that 'there are no opportunities that fit your profile' once they looked me up internally.

Eventually, I found out why. One hiring manager I guess felt enough pity on me to tell me that they had 'tried to get [me] an interview, but there was something you were involved with [which made it impossible]'.

Oh. I'm actually banned from Google.

What was frustrating about the situation is that no one ever told me this. They said to "apply for PM again in 12 months", and to "look for other roles" in the meantime. I wasted so much time following their advice.

What they really meant was "a few people who have never met you, talked to you or know anything about you, Googled your name and determined that you are not fit to work at our company, and have put you on a secret no-fly list indefinitely."

-------------------
WHY WAS I BANNED?

While no one will confirm it, and we can only conjecture, it seems pretty clear I was banned for being involved with the financial aid report at my school. I can understand the perspective that Google faces a lot of issues with internal activism, but in my case I really, really did nothing of the sort.

I was obliged by the school's code of conduct to report what I had found, as well as legally (as it was attached to a significant data exposure I discovered). I tried to report it internally to members of staff [who would be akin to my boss], but was chased off. As a result, I handed in an internal report to the Dean [essentially my boss' boss] and left it at that.

Instead, I've been branded as a 'whistleblower' and 'troublemaker' and put on a no-fly list.

-------------------
WHY DO I CARE?

The sad thing is, I still want to go back to Google. It feels like an abusive relationship, but at the same time, I know Google is bigger than a hiring team in Austin. I know there is a corner for me where I can start my career, grow and thrive. I know I can do good for the company - I just want the chance to show it.

I'm not asking for special treatment, in fact, quite the opposite; I just want to be treated like anyone else. I want the opportunity to fail on my own merit, not because of a TMZ article. To those recruiters, I was just one of 1,000's of candidates, but this is my life.

I know a lot of you (or the few who might actually read this far during the holidays) might say I should go to other companies, but its not that simple for me. My background combined with international status and the financial aid stuff makes it very, very difficult to find positions and I'm limited to a handful of companies who will sponsor. [On that note, I was cleared by the big companies for O1].

I applied for 2,340 roles at 1133 companies over 18 months, and came up short. Some companies would be honest and say they 'couldn't take the risk of upsetting [my school]' by hiring me, but the vast majority were straight rejections. I'm stuck in limbo between business school and the real world, waiting for my life to begin.

-------------------
CAN ANYONE HELP? :(

In summary (thanks for sticking with me), I just want a fresh start. If nothing else, I want to be able to give my side of the story vs what is read from the press and be given a fair shot. I know the world isn't fair, but we can only dream, right?

If there is anyone within HR, recruiting or is seniorish to help me in any way, please send me a message and I will be happy to give you any details you require.

I'm sorry to be a downer, but happy holidays, everyone.

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TOP 143 Comments
  • Oracle ociam
    So much to say. But honestly, you sound like those sjw who once in, would try to do the same bs, bite the hand that feeds you.

    I wouldn’t take the risk.
    Dec 24, 2019 12
    • OP
      > Not outright anti-feminist, but did imply strongly that Stanford diversity efforts were wrong.

      They were not diversity efforts. The financial aid was specifically need-based ONLY. That means legally the only factors that can be taken into account are financial (+cost of attendance modifications for dependents etc).

      It would be like if you filed your state taxes to California and got a 2x tax bill based on your gender or race, and then the government claimed it was 'diversity'. You can't discriminate using federally protected factors without declaring it, and they didn't - instead preaching to the rest of the industry that they didn't have to offer merit-based aid to attract the classes they wanted.

      I'm all for Stanford's push for a more diverse class, but in this case, they were throwing money at rich students to increase their employment report earnings (and in turn rankings), while breaking the law and causing a huge liability to accrue.

      That is nothing to do with James Damore, that's trying to dig the institution out of a legal hole it spent decades digging itself into.
      Dec 26, 2019
    • Flagged by the community.

  • It’s easy to read your post and feel sympathy. I’m sorry that this is what you’ve dealt with.

