Yesterday’s announcement that Doug Cutting was leaving Yahoo for start-up Cloudera was big news considering how important he was to establishing the Yahoo search business. It seems that the thrill is gone for him at the new and improved Yahoo. Cutting’s departure was covered yesterday by the New York Times and then expanded on a bit by the folks at ReadWrite Enterprise.
Cutting was one of Yahoo’s best and brightest, especially in the area of search and software infrastructure. He got to work on the largest installation of his wildly successful software Hadoop, an open source solution for dealing with huge data sets. Both Yahoo and Cloudera use Hadoop, so the work is the same on the most basic level. Why would he leave to join a 20-person team at a young company?
While we could sit and wonder if the Yahoo-Microsoft partnership was the determining factor (which the folks at Cloudera deny) that may be something that is just a foregone conclusion. It’s not like Cutting couldn’t see the writing on the wall month’s ago so he started his entrepreneurial wheels spinning to find the next best thing. Apparently, the team being assembled at Cloudera has attracted “best and brightest” level talent from Google and Facebook as well. Oh and the search engine he helped build won’t be the search engine of Yahoo’s future.
So we have seen Google struggle with talent leaving. Their reasons are very different circumstantially but at the core these folks move on because they feel that they are being limited in some way in their current situation. There are some pretty serious minds at Yahoo and you would have to believe that if they were closely tied to search they are thinking that they need to get off of this sinking ship ASAP.
One of the problems that could arise for you could be a culture of “what’s next for me?” with Yahoo employees in all areas. All of the talk about integrating the various services and re-branding etc may sound like fun to some but to others it may be something that think will end up stifling their careers. If that is the mindset then they will naturally look for what’s next. In the meantime, whatever they are working on at Yahoo is taking a backseat to their own needs.
Sound reasonable? I think so. In situations I have been in with various companies all it takes is the first domino to fall and the rest go down pretty easily. Imagine what could happen to Yahoo if they experienced an unexpected exodus of generational talent that is essential to making the new Yahoo? Can you say AOL?