Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Google's "People Operations" Guy Talks Immigration Policy

Today, there are literally hundreds of examples of immigrants and non-immigrant foreign workers playing a vital role at Google. Googlers holding H-1B visas -- which allow foreign-born workers with specialized skills to work in the U.S. on a temporary basis -- have helped lead the development of Google News and orkut. Immigrants from countries like Canada, Iran, and Switzerland now lead our business operations, global marketing, global business development, and data infrastructure operations.

As Congress grapples with various immigration reform proposals, Laszlo Bock, our Vice President of People Operations, testified today before the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration about the practical impact that the U.S. immigration system has on Google.

In his testimony, Laszlo said that, due to limits on the number of H-1B visas, Google is regularly unable to pursue highly qualified candidates. Over the last year alone, the artificially low cap has prevented more than 70 Google candidates from receiving H-1B visas. Laszlo encouraged Congress to significantly increase the annual cap of 65,000 H-1B visas, and urged them to address the backlog of employment-based green cards for highly-skilled workers.

Check out the video of Laszlo's opening statement:


Dave Wilkins said...

While this seems like a perfectly reasonable stance, I wonder if Google is looking at bolstering US talent pools somehow? Maybe through mentorship programs with extended employment committments, sort of like in colonial times where an experienced skilled worker would mentor a more junior person. Or perhaps a Google University dedicated to teaching the best software and mathmatics skills? Relying on the government to grant Visa's or the schools to provide quality talent is a recipe for failure. Investing in the US population for Google's selfish needs kills two birds with one stone. It gives you a PR win for doing something US-based and it gives you control over the problem. Just food for thought.

Terrin said...

Why should the US Congress assist companies like Google to bring in foreign workers at the expense of struggling Americans? Perhaps I could see Google's point, if Google was doing something to train American workers to satisfy its needs at the same time as pushing for a short term limited immigration increase. As it is, American University's are well equipped to adapt to the increase in demand from certain industries.

Last I checked, Google is an American company. As such, it should first search for solutions that aid Americans who have contributed to its success.

wiswaud said...

I'm a canadian with no immediate interest in working in the US (not that i have anything against that), but i'm interested by the issue.

Having seen a few places, one firsthand at a major airline that has been laying off thousands of employees, including many in IT, and now using low-wage H1B's to replace many of them, it seems to me that the H1B problem isn't quantity but quality.

That google can't get an H1B for a supersmart postdoc from romania because there's no more H1B visas available, while very ordinarily skilled programmers did get an H1B seems very unfair to me. I feel like increasing the number of H1Bs will only exacerbate the problem for you.

OTOH, google can just open a research center in Montréal (which i think you did) and move that romanian here: our skilled workers system basically guarantees he'll be landed, while the ordinarily skilled programmer wouldn't necessarily be...

Terrin said...

I find it very hard to believe that Google cannot find the equivalent of the 70 or more employees here in the United States.

Making more H1B's Visas available is purely a selfish action and shortsighted. It is selfish because it ignores the community in which Google operates, and shortsighted because it does nothing to train local people in the skills needed.

Moreover, as another user posted, most companies abuse H1B visas to obtain lower paid employees, which was never there stated purpose. My step mom works for a big software company in MIchigan, that had American software engineers train their Indian replacements before firing the Americans. When more Visas become available, you will hear a big suck of american jobs being replaced. This is combined already with the manufacturing jobs being replaced because of Free Trade Zone agreements, and the new push to replace low paid American service workers with even lower paid alternatives.

Conservative Crusader said...

If Google isn't interested in hiring Americans, why doesn't Google relocate it's HQ to Mexico? Apparently, that's where all the talent is, so Google thinks.

America is one of the most technologically advanced countries in the world, with the most people getting into the computer field. There's no reason why you should be looking to Mexico for "qualified candidates."

Doug said...

I do not have a huge problem with Google and their use of H1 visas, but I'd like them a lot better if they plowed some money into encouraging US kids to get back into computing - rather than business management and the rest. They could support something like the Intel Science competition with an emphasis on computing.

It would costs a tiny fraction of the up keep on their corporate 747. OK, I know that Google hires lots of interns.

I think there is often an implied racism in the cry for H1 visas. I hope Google is not saying that US citizens are not smart enough to do computing. I believe the dropping numbers in computing is due to heavy damage that was sustained in the computing business these last 10 years.

This caused students to abandon CS as a major. I know Ivy League schools were hit by this. I know of one in particular that went from something like 400 majors to 60 in four years.

One could argue that bringing in lower paid H1 visa employees only makes this problem worse.

bri said...

Google must do two things:

1) Pay all H1-B visa workers the same salary and benefits as their American counterparts, and promise to always do so.

2) Urge congress to give deciding priority for H1-B visas applications to the highest payed positions, by law.

Now I will explain why, twice. Once for Google's ego, and once for Google's id. I will address Google's ego first, because the id will get a chuckle out of it.

Google must pay H1-B workers the same wage as American workers of equivalent skill because A) It's only fair, for the same work B) Google should not be seen standing in the same line as other corporations with no ethics, who just use H1-B visas to find cheap labor and C) Google's supposed to not be evil, and seeking to devalue labor is evil.

There, now, ego, go play with your ponies. The men have to have some words.

Just between us ids, Google is smart in realizing the value that it's supposed "non evilness" adds to brand loyalty. Joe six pack, also known as the customer, won't believe Google if it lines up at the trough with the less savvy corporations who simply seek bargain talent, and just asks for more visas.

In order to preserve this important public reputation, Google needs to be seen as being "on the side of the public." This can be done by the above two steps, at little cost when the side-benefits are factored in. Google employs under 1000 such individuals and the cost of pay parity with U.S. workers would be several tens of millions of dollars.

