In Silicon Valley, talented employees often have a bulls-eye on their backs to the extent that rival tech companies are always looking to hire and lure away the best and brightest in the business. Employees moving on to other companies is often a point of contention, as evidenced by the lawsuit that ensued after Apple hired former IBM engineer Mark Papermaster. Also, a quick look at the large number of former Apple employees now working at Palm, and what they were able to do with the Palm Pre, exemplifies just how serious an issue employee retention is for high-tech companies.
With that in mind, an interesting report from TechCrunch notes that Google and Apple have long adhered to a gentlemanly (i.e non official) agreement whereby both companies would agree to not actively recruit the employees of the other. While individual employees were of course open to apply and seek employment on their own, it was understood that Apple and Google would not take any pro-active measures to encourage or assist in such a transition.
For the past few years, Apple and Google have shared an extremely close relationship, with Apple notably asking Google not to use multi-touch in the first iteration of its Android OS. And up until recently, Google CEO Eric Schmidt served on Apple’s board of directors, but given his recent resignation due to a conflict of interest, hunting season may soon be in full effect for the hiring departments at both Google and Apple.
Another interesting element to this is that the main component of this understood agreement between the two companies was Schmidt’s position with each, one source tells us. Now that Schmidt has stepped down from Apple’s board of directors, that agreement may be off, they went on to say. It’s hard to know that for sure until actual hiring starts taking place, but one source says that both Google and Apple have been ramping up their staffing departments recently, presumably to make a bunch of hires.
Interestingly, TechCrunch subsequently obtained an email sent from Google to an Apple employee which confirms the existence of this non-official agreement.
From: XXXXX XXXXX <XXXXX@google.com>
Date: XXXXXXX XX, 2008 X:XX:XX AM PDT
Subject: Re: Google Opportunities- Follow up email…
Thanks for getting back to me. I don’t believe that we have been in
contact previously – apologies if I am wrong about this.
From your reference to the [APPLE DIVISION], I take it that you are
currently working there. If this is the case, we will not be able to
proceed with your application. Google has an agreement with Apple
that we will not cold call their staff. If you are not currently
working at Apple and are interested in learning more about [A GOOGLE DIVISION]
please let me know and I would be happy to chat with you.
Thank you again for returning my email.