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Exit Interview by Patrick Donegan – Newsletter #28

By: Patrick Donegan

For some time, I’ve been looking for one “source” that curates modern takes on HR Tech, perspectives from the people who build it, and its impact on enterprise — something that’s tailor-made by professionals for decision-makers.

I never found it — so I decided to build it.

Every week, I’ll be sharing fresh insights on tech platforms, design, data, and the future of work — straight to your inbox.

My Thoughts

The pandemic has seen companies like Amazon pull off the impossible and meet spikes in demand. Customers and shareholders have benefitted – who can forget that Jeff Bezos‘s net worth nearly doubled in the last year? But the question will be how giants like Amazon serve not only investors, but also their workers and the communities they expand into. Offering employment is not enough — Amazon hired more than 400,000 full-time employees last year, but their churn rate is also much higher than their competitors (see below). Many of Amazon’s workers do want to stay, but the tech giant needs to create real opportunities for career advancement at every tier — in warehouses as well as in corporate.

Tech Innovation at Work

According to an exclusive from Business Insider, more than 130 employees inside Google Health have been moved under Search and the newly acquired Fitbit group. 👀🏃⌚ Google acquired Fitbit for $2.1 billion in January, an acquisition that will help them compete with device makers like Apple. 🍎🔥 Those remaining at Google Health have been consolidated into three teams, none of which will focus on consumer-facing products: 

  • One is focused on work with clinicians and led by Paul Muret, VP of Product and Design. 
  • The second team, called “Health AI,” will spearhead innovation in health, including in medical imaging. 
  • Google Health’s third and final group, joined by clinicians from Fitbit and Google Fit, will deal with regulatory, clinical, and health-equity matters at Google Health and across the broader company. 🏥 🤔

It seems like Google is looking to focus on its core business even as it expands its health industry offerings. 

Beamery has raised $138M at an $800M valuation for its “operating system for recruitment” — a way to manage sourcing, hiring and retaining of people, plus analyzing the bigger talent picture for an organization. 👩‍💻💸🎤 Remote work has paved the way for platforms like Beamery aimed at transforming recruitment — not only to make recruitment more remote-friendly, but also to better accommodate users and candidates. Beamery has an array of tools in place, but the HR tools space is competitive — the proof will be in whether Beamery has a plan for growth in analytics tools, contractor management, and other newer areas of HR management. 📈 🤔

Airbnb is spending millions of dollars on handling dangerous and criminal incidents — everything from property damage to concealed cameras, gas leaks, and sexual assaults. 🏠😶🚪 Here’s just a taste of the kind of cases they have dealt with as they scaled. After trading opened in December, Airbnb scored one of the biggest first-day rallies on record, boosting the wealth of each founder to more than $10 billion. Though the problems with safety remain, they did little to hinder the valuation of the company. On May 31, as part of an agreement to settle a lawsuit with New York City, the company started turning over information about its hosts, including names, addresses, and whether they’re renting their entire apartment. ✊📊 The data will make it easier to track illegal listings. It’s a small step in trying to streamline listings and give law enforcement more insight into hosts. 

We’ve heard a lot about Amazon’s stratospheric growth during the pandemic — but the story is complicated. How Amazon responded to increasing demand — and competition from Walmart and Target who have also invested heavily in e-commerce — reveals a lot about how Bezos runs his business and how the tech and retail giant treats its workers. 🔍✊☁️ Amazon’s efforts opposing organized labor are well-known, but what’s less publicized is how little opportunity there is for professional advancement — especially for workers that start out on the warehouse floor. Their turnover rates rise 30% on average within two years of a warehouse opening. 


The Changing Workplace

Marc Andreessen summed up some of the transformative developments from the past year and a half. COVID-19 has been a game-changer to say the least — but it was also a lesson in how quickly things can change and how assumptions can be overturned. Andreessen writes: “What we have learned — what we were forced to learn — during the COVID lockdowns has permanently shattered these assumptions. 👏💉🌎 It turns out many of the best jobs really can be performed from anywhere, through screens and the internet…. This is, I believe, a permanent civilizational shift. It is perhaps the most important thing that’s happened in my lifetime, a consequence of the internet that’s maybe even more important than the internet. Permanently divorcing physical location from economic opportunity gives us a real shot at radically expanding the number of good jobs in the world while also dramatically improving quality of life for millions, or billions, of people.” 💪 🎤 ✈️

Here’s an interesting development in the nationwide shift to remote/hybrid work. A new Colorado law requires companies with even a few employees in the state to disclose the expected salary or pay range for each open role they advertise, including remote positions. 👩‍⚖️ 🗻 💼 This has led companies to advertise a slew of remote positions that can be performed from anywhere — except in Colorado. This isn’t to say that the law is a failure. Many companies also now include pay information specific to Colorado on remote job postings. A listing for a software development engineer on a “work-from-anywhere” team at Inc., for instance, notes that the range for the position in Colorado is $116,400 to $160,000 a year, but overall compensation could vary. 

Unsurprisingly, remote work is still a cybersecurity nightmare. The World Economic Forum estimates that cyberattacks jumped 238% globally between February and April 2020. A report from Verizon Communications Inc., published in May 2021, found that attacks against cloud-based email, remote desktop applications and similar technologies designed to assist with remote work all increased over 2020. 🤖👨‍💻❗Employees are in need of patches — but they can also be lax about best practices. That said, some of the possibilities for addressing security risks are already well known: Zero Trust systems, for instance, constantly exchange information in the background to verify whether users can access certain systems or files, rather than assuming that because they have been authenticated, they should be allowed free movement.


All About Data

If you’re working on structuring your data team, here are some lessons learned from SnaptravelDavid Murray breaks down two types of data teams: embedded vs. centralized. The former means data analysts (DAs) work closely with the teams they help. They go to similar meetings and report to the same heads of department. 👨‍💻🐣🔍 The centralized model means all the data people sit beside each other, and operate like a consultant to the various teams (their clients). There are pros and cons to both models that are really helpful to decide which model works for your company.


Here are some of his takeaways as he moves through 5 stages: Chaos, Centralized Analysts, Full Stack Teams, Pods, and Domain Structure 🐣 ➡️ 🐓: 

  • Evolving the analytics team rapidly meant there were disconnected interpretations of the data that worked on a small team in an embedded model.
  • A centralized analyst model enabled knowledge-sharing, but there was a disconnect between data extraction and loading (done by DEs) and transformation and analysis (done by DAs).
  • A holistic structure kept everyone in the loop — but changing team structure so frequently disrupted manager relationships and created instability for team members.
  • Separating our large team into separate pods for each area of the business aligned our priorities and kept communication relevant, but there was no clear ownership over objectives in the full-stack pod structure and it slowed down our team’s progress.
  • The shift to a domain structure gave ownership over business outcomes while optimizing skill specialization, prioritization and knowledge share. It’s made it easier to scale. 

The National Artificial Intelligence Research Resource Task Force, a group of 12 members from academia, government, and industry led by officials from the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and the National Science Foundationwill draft a strategy for creating an AI research resource that could, in part, give researchers secure access to stores of anonymous data about Americans, from demographics to health and driving habits. 👩‍🔬🔬🤖 “This is a moment that is calling us to be strengthening our speed and scale,” says National Science Foundation Director Sethuraman Panchanathan in an interview. “It is also calling us to make sure that innovation is everywhere.” This will have ramifications for industry R&D — and for privacy. Anonymous census, medical and other data could also potentially be made available for research by both private companies and academic institutions. ⚠️🔥

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Patrick Donegan Chief Strategy Officer

Patrick Donegan

Chief Strategy Officer

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