Bulletins

Apple lost talent due to its return-to-office policy. Google is benefitting.

An Apple machine learning expert, who left the company due to its strict return-to-office policy, is joining Google's AI division.

Google headquarters' office lawn

Google poached Apple's machine learning expert, who left due to the strict return-to-office policy.

Photo: Google

Apple's loss is Google's gain: Ian Goodfellow, who was a director in Apple's machine learning division, left the company recently, citing the company's return-to-office policy as the reason for his departure. Goodfellow is reportedly joining Google's DeepMind AI group.


Goodfellow is joining Google's artificial intelligence hub as an individual contributor, people with knowledge of the matter told Bloomberg on Wednesday. Before being poached by Apple in 2019, he worked in several research positions at Google.

Google did not respond to Protocol's request for comment on the hire.

Goodfellow worked at Apple for more than three years, where he led machine learning within the company's Special Projects Group supervising autonomous tech engineers, Bloomberg reported. In an internal memo to Apple staff about his departure from the company, first reported by The Verge's Zoë Schiffer, he said of the company's remote work policy that he "believe(s) strongly that more flexibility would have been the best policy for my team."

Apple planned to bring employees back to the office three days a week. Most were already being required to return to the office for two. On Tuesday, the company put that plan on hold, citing the recent rise in COVID-19 cases as the reason. Apple's requirement for employees to be in three days per week was met with protest among employees who want to remain remote, including Goodfellow.

Meanwhile, Google parent company Alphabet, has a more lenient policy. Although the company is still asking employees to return to the office, and offering perks like free scooters in the hopes of enticing workers to commute, it will grant exemptions to those who still want to work from home, according to Bloomberg. A more flexible WFH policy seems to be doing exactly what Alphabet wants it to do: drawing top talent from rivals who aren't as flexible.

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