Current and former Jigsaw employees describe a toxic workplace environment, mismanagement, poor leadership, HR complaints that haven't resulted in action, retaliation against employees who speak up, and a chronic failure to retain talent, particularly women engineers and researchers. Sources describe a place full of well-intentioned people who are undermined by their own leaders; an organization that, despite the breathless headlines it has garnered, has done little to actually make the internet any better.Jigsaw’s internal problems are driving away employees. Since mid-2018, a total of roughly two dozen Jigsaw employees have left, according to sources on the team. As of this week, Jigsaw has about 60 employees, according to a current employee.In April, Lucas Dixon, Jigsaw’s first-ever engineer, who built the Jigsaw’s engineering team and had been there since 2012, left the company.“What's actually important to me now is 'being real' … this applies both for team culture, for technical work, and for having an impact on the world,” Dixon, who was Jigsaw's chief scientist, wrote to his coworkers in a goodbye email obtained by Motherboard. “That means having a space that is free from retaliation, and more importantly, from fear. Even fear of fear. It's too easy to slide into a culture of 'positivity' where we rewrite our history to our benefit, hiding the difficult parts and spinning messages to suit our ego.”
”I hope that my departure, as well as the many others before and after it, will inspire the change Jigsaw needs to live up to its promise.”
Last week, another employee left, sending another emotional goodbye email.“Jigsaw truly is a special place with enormous potential to use its position of privilege to benefit people at-risk. Using technology for the benefit of those typically left behind it is nothing short of inspiring. In theory, this makes it a very attractive place to work. Many people use Jigsaw as an antidote to fight their disillusion with the tech industry. I certainly did!” the email, obtained by Motherboard, read.“As I lifted my head and gained visibility into the inner workings of the company, I noticed how some individuals used this goal to justify their pursuit for power at the expense of their peers dignity and self-worth,” the email continued. “If nothing else, I hope that my departure, as well as the many others before and after it, will inspire the change Jigsaw needs to live up to its promise.”*In 2010, then-Google CEO Eric Schmidt tapped Cohen to be the leader of Google Ideas, a “think / do tank” to research problems at the intersection of technology and geopolitics. The focus largely remained the same when, in 2016, Schmidt announced in a blog post that Google Ideas was rebranding as Jigsaw.
Do you work or have you worked at Jigsaw, Google, or another tech company? We'd love to hear from you about workplace culture. Using a non-work phone or computer, you can contact Lorenzo Franceschi-Bicchierai securely on Signal at +1 917 257 1382, OTR chat at firstname.lastname@example.org, or email email@example.com
“SOCIAL JUSTICE IS NOT A PRIORITY,” “SOCIAL JUSTICE IS AN ISSUE ON THE TEAM ITSELF,” “PRODUCT SUCCESS AND USERS INTERESTS ARE NOT A PRIORITY,” and “JIGSAW IS A PYRAMID SCHEME BUILT TO ENABLE ITS LEADERSHIP AND GET THE 3 DIRECTORS PERSONAL PR.”
In the meeting, which Cohen did not attend for personal reasons, Keyserling said the story was focused on past problems that the company had worked to improve. Current employees who have knowledge of the meeting said that the general thrust of it was that Jigsaw's problems are in the past—that the article would focus on things that happened years ago, and that it's time to move past them.Current employees say that Jigsaw still has a lot of the same problems, given how many people who have left the team—more than 20—in the last year. And the recent goodbye emails indicate that Jigsaw's issues persist.“When people leave, there’s a tendency to say it’s because they’re moving on to awesome opportunities—and often they are,” a current employee said. “But in many cases it’s not just the pull of a good opportunity, but also the push of being unhappy at Jigsaw.”(Full disclosure: in 2016, Jigsaw sponsored a VICE News series called “Blackout.” Jigsaw also invited this reporter to an off the record dinner with other reporters in Manhattan in April of 2017.)Subscribe to our new cybersecurity podcast, CYBER.
“It's too easy to slide into a culture of 'positivity' where we rewrite our history to our benefit, hiding the difficult parts and spinning messages to suit our ego.”