In exchange, Google would get a huge amount of publicity exploiting the immigration issue until November 2008, being a "good guy" to both sides of the political spectrum on a highly charged subject.

This is not only a good "ad buy," but also would cost competitors dearly as they scramble to either follow suit or bolster their lobbying to counter the ideas. Were the second idea actually implemented, and running with the thin premise that Google actually wants rare talent and not budget talent, Google would then be able to bid competitors out of the H1-B pool.

Google needs to reel its "People Operations Guy" in and explain to him how his testimony was not in the best interest of the shareholders, then trot him out in front of cameras to announce the above. And tell him to stop wasting our time with his personal family heritage stories.

Edgar said...

It's interesting to read some of these comments. If Einstein was alive today, I have a feeling the US government and a lot of companies would be quite interested in getting him a green card. A university diploma does not mean you are particularly talented at your profession, even if you love what you do. Great ideas sometimes happen by accident, but most are born out of creativity in the minds of very intelligent and skilled people. Likewise, having an idea is one thing but executing it is a different story.

Outstanding talent, creativity, and experience doesn't just occur in the US and though it's encouraging to see companies like Google be able to see beyond borders, current policy is quite prohibitive.

philip said...

When a corporation starts asking for favors of our government or any other law making body to aid its own self interest. It will most certainly beget a favor in return.
I was under the impression that you at Google were in the fight to keep this Internet, this avenue exchange, that is so basic to the fundamental rights of all people...FREE of any governmental, political, or institutional intervention.
I hope, I think we all hope... that I was right.
****** time for introspection? ******

Speedmaster said...

The crux of the problem is that open borders are incompatible with the welfare state.

Geoffrey said...

I must say that I strongly disagree with Google's stance to increase the H1-B Visa cap. Primarily I believe Google (and other companies as well) use H1-B Visas to employ tech workers at significantly lower pay thus undercutting the American worker. It's really a selfish act upon the part of Google and very much caters to corporate interests.

Aaron said...

although i find it sad that Google won't make a better proactive effort to find employees nationally. This is a better solution than outsourcing the work to another country altogether. H1B visa employees do have to pay taxes and SS. I can't find concrete evidence that H1B employees get paid less than a citizen. I know it wouldn't happen, but I'd like to see salaries of Google H1B and US citizens of comparative roles. In a country of over 300 million I don't 65k is really a large number. We should focus on getting the ones out of here that DON'T go about things the legal way.

Sameer said...

I'm surprised by the somewhat conservative stance taken here. The public benefit Google is creating is an unbelievable amount of free computing power to the American and global public.
I have been in the US for 10 years on H1Bs and TN (a class of visas for Canadians) and don't believe I was hired b/c it gave my employers "cheaper" labor. In fact, most were willing to jump through significant hoops to get me work autorization. In regards to compensation my exprience has been that it is on par or greater than what is paid to an equivalent US employee. At the end of the day it's an issue of supply and demand. I'm sure most companies would prefer not to go through the visa process and expense. The paperwork and filing fees are quite steep and have increased dramatically over the years. However, companies do it to ensure they have the best and brightest people. In today's global marketplace it is not outside of the realm of possibility that the next big technical innovation will come out of India, Moscow, Romania or Beijing. To compete effecitvely human resourcing must take on the same global scale that other business operations are expected to.
Lastly, people want to come to the US because of how dynamic and innovative the market is. It would be a shame if that would change in the future...

bri said...

Sameer you are right of course that Google's services are a huge benefit to everyone. They even made it fantastically easy to find Aaron his "concrete evidence"

Just because someone helps old ladies across the street, though, doesn't mean he gets to beat his wife.

While your experience may be the kind we would want from the H1-B program, there are major problems with abuse for the purposes of wage depression.

Say the H1-B pool is a basket of apples, and some of them are bad. What Google is doing is asking for a bigger basket so there are more good apples (assuming they aren't the source of some of the bad apples.) What they should be doing is saying, hey, where are all these apple worms coming from spoiling the apples? Can we get that fixed, please? Then there will be more good apples.

Alia Noelle Lamaadar said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
T.Keating said...

Google fits the typical profile for a corporate abuser/H-1B exploiter.

In the past.. (pre H-1B fiasco)..

1.) Employers would seek out employees from different regions of
the country. This search would extend to the point of opening up
branch offices in other city and states in order to find and maintain talent in those remote locations.

Note: Not everyone can justify the expense of moving to a new city
and job form a 80 to 150K/yr salary. This especially rings true for the more successful people, who would take huge tax/asset hits(>200K$) in such a dislocation. (I.E. Several years of after tax earnings just to break even from such a dislocation. )

2.) Contract specialized consultants for specific rare fields that require exceptional talent needed to deliver reliable products. (Device drivers, OS guru's, etc.)

P.S. Most corps really don't need these specialized people on a full time basis anyway.

3.) Hire and educate lessor qualified employees and/or BS/MS/PHD's from non-computer fields. (This used to be the mainstay employment mechanism for science types in our tech based society.)

Note: Most scientifically trained people are more than capable of
performing a computer related programming task, if given a chance. The H-1B program has eliminated much of this activity and greatly increased probability of a negative ROI from earning a science degree.

4.) Provide telecommuting opportunities. (Related to item #1)

5.) Pay a competitive wage rates, especially after a companies stock
has peaked or trades in limited range.

6.) Demands unreasonable extended work hours on a consistent basis.

From what I've read previously.
Google fails on all counts listed above.

ps said...

May be Congress should mandate that extra salary be paid for H1B.
Because Google will still hire the smartest engineers it can get.
Hiring decisions at top
software companies are made based
on talent and not on cost.