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Cover image for No, I don't want to become an Angular GDE
This is Angular

No, I don't want to become an Angular GDE

Lars Gyrup Brink Nielsen
Tech Writer, Tech Speaker, FOSS Maintainer, Microsoft MVP.
Updated on ・5 min read

A highly toxic environment. Cover photo by ATDSPHOTO on Pixabay.

The views expressed in this opinion piece are entirely my own. They do not represent any organization.

I used to have a lot of respect for Google's GDE (Google Developers Experts) program. I still have a lot of respect for the people in the program, but I have lost every last bit of respect for the Angular category of the program itself in its current form because of how it's being managed. I haven't been an Angular GDE myself, but I have seen enough to have an opinion on this. It's not for me and here's why.

Fear-driven leadership

The fake, overly-optimistic tone that drives the communication from the Angular team and completely ignores critical issues seems to have found its way into the Angular GDE program as well.

I know many Angular GDEs and it seems that some of them have a constant fear to speak their mind freely about issues concerning the Angular framework and the Angular team.

From what I've seen, there are many dreads that prevent them from engaging in the Angular community by raising or addressing these concerns. I've seen signs of:

  • Fear of retaliation
  • Fear of losing their GDE title
  • Fear of not being employable by Google
  • Fear of being excluded for violating the code of conduct without further explanation
  • Fear of getting complaints to the Angular management's network in the Angular community

At the same time, it seems pretty clear that--like the Angular team members--scripted responses border-lining to evangelism and propaganda are taught to the Angular GDEs. Whether Angular GDEs realize it or not, they are governed by the rules in a communication manifesto for the Angular team.

I have learned that there are certain terms or sentences that Angular GDEs are not allowed to say. For example, they are not allowed to say "let's get rid of NgModules". They have to say "Angular supports optional NgModules".

Sometimes Angular GDEs are not allowed to speak about upcoming features or versions of Angular. Maybe because the spokespeople of the Angular team have had an ugly history of promoting features such as Angular version 2, Angular Ivy, Bazel, and Angular Elements years before they were production ready.

Every piece of knowledge spoken in public should be aligned with guidelines from the Angular team management and should be in line with the communication manifesto.

The concept of "if you have nothing nice to say, don't say anything" applies. Especially when it comes to anything remotely related to Angular or Google.

This is in stark contrast to Microsoft's MVP (Most Valuable Professional) program where they welcome objective opinions to the point that Microsoft employees are not allowed to become Microsoft MVPs and no money is involved between Microsoft and the MVP awardee. The MVP program appreciates honest opinions raising issues where Microsoft can improve the program or their products.

This is not a competition between the GDE and MVP programs, but I want to point out that there are other approaches to driving a program that supports technical communities around a company's products.

Who's responsible for this fear-driven leadership? I recommend that you refer to Jeff Cross' personal accounts in "Jeff's Letter to the Angular Team and Community" and recent Twitter discussions about this [1][2] for context. At this point, this should come as no surprise. After all, only two or three people are left from the original Angular team.

For years, what seems like an unlimited pool of talented people have parted ways with the Angular team. Too many to be named, but here's a few of them:

  • Matias Niemelä
  • Kara Erickson
  • Rob Wormald
  • Alex Eagle
  • Vikram Subramanian
  • Brad Green
  • Ben Lesh
  • Brandon Roberts
  • Olivier Combe
  • Hans Larsen
  • Jason Aden
  • Mike Brocchi
  • Victor Savkin
  • Jeff Cross
  • Rob Eisenberg

They all left for different reasons, but we have witnessed members leaving the Angular team speaking about burnout, ridicule, and even anxiety. This doesn't come from scope creep combined with overly optimistic deadlines alone.

Serious personal injuries like these come from the worst team cultures in companies that enable individuals to micromanage, abuse and harass their peers. Leadership is about enabling your team, not disabling them.

The Angular team has a toxic working environment. The Angular team management has enabled this for years. This has resulted in a high churn on the Angular team. Many team members have either relocated within Google or left this toxic working environment.

Poor access to the Angular team

One of the benefits of joining the GDE program is access to Google's product teams that are relevant to the respective GDE categories.

Even though Angular has people in developer relations, access to the Angular team has proven close to non-existent unless you're a massive enterprise who probably spends a lot money with Google.

Apparently, GDEs barely have a better chance at staying in touch with the Angular team. They are mostly kept at arm's length from the Angular community except for one time per year where they all attend a conference in the United States.

