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48 Google employees fired for sexual harassment

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Google has announced that it has fired 48 employees for sexual harassment during the past two years and sent them away without severance packages, hours after a news report said it had protected some male executives facing sexual misconduct allegations and offered them large sums to leave the company.

The surprise disclosure Thursday came in an email to Google employees from CEO Sundar Pichai. It was a direct response to a New York Times report that the company had dismissed the executive in charge of its Android software for sexual misconduct in 2014 and paid him handsomely to leave.

A spokesperson for Andy Rubin, the former Android executive, said he left of his own accord and has never been informed of any accusations of sexual misconduct. Rubin acknowledges having consensual sexual relationships with Google employees that didn’t report to him, adhering to the boundaries drawn by Google policy at that time, according to the spokesperson, Sam Singer.

The Times story was based on unidentified people and court documents, including some filed in an ongoing divorce between Rubin and his wife. The Times reported that Google also protected two other executives accused of sexual misconduct, ousting one with a severance package while retaining another.

Google CEO Sundar Pichai says Google has adopted tougher policies on harassment since 2015. (Stephen Lam/Reuters)

In his email, Pichai said Google adopted tougher policies in 2015. Those rules require all of Google’s vice-presidents and senior vice-presidents to disclose any relationship with an employee, even if they don’t work in the same department or have any other potential conflict.

Although Pichai didn’t directly address the allegations against Rubin and other executives, he conceded the Times story “was difficult to read” and did not dispute it.  

We are dead serious about making sure we provide a safe and inclusive workplace– Google CEO Sundar Pichai

In an apparent attempt to assure employees that things had changed since Rubin’s departure, Pichai said 13 of the 48 workers that Google had fired for violating the company’s sexual harassment policies were either senior managers or executives. None of those 13 received severance packages, Pichai wrote.

“We are dead serious about making sure we provide a safe and inclusive workplace,” Pichai wrote.

Despite Pichai’s reassurances, the revelations about sexual harassment are a setback for a 20-year-old company that adopted “Don’t Be Evil” as its motto early in its existence and now embraces “do the right thing ” as its creed under the umbrella of its holding company, Alphabet Inc.

The boys club of Silicon Valley

The bombshells are also another troubling example of a Silicon Valley culture that for decades has relied heavily on male engineers, some of whom still behave like fraternity boys attending a keg party in college.

The phenomenon led to this year’s release of Brotopia: Breaking Up The Boys Club of Silicon Valley, a book by Emily Chang that delves into the stories of women who say they have been sexually harassed at tech companies and venture capital firms.

Allegations of sexual misconduct also have resulted in the resignations of venture capitalists and executives and triggered an ongoing overhaul at ride-hailing company, Uber.

Prodded by the public complaints of a former female engineer, Uber last year conducted an internal investigation that it had fostered an environment that allowed rampant sexual harassment .

The problems unfolded under Uber co-founder Travis Kalanick, who wound up being forced to resign by investors as CEO amid a raft of other problems. At one point, Uber hired former Google engineer Amit Singhal and then asked him to resign last year after discovering he hadn’t disclosed he had been accused of sexual misconduct at Google.

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The ‘Maple Majestic’ wants to be Canada’s homegrown Tesla

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Look out Tesla, Canada has a homegrown electric sedan on the way. Well, that’s if AK International Motor Corporation can drum up enough investment to make its EV a reality. Dubbed the “Maple Majestic,” the vehicle is a battery-electric designed to “excel in extreme climate performance without adversely affecting the climate, as befits a vehicle from Canada,” according to its website.

What’s in a name? — The company says the maple leaf is a “symbol of Canada’s warmth and friendliness towards all cultures,” while “majestic” refers to the country’s “status as a Constitutional Monarchy.”

That patriotism carries over into Maple Majestic’s parent company’s lofty goals. AK Motor founder Arkadiusz Kaminski says he wants the company, which he founded in 2012, to become “Canada’s first multi-brand automotive OEM,” and that the “Maple Majestic is intended to be Canada’s flagship brand of automobiles on the world stage.”

Partnerships are key — “We acknowledge that the best chance for the Maple Majestic brand to succeed, lies in continuing to build the relationship with Canada’s parts suppliers and technological innovators, whether they be academic institutions, corporations, or individual inventors,” the company explains. “We are currently seeking partners in automotive engineering, parts manufacturing, automotive assembly, electric propulsion technology, battery technology, autonomous technology, and hybrid power generation technology.”

