Google often exports its tech talent to top government posts. In 2014, ex-Google executive Megan Smith was appointed White House chief technology officer. Michael Dickerson works with the federal government’s IT teams to improve government websites. Former employee Katie Jacobs Stanton served as the director of citizen participation at the White House. The list goes on.
Matt Cutts, who headed Google’s Webspam team for 10 years, is heading to work at the Pentagon. Cutts went on leave from Google in July 2014, originally for four or five months, then extended his leave through 2015. The search giant did appoint a new Webspam head in May 2016, but Cutts was still the official spokesman on all things SEO. Google continued to cover his health benefits, although it did not pay him.
The SafeSearch creator’s 16-year gig with Google remains on hold as he heads to Washington DC. He will be joining the US Digital Service(USDS) family—a White House startup that brings America’s tech gurus and public servants together to work on government’s IT problems. A Google spokesperson said Cutts “did not quit” the company and he is officially on leave.
Cutts will begin a temporary stint with the Digital Defense Service team, led by Seattle-based serial entrepreneur Chris Lynch, within USDS. This team works in a time-bound, or project-based, manner. Cutts’s exact role is not clear. He issued the following statement on his website:
Over the last couple years, I’ve seen more and more people in technology trying to make government work better. They’re idealists who are also making a large impact. These are people that I respect–some of them worked to fix healthcare.gov, for example. From talking to many of them, I can tell you that their energy is contagious and they’re trying to improve things in all kinds of ways.
As for Google, the Silicon Valley behemoth is not simply training and transferring talent. It’s a give-and-take relationship—Google has hired 197 government workers since Obama began his tenure in 2008.