    There are 2 issues I can see with why no US company will ever hire you:
    1) Based on a cursory public search (which is what every HR manager will do) your attitude seems childish. You’re not handling the situation like an adult. I don’t doubt your intentions, however the narrative and the quotes attributed to you don’t match your intention (article from poets & quants for example). You tried to toe the line of only advising them on what to do, without thinking through your actions (which you’re quoted as saying that you spent 10 months analyzing, sent the report to your classmates, the line about you hoping you were wrong but aren’t). You lack the ability to think holistically and were motivated to pursue this based on your own financial situation (the mention of you being cash poor). It tells me that if I hire you in my company, you’ll put your self interests above mine. It tells me that you’re a squeaky wheel and those are problematic in all settings so it’s an easy decision to never contact you for a role.
    Harsh truth: if you really were a whistleblower, you’d have done things differently. You found the data and instead of reporting it right away, you decided to analyze it, track your peers on social media and then 10 months later share your findings with the dean.
    2) You don’t come across as grateful for your situation. You’re in the UK, not some terrible 3rd world country so you should feel extremely thankful. Try to make your life there. You should be grateful you didn’t get expelled from Stanford.

    You’ve done what you think is everything that’s reasonable to you (applied to an insane amount of roles, reached out to your network, don’t want to take legal action etc) yet you’re expecting a different outcome. This is the definition of insanity. Just because Google is your dream doesn’t mean it’s going to happen.

    You need to make some hard choices: I recommend that you move on. Your life begins the moment you accept this. We’re defined by what we do when we’re facing adversity. That shows our true character. You’re showing that you can’t deal with reality.

    If you’re not ready to move on, you’re limited in what you can do because ultimately you’re forcing your way into places where you’re unwanted. That’s never a good place to be.
    There are only a handful of things left to do:
    A) is to go on a PR tour and explain your side of the story (might be helpful to have any Stanford employees or alumni back you up). You need to say that you’ve learned from your mistakes.
    B) have a conversation with the Dean and explain to him how he’s made your life hell. See if he’ll budge or informally help you in anyway.
    C) get an influential Stanford alumn (or group of alumni) to vouch for you, hire you and have that be the start of rebuilding your reputation.

    Best of luck.
    Dec 25, 2019 7
    • OP
      @ChillyBean

      >however the narrative and the quotes attributed to you don’t match your intention (article from poets & quants for example).
      That is exactly the problem. They are quotes attributed to me, leaked from internal communications, taken out of context and attached to a narrative I didn't write. Newsites are there to get clicks, not to portray the truth and all 100 of them ran as far as they could with it.

      Those comments were private, and from an _internal_ email I sent that was leaked. They were specifically addressed to the Dean who had until he sent that email been working closely with me for weeks.

      >It tells me that if I hire you in my company, you’ll put your self interests above mine.
      You couldn't be further from the truth if you tried. I gave everything I had to that school, for the school, I asked for nothing and wanted nothing. Now I'm just a hollow shell of a person.

      >You found the data and instead of reporting it right away
      I did. I did report it right away to senior staff members, including the data exposure. That was the first thing I did. I was then rebuffed, threatened and challenged to prove otherwise. As part of a class, with senior professor permission, I analyzed the data set.

      >You don’t come across as grateful for your situation. You’re in the UK, not some terrible 3rd world country so you should feel extremely thankful.
      I'm not sure what exposure you have to the UK market but I can't make $2300/month payments for the next 15 years, or even the next year. It financially doesn't work, I'd be insolvent, bankrupt and still insolvent. Additionally, the medication I require to be well enough to work no longer exists here for another 6 years due to a patent battle.

      >You should be grateful you didn’t get expelled from Stanford.
      For what?

      >This is the definition of insanity. Just because Google is your dream doesn’t mean it’s going to happen.

      >A) is to go on a PR tour and explain your side of the story (might be helpful to have any Stanford employees or alumni back you up). You need to say that you’ve learned from your mistakes.
      If I call out Stanford, I lose, as it validates the concerns. If I don't, I lose.

      >B) have a conversation with the Dean and explain to him how he’s made your life hell. See if he’ll budge or informally help you in anyway.
      I did, I tried so many times. His viewpoint is that I was a necessary casualty and acceptable in what was an otherwise successful defense of the school's reputation.

      >You need to make some hard choices: I recommend that you move on.
      I wish I had the guts to.
      Dec 26, 2019
    • OP
      >- 2,340 applications at 1,133 companies with 0 success rate.
      What else am I meant to do, just not get a job ever again?

      >- You advised companies/ CEOs without spending the time to build relationships with them?
      The industry I advised imploded and no longer exists.

      >You need to accept your circumstances and move on my friend.
      I'll try
      Dec 26, 2019
  • Two Sigma 10111011
    Just move forward.
    Dec 24, 2019 1
    • OP
      @Two Sigma. I really, really wish I could, hence the comment about it feeling like an abusive relationship.