In other words, don’t expect to be able to buy a Maple Majestic any time soon… and don’t expect to pour over 0-60 mph times, power output, range, or other key stats, because those don’t currently exist. For now, all we have are pictures and a short video clip. But at least those are arresting.

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PE-backed Quorum Software to merge with Canadian energy tech firm

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Houston-based energy technology company Quorum Software will merge with a Canadian tech firm to bolster its presence in oil and gas services.

Quorum announced Feb. 15 it plans to merge with Calgary, Alberta-based Aucerna, a global provider of planning, execution and reserves software for the energy sector. The combined firm will operate under the Quorum Software brand.

Gene Austin, CEO of Quorum Software, will continue in his capacity as chief executive of the combined firm. Austin, former CEO of Austin-based marketing tech firm Bazaarvoice Inc., became CEO of Quorum in December 2018.

Aucerna co-founder and CEO Wayne Sim will be appointed to the Quorum Software board of directors. Both companies are backed by San Francisco- and Chicago-based private equity firm Thoma Bravo.

“Over the last 20 years, Quorum has become the leading innovator of software deployed by North American energy companies,” said Austin. “Today, Quorum is expanding the scope of our technology and expertise to all energy-producing regions of the globe. Customers everywhere will have access to a cloud technology ecosystem that connects decision-ready data from operations to the boardroom.”

In addition to the merger announcement, Quorum Software announced it had entered into an agreement with Finnish IT firm TietoEvry to purchase TietoEvry’s entire oil and gas business. The agreement, which includes hydrocarbon management, personnel and material logistics software and related services, is valued at 155 million euros, or $188 million, according to a statement from TietoEvry.

“Our three organizations complement each other — from the software that our great people design to the energy markets where we operate,” said Sim. “Our new company will be able to deliver value to our stakeholders, while accelerating the growth of our combined business and the energy industry’s software transformation.”

The combined company will serve over 1,800 energy companies in 55 countries, according to the announcement. With its headquarters in Houston, Quorum will continue to have a significant presence in Calgary and in Norway, the headquarters for TietoEvry’s oil and gas software business. Quorum will have other offices throughout North America, Latin America, Europe, Asia and the Middle East.

As of Sept. 30, 2020, private equity firm Thoma Bravo had more than $73 billion in assets under management. In late December 2020, Thoma Bravo agreed to acquire Richardson, Texas-based tech firm RealPage in a roughly $10 billion acquisition.

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Piece of Kitchener technology lands on Mars on Perseverance rover

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KITCHENER — A piece of Kitchener technology has landed on Mars, thanks to NASA’s Perseverance rover.

The rover settled on the planet’s surface on Thursday afternoon. It’s been travelling through space since it was launched from Cape Canaveral, Fla. in July.

“The whole idea of being on a device that we’re sending to another plant with the express mission of looking for traces of past life, it’s pretty mind boggling actually,” said Rafal Pawluczyk, chief technical officer for FiberTech Optica.

The Kitchener-based company made fibre optic cables for the rover’s SuperCam that will examine samples with a camera, laser and spectrometers.

“The cables that we built take the light from that multiplexer and deliver it to each spectrograph,” Pawluczyk said.

The cables connect a device on the rover to the SuperCam, which will be used to examine rock and soil samples, to spectrometers. They’ll relay information from one device to another.

The project started four years ago with a connection to Los Alamos National Lab, where the instruments connected to the cables were developed.

“We could actually demonstrate we can design something that will meet their really hard engineering requirements,” Pawluczyk said.

The Jezero Crater is where the Perseverance rover, with FiberTech Optica’s technology onboard, landed Thursday. Scientists believe it was once flooded with water and is the best bet for finding any evidence of life. FiberTech’s cables will help that in that search.

Ioannis Haranas, an astrophysicist and professor at Wilfrid Laurier University, said the rover isn’t looking for “green men.”

“They’re looking for microbial, single-cell life, any type of fossils and stuff like that,” Haranas said. “That’s why they chose a special landing site. This could be very fertile land for that.”

“It’s very ambitious,” said Ralf Gellert, a physics professor at the University of Guelph.

Gellert helped with previous rover missions and said it’s the first time a Mars rover has landed without a piece of Guelph technology on it. While he’s not part of Perseverance’s mission, he said the possibilities are exciting.

“Every new landing site is a new piece of the puzzle that you can put together with the new results that we have from the other landing sites,” he said.

“It’s scientifically very interesting because, even though we don’t have an instrument on that rover, we can compare what the new rover Perseverance finds at this new landing site,” he said.

Now that Perseverance has landed on Mars, FiberTech is looking ahead to its next possible mission into space.

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