I have heard from several frustrated conference and meetup organizers who have unsuccessfully attempted to get Angular team members to attend their events, with a few exceptions.

Angular GDE title or not, the community has poor access to the Angular team and poor insight into their plans for the framework. Not because of the team itself, but because of management.

Another example of this is an unnamed Angular GDE who asked questions to Angular team members at one of those few conferences where they were actually present. This GDE learned that you don't ask too many questions about the team's work or the framework's direction, not even to help support the Angular community.

The GDE in question received a warning for being in violation of the code of conduct without further explanation helping them understand what to do differently. Apparently, asking the Angular team questions about their work makes them feel like they're being held hostage, according to their managers. So much for Google product team access.

Harassment and public shaming

Speaking of code of conduct, I have witnessed harassment and public shaming of an Angular GDE by another Angular GDE. I even became the target of this myself when I stood up for the person being harassed.

This had been going on for weeks. When this became a public affair that the GDE program could no longer ignore, the harasser received a warning. At first, the person ignored the warning and kept harassing me and a third Angular GDE coming to the defense of the person being harassed. We were told to leave the harasser alone.

Eventually, the harassing Angular GDE was forced to stop their harassment and send out a public apology. I asked an Angular GDE whether anyone was ever excluded from the program because of something like this. That was not the case, to this person's knowledge. It didn't happen in this case either.

It's time to speak up

I don't know about you, but all of these issues have become unacceptable to me to the point that I question whether I want to continue to contribute anything to the Angular ecosystem and community.

I have met so many nice people in the Angular community and we're not causing these issues, but we enable them by not speaking up.

This is a request for the Angular team management and Angular GDE program committee to start making changes instead of excuses. To address these issues instead of ignoring them.

This is a request for you to speak up. Enough is enough. Demand change!

Read examples of technical consequences because of issues like these in "Angular struggles in 2020".

Discussion (39)

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alcfeoh profile image
Alain Chautard • Edited

I'm an Angular GDE and I don't understand most of the content of this post. I've seen a lot of very open conversations in the community of GDEs along with the Angular team at Google. GDEs can indeed ask questions to the Angular team and other GDEs. This is happening on a daily basis in Slack, which is where I discovered this article, which has not been censored but is being discussed as a way to improve the community.
I'm not saying that everything is perfect, but I am saying that I have no fear of being an Angular GDE and I don't see any reason to be anything but enthusiastic about being a GDE.
Also, note that GDEs cannot be employed by Google by definition.

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layzee profile image
Lars Gyrup Brink Nielsen Author • Edited

Thank you for your feedback, Alain.

When you and other Angular GDEs say something like

"I have no fear of being an Angular GDE and I don't see any reason to be anything but enthusiastic about being a GDE."

I don't think it's helping the problem. You're alienating the GDEs who are scared because of fears mentioned in the article. Because of nasty messages and warnings about having to be careful about what they say or do. Because of being harassed by their peers or reprimanted by authorative figures.

By dismissing the problem and restating that there's no reason for this, you're making your peers question whether they're the problem themselves. If no one else seems to have this problem since everyone says that this is not happening, surely it must be them who are the problem.

You not having gone through it does not mean that it's a non-issue.

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alcfeoh profile image
Alain Chautard • Edited

I don't know any GDEs who have such fears because all of them are free to express themselves on the Angular Slack channel or elsewhere.
That's what I see as a GDE from the inside. You're telling me that you have a better view from the outside, that's great but I don't see how your post is helping anything. Starting fires has rarely solved any problem.

I would be happy to reach out to the GDEs who are afraid and learn more about that because it is quite the opposite of my experience and the experience of many others. Please contact me in private if you have more information to share.

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layzee profile image
Lars Gyrup Brink Nielsen Author • Edited

all of them are free to express themselves on the Angular Slack channel or elsewhere.

That's what you're saying. I have accounts of the opposite. More than the examples mentioned in these stories. These are just examples of bigger issues, not one-off issues.

Some people can have legal reason for not speaking about issues like these. Some people may not want to have their issue investigated at this point. Maybe they're just happy to move on after a terrible experience and I don't blame them.

Unfortunately, this changes nothing for the next person joining the Angular team or the Angular GDE program. This is why I'm speaking up on their behalf. To stop this from happening to anyone else.

The first step towards change is realizing and admitting that there's a problem. I see that you're not there yet. I'm trying to convince as many as possible that there are issues both in the Angular team and in the Angular GDE program, in the hope that it can be dealt with.