      I eventually had to leave the US due to lack of sponsorship, but find myself sitting on $100'000s in high-interest, non-deferrable or financeable student debt (MBAs are expensive, and are meant to be offset by high-earnings after graduation...) that can only be realistically paid off with US levels of earnings.

      Combined with my need a particular medication that I require that due to predatory patents and pricing (~$300k/year, used to be <$1000), I have to find my way back to the US ASAP.

      Despite being eligible for O1, I can count the number of companies that would even pick up the phone to someone without work auth + requiring O1 on one hand, and I've tried, so, so many times.

      I'm not saying this is a good plan, I just don't know what else to do. I'm on like Plan H by this point :(
      Dec 24, 2019
  • Capital One ender🐉
    It sounds like a problem outside of just Google being unwilling to hire you. I’d probably try targeting companies that are more comfortable with the potential press attention.

    Have you considered other options like finding a job in your country of origin? Changing your name? Have you networked with any VC people to get their take on willingness to fund you if you started a company?

    Very frustrating and I’m sorry you’re experiencing this. I am not the type to give up but I am also not the type to sign up for repeat abuse. I looked this up and if you’re the person that came up right away in the search results I would imagine it’s going to be a challenge to distance yourself from the press. Surely there are ways forward for you, whether that’s in your intended PM track or another one, but I can’t imagine it being easy or even worthwhile to break in at Google considering you’re blacklisted. Best of luck.
    Dec 24, 2019 5
    • OP
      @capital_one_ender

      >Have you researched what other whistleblowers have done to repair/adjust their careers?

      As far as I could tell, the careers of whistleblowers just ends. That's it - they stop working in any semblance of the word. They also usually much older and toward the end of their careers and so can pivot to other things which I necessarily can't.

      Regarding other opportunities, I'm so limited in what I can do because of visas. The only sense of freedom I'll get is if I can O1 into green card, but until then even non-profits/volunteer work in the US is a no-go. Maybe I can look at it again in the future.

      Thanks for your kind words, happy holidays.
      Dec 24, 2019
    • Adobe ObrT21
      I'll marry you for half your salary 😉
      Dec 25, 2019
  • Facebook _JianYang_
    TBH it sounds like you may have an exaggerated sense of self-importance. Google is under no obligation to hire you or anyone, nor even consider you (unless they aren’t because of legally prohibited reasons).

    The fact that you aren’t accepting this and moving on just reinforces their decision.
    Dec 24, 2019 3
    • Facebook _JianYang_
      I don’t think you have any choice but to move on. This is outside of your control. You have to come to terms with the fact that you don’t control everything in life, and things won’t always be what you consider fair. The sooner you can embrace that, the happier you’ll be. Do you still want to be chasing this whale 20 years from now?
      Dec 24, 2019
    • OP
      @Facebook_JY. No, I agree, I absolutely don't want to be thinking about this in 20 years or even 20 days. I want to move on, I want to put it behind me but I feel like I'm blocked from moving forward on all fronts.

      I want to be happy, I'm just trying to get there.
      Dec 24, 2019
  • Oracle uzumymw
    Find a lawyer, get a nice settlement from the university. Then say screw the system and use that as seed money for your next big thing. Maybe recruitment or fraud consulting, because clearly you think there's a need and you can tell a story
    Dec 24, 2019 2
    • OP
      @Oracle

      If I attack the school, it validates every concern anyone could hold against me, regardless of them being true or not. I might get a bit of money but then what?
      Dec 26, 2019
    • Oracle uzumymw
      Consult with someone in PR who deals with recovering from defamation.

