Gosling Dishes on His Culture Clash with Oracle

By Donald Sears  |  Posted 2010-09-30

The creator of Java, James Gosling, left Oracle back in April after the software giant acquired Sun Microsystems. Gosling announced his departure from the company on a blog post, but left his reasons confidential and somewhat mysterious.

But when eWEEK's Darryl Taft interviewed Gosling this past month, the gloves came off and the former-Sun fellow was not afraid to dish dirt on his true feelings about the changes he had to endure. What I enjoyed about the article was getting the perspective of a highly respected technologist at the top of his level talk honestly about his experience and how he was open to some change, but his expectations were battered around in a different company culture.

Acquisitions, like most major change-events in life, are hard, and they are hard on everyone--even folks at the very top of the technology or management chain. Egos are bruised. There are power struggles. There are job losses, and there is negative energy. Sometimes that negative energy is enough for even those who create an influential technology to simply say, it's time to move on.

Gosling talked about how little he felt top technologists from Sun were being respected, and how most if not all influence these technologists had in product and technology directions were being stripped. Additionally, Gosling said Oracle was a micromanaged culture and that it did not ultimately work with what he was used to at Sun.

Gosling told Taft that one concern was the compensation he was offered, and a lack of placing him in an equivalent grade level for his title as a fellow at Sun. Total compensation was a very different animal at Oracle, and that he felt he was being asked to take a significant cut in salary, title and influence.

"There is actually a long list of things that played into my leaving Oracle," Gosling said. "There were things like my salary offer. After getting my offer from them I tried to figure out what my compensation would be like on my W-2 form and it was a major hit. They copied my base salary [from Sun]," he said. However, at Sun, any executive that was a vice president or above was given what amounted to a bump or bonus based on the performance of the company....

Perhaps the final straw was what Gosling said was Oracle's move to rein him in...

"My ability to decide anything at Oracle was minimized," Gosling said. "Oracle is an extremely micromanaged company. So myself and my peers in the Java area were not allowed to decide anything. All of our authority to decide anything evaporated."

He was also annoyed at the killing of an employee appreciation day for Sun employees at Great America amusement park that was already paid for... One of Oracle's executives, co-president Safra Catz, is the one who killed it, according to Gosling.

Ouch. In fairness to Oracle from an HR perspective, I could see the company not wanting to give Oracle employees the impression that former Sun employees were getting special treatment that they did not receive themselves. You don't want to create factions like that, although most companies do that all the time for sales departments (and I could not imagine that is different at Oracle).

Rocket Fuel