DuckDuckGo remains fully remote as Googlers return to the office

  • DuckDuckGo, a privacy-focused search engine, is fully remote and plans to stay that way.
  • Engineering director Cate Huston says remote work helps working parents juggle and female developers excel in a male-dominated field.
  • Huston’s developer team has grown nearly fivefold since June 2020 as DuckDuckGo expands its user base.

Even as Alphabet, Apple, and Microsoft permanently transition to a hybrid work model, some tech executives believe their employees are better off in an office.

“We’ve spent decades having these conversations about how close people are… the chatting around a coffee table and going to coffee,” former Google CEO Eric Schmidt said recently. told CNBC Make It. “Do you remember all that? Was it all fake?”

The woman who heads engineering at one of Google’s main search rivals disagrees.

Remotely accessible offices promote transparency and help ensure that engineers in male-dominated fields are promoted based on merit rather than a “bro culture,” according to


Ireland-based engineering director Cate Huston, who previously worked at Google.

“One of the things I really like about distributed work as a woman in a male-dominated field is that it’s all written down, so I always have my receipts,” Huston said.

DuckDuckGo, founded in 2008, markets itself as a privacy-focused search engine. The company was initially aloof before the pandemic and is sticking to the model. Others including DropBox,


and Spotify, also went remote-first indefinitely.

Google called employees back to the office three days a week, and implemented pay cuts for remote workers based in cheaper cities than San Francisco or New York. Ex-CEO Schmidt has become a strong supporter of a return to power.

“If you miss something because you’re sitting at home on the couch while you work, I don’t know how you build good management,” Schmidt said. said his interview with CNBC.

Huston – who worked at Google between 2011 and 2014 – thinks this attitude can cost a company talent. DuckDuckGo has positioned itself as the antithesis of Google, which has proven successful in attracting tech workers.

“I had literally never met anyone I worked with, for about a year and a half,” Huston said. “But we still managed to create a really nice team environment, despite the majority of the team being in that position – but it takes a level of care and intention.”

DuckDuckGo says it also compensates by position and regardless of the employee’s location or time spent at its Philadelphia headquarters.

Employees are spread all over the world and many only sync once a week for a video team meeting.

“What I constantly hear in interviews is wanting to work on something that’s a net good in the world,” Huston said, “which I don’t think is true for every company. technology.”

Remote work can be harder for junior developers

A major difference between Google and DuckDuckGo’s work strategies is that DuckDuckGo only hires experienced developers. Google, meanwhile, hires hundreds of junior developers and offers internships.

Schmidt, in his interview with CNBC, may be right that young employees are best taught professionalism and management skills in an office environment. “

“In terms of age, that’s where they learn,” he said. “If you miss…because you’re sitting at home on the couch while you work, I don’t know how you build good management. Honestly, I don’t.”

JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon and WeWork CEO Sandeep Mathrani made similar comments – and the data indicates younger workers feel less productive at home. Airbnb just told employees they can work remotely forever, but acknowledged that some jobs are better in person.

Huston says juniors can be successful from a distance if they cultivate good work habits and ask for help when they need it.

Working from home doesn’t offer the same communal free breakfast and dinner structure as Silicon Valley campuses, but junior developers who can learn to establish consistent daily rituals and motivate themselves even when their code contains mistakes can succeed remotely.

In the office, “you would sit your junior dev next to you and notice when they were struggling, and you would help out,” Huston said. In remote workplaces, there is more of a “culture of attraction”.

Junior developers “have to learn how to get the help you need,” Huston said, but added that it can be done.

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