      My informed two cents is that your reputation is already as damaged as it'll get, so going to court can't put you in any worse a situation. From what you said, no one is willing to hire you anyway. On the other hand, by taking this to court you may get some compensation for what the university unjustly took from you, and a court opinion that reinforces your innocence.
      Dec 26, 2019
  • Google TnHg47
    To be honest, you sound a bit full of yourself and indignant. Could your behavior after being rejected have contributed to your recruiter placing a ban on you? Plenty of extremely qualified and talented individuals apply to Google and face rejection. I can’t imagine recruiters take kindly to candidates who just can’t accept a rejection for what it is and try again in the future.
    Dec 24, 2019 7
    • Google TnHg47
      Google will reach out to any Googler they believe may know you and request and internal reference from them (you won’t be privy to who or what they say). The form is rather short tbh just a quick way to collect data points from people that know you or have worked with you. These wouldn’t result in a ban but could easily result in a rejection.
      The only bans I’ve encountered involved a candidate that somehow crossed a recruiter or misbehaved in an interview. I’m sure there are other causes for such things to be put in place but I’m cynical that what you outlined would do it. I obviously don’t know what happened, but from reading here I could certainly see a recruiter being peeved with a candidate that questions the result and has their interviewer and other internal folks reach out about a denial.
      In any case, as others have mentioned I would suggest moving on from google and exploring other opportunities. It’s really not all it’s cracked up to be and there are plenty of great opportunities out there! Wish you the best of luck. Sounds like you did a great thing with the whistleblowing.
      Dec 24, 2019
    • OP
      @Google_Tn, thanks for sharing. None of my contacts at google reported receiving anything like that, so I think I was rejected/banned prior to that stage. None of the references I provided had been pulled either.
      Dec 24, 2019
  • Google qryixgh
    So sorry this happened to you! Sounds like you were doing the right thing.
    But as you've learned- Google (and most places) are ruled by lawyers. Particularly so at Google. Just look for stories on Google's top lawyer, David Drummond, and you will find that Google tends to do whatever necessary to preserve itself/profits- rather than the morally right, ethical path.
    Look more into any of the fired/forced out folks from Google over the last year, and there's a clear pattern.
    I've also heard of a number of arbitrary "bans" where it's just impossible to find anyone who will go on record to get info on what the ban is, and how long it's for. Super frustrating!!
    So consider this a sign. The lawyers have deemed you persona non grata.
    Even Claire, who interacted with Larry & Sergey back in the day could rely on her connections to save her after she was targeted after organizing the women's walkout, https://www.elle.com/culture/tech/a30259355/google-walkout-organizer-claire-stapleton/
    The company you interned with does not exist any longer. This is a new Google.
    We have new rules that prohibit you from doing anything outside your role, else you be in non-compliance with the new Need To Know policy (we _all_ know it's just a flimsy excuse to kick out anyone organizing employees who try to point out how Google could be better- which is illegal!)
    Dec 24, 2019 3
    • Google qryixgh
      If hiring managers are pushing for you- that really doesn't seem to me a block originating with the recruiting team. Recruiters enforce what others tell them to. So if the pattern is as pervasive as described- even with you being a 'known' quantity/former intern with lots of folks that will vouch for you- I bet the lawyers somehow flagged you, and lawyers know not to leave a paper trail. The story sounds like it's one the tons of Google lawyers in silicon valley would have heard about, which would not be good.☹️
      You do not sound like the problem.
      But our employment system here in the US rewards erring on the side of caution.
      Dec 24, 2019
    • OP
      Do you think during the post-1st round phone interview that they might have started a ticket to legal to check something like this? I'd have to look at the timeline again but my recollection was that it was a short enough turnaround (and knowing how long legal@ takes to reply to some things!) that I'd be surprised if they'd had that time. It's certainly possible, I guess.
      Dec 24, 2019
  • Zillow Group gettin bi
    I think I remember the news. It was indeed a big deal. So sorry op that you have to go through this. Please stay strong.

    For anyone interested, the elite school is Stanford:
    https://www.insidehighered.com/admissions/article/2018/11/12/year-after-scandal-stanford-announces-new-policy-aid-mba-students

    (I don’t think this news piece expose any personal information. Just thought the public deserves to know who are the bad actors here. OP, let me know if you are not comfortable making this public.)
    Dec 24, 2019 3
    • Amazon Jake__
      Are you A... A..c... ?
      Dec 24, 2019
    • OP
      Yeah
      Dec 24, 2019
  • You are over thinking this.You did not pass the phone screen. I find it hard to believe you are banned at Google. PM function is extremely hard to break into, even for Stanford or Harvard MBA grad. Some people change within same company and not take MBA path. They make it look like it is an easy transition. It is easy for them. I would say that is easier path than going to business school. For all reasons, you might be having better background, smarter and what not. It does not matter. As a fresh MBA grad, PM is very hard to break into.

    Don't lose heart. Not every company has links to b-schools. Keep trying. You will be fine.
    Dec 25, 2019 3
    • OP
      @Microsoft, just one degree from Stanford, two and a half from other (globally no-name) universities. But yeah :(
      Dec 26, 2019
    • If such an institution is going after their student, it is very sad. Another reminder not to say anything if we see something.

      His best bet is to find companies that are not very closely affiliated with Stanford or b-schools.
      Dec 26, 2019

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