S'pore-based founder of online Google community offers emotional and career support to retrenched workers
SINGAPORE — When Mr Christopher Fong founded Xoogler.co in 2015, he had intended for it to be a network base for ex-Google staff and current staff to share ideas and support each other in the startup space.
- Xoogler.co is a network originally set up for current and ex-Google staff to share ideas and support each other in the startup space
- But the initiative has become a de facto support group for retrenched staff seeking emotional counselling and sharing job opportunities
- The platform has almost doubled in membership since Google announced plans to lay off 12,000 employees globally
- It is set up by a Singapore-based American who offers virtual talks, networking sessions and co-working spaces
SINGAPORE — When Mr Christopher Fong founded Xoogler.co in 2015, he intended for it to be a platform where current and former staff of technology giant Google could share ideas and support each other in the startup space.
However, with recent layoffs of about 12,000 Google staff around the world including here, the Singapore-based American told TODAY on Tuesday (Feb 21) that the global community he set up has become a makeshift support group.
The retrenched staff, whom Mr Fong, 42, calls "Xooglers", have turned to the platform to seek emotional counselling and share job opportunities.
Mr Fong is even looking to rent a co-working space in Singapore's central business district in the coming weeks so that ex-Googlers here will have a place to network.
While Google has declined to disclose the number of layoffs at the Singapore office, the cuts are said by some to have involved about 190 staff here.
'REALLY HEARTWARMING', SAYS ONE GOOGLE STAFF MEMBER LAID OFF IN SINGAPORE
One ex-data analyst at Google's Singapore office who has been both surprised and touched by Mr Fong's initiative and willingness to help is 33-year-old Lin Yukai, who was among those laid off last week.
While he has taken a few days to recuperate and allow the news to sink in, he said that he would begin his job search proper by the end of the week.
For starters, he is planning to sign up to courses and networking sessions arranged by Mr Fong for ex-Googlers.
"(Xoogler) came as a surprise, because I don't think I've ever seen such robust support outside of the company," said Mr Lin.
He added that news of the retrenchment had been hard to stomach, not only because he would be losing a job he enjoys doing, but also because he will miss the people he worked with.
He said that he had received many concerned messages from his former colleagues, which made the farewell all the more painful.
"It's really heartwarming, this outpouring of concern and support shown," he said. "Talking to them reminded me of the fact that I will not be working with these people anymore."
PEOPLE NEEDING SUPPORT AFTER 'TRAUMATIC EXPERIENCE'
Mr Fong said that while his initiative initially focused on investing in the growth of startups by ex-Google staff, the newly laid-off staff in Singapore and around the world quickly turned to Xoogler for both emotional and career support.
"There's a whole swathe of people who are looking for support as they are trying to pull themselves back up after a traumatic experience," he said.
Mr Fong said on Tuesday that the number of ex-Googlers who had signed up for the Xoogler initiative had almost doubled from about 14,000 members to more than 26,000 members since the layoff plans were announced.
The global layoffs were foreshadowed by Mr Sundar Pichai, chief executive officer of Google's parent Alphabet, in January this year.
Mr Fong spoke to Google's former director of global wellness and mental wellbeing, who agreed to train other former Google staff on peer support.
He added that after that, his company also started up talks both online and in person on steps to take to look for a new role, such as how to sharpen resumes or how to effectively network.
“There's a whole swathe of people who are looking for support as they are trying to pull themselves back up after a traumatic experience.Xoogler.co founder Christopher Fong”
The firm currently has more than 100 volunteers helping to run these initiatives.
For instance, within four days of the retrenchments here, Mr Fong said that more than 120 former and current Google staff here signed up for a virtual talk on Tuesday with a speaker from Singapore Economic Development Board, who provided details about Singapore's visa and hiring environment.
Mr Fong said he plans to arrange a networking session next week between ex-Googlers and several finance and technology firms which are looking to hire new talent.
Asked why he was going the extra mile to help these recently laid-off staff, Mr Fong said: "The best founders sometimes have a chip on their shoulder... I think this may spur someone's amazing work, such as starting an amazing company one day."