Suzie Reider, YouTube's head of advertising sales, was the keynote speaker at last night's awards dinner for Washington-based technology companies. Reider was generally well-received; she persevered nobly even when none of the YouTube videos that formed the heart of her presentation could be shown.
However, the room fell into an uncomfortable silence when in a major faux pas, she made a clumsy Google recruiting pitch in a room filled with entrepreneurs and executives who struggle every day to find and keep great engineers.
This gesture was received like a bowl of dead flies, and it reveals a fundamental misunderstanding of Google's evolving status in the tech community. The social rules that govern how an enterprise should act change as the company grows in size and power. These changes are hard to detect, and insiders at those companies are often oblivious. Google today can be like an awkward teenager unaware of his own strength.
Of course the silly thing is that Google doesn't need to make this kind of pitch to attract talent. You can be sure there were no engineers in the audience saying to themselves, "Google, never heard of it, maybe I should check it out." We all use Google products and respect those products greatly.
But like Microsoft before them, Google risks becoming a company that grows faster than key employees' awareness of its impact. If Google wants to be part of a respectful, local technical community, they can't send their executives to local entrepreneurial events and recruit the audience.