If you refuse to accept this, I don't know how to make it more clear, but hopefully I can convince someone else who can do something about this by helping to drive the change needed.

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alcfeoh profile image
Alain Chautard

I can only accept what I can see and relate to. I have read stuff about the Angular team from former Googlers that I understand and accept because I trust these people. Their posts were truly genuine as they exposed themselves personally.

On the other hand, an outsider to an organization I belong to (the Angular GDEs) telling me that I should see something and that I don't understand, well... I'm questioning their agenda for sure.

I would need more info or proof to change my mind, and I don't see any of that in your post. My email is open if you want to share more.

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layzee profile image
Lars Gyrup Brink Nielsen Author • Edited

I can understand your skepticism.

While I appreciate the offer, I will instead refer Angular GDEs facing issues like these to Wassim Chegham who has also offered his help.

Wassim has been a GDE for 5 years. I personally know and trust him. He's my best suggestion if you're looking for a safe space to discuss matters like these. Wassim is also an excellent mediator.

Read Wassim's tweet with this offer.

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alcfeoh profile image
Alain Chautard

You do realize that Wassim seems to be as dumbfounded as I am about your post, right?

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layzee profile image
Lars Gyrup Brink Nielsen Author

I would prefer it for himself to express his opinion to me and he did. His tweet followed a conversation between us.

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alcfeoh profile image
Alain Chautard

I talked to him and the result still doesn't explain your claims about the GDE community, far from it.

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mustapha profile image
Mustapha Aouas

« I can only accept what i see and relate to » you are such an open-minded person, aren’t you

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alcfeoh profile image
Alain Chautard

I talked to several other GDEs and none of them understand this article. The GDE community has talked about it openly. If something is completely made up or blown out of proportion, being open-minded means just recognizing that instead of accepting what is presented as facts when that's not the case.

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caroso1222 profile image
Carlos Roso

Remember that we humans prefer conflict over anything else. A post like "GDE is crap" will get 10x attention that "GDE is nice". For anyone reading comments, don't feel discouraged, your story won't probably be the same as 3 or 4 (or even 10) loud people on Twitter.

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alcfeoh profile image
Alain Chautard

And that is really sad. Getting attention by doing this is a horrible thing to do. But it's also a tactic used by some world leaders nowadays so I can understand that more people are inclined to do so and not even feel bad about it.

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layzee profile image
Lars Gyrup Brink Nielsen Author

I don't care for your pseudo analysis. You're avoiding the discussion that matters and making up statistics for no apparent reason.

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caroso1222 profile image
Carlos Roso

You're just being loud, Lars. Your posts are inflammatory rants all over the place. You've made up your mind, though, and your opinion is popular. Enjoy your likes.

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jeffbcross profile image
Jeff Cross

Personally, in my conversations with Lars, I've found him to be open to opposing viewpoints and re-calibrating his opinions when presented with evidence.

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caroso1222 profile image
Carlos Roso

"I don't care for your pseudo analysis". I also find him to be open to opposing viewpoints. I hope you both get what you want from all this, whatever that is.

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jeffbcross profile image
Jeff Cross

I wouldn't characterize your comment as an "opposing viewpoint".

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stephenradams profile image
Stephen Adams

Wow, you're on a mission today Lars and a good one too. I applied for the Angular GDE, I didn't get in, I thought it would be good for my freelance business to show that I'm an Angular GDE. But I've been a web developer for 19 years and freelance for 8, so do I need to be one I'm not sure.
But if becoming one means you have to keep repeating the marketing line, and can't communicate customer needs with the Angular core team, do I want to be one now? Not sure.
There is definitely something wrong in the Angular world, it needs to be resolved or this framework we enjoy using will end up on the Google scraphead.

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alcfeoh profile image
Alain Chautard

Customer needs can definitely be communicated to the Angular team and they do care. I brought feedback from one of my customers to the Angular team a few months ago and it was addressed with Angular 10.

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fetis profile image
Sergey Fetiskin

I know only Olivier's story, he was a contractor all the time and he's contract ended. Google decided to not prolong and use internal resources (Pete Bacon Darwin) for i18n. From outside it doesn't look like he was forced to leave

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layzee profile image
Lars Gyrup Brink Nielsen Author

Olivier's story seems like anything but a success. From the way he joined the Angular team (stop working on your open source library, it's more popular than Angular's built-in solution) to how it turned out that the use cases he wanted to support and saw the need for in the community would never ship in Angular itself. These use cases are non-concerns for Google and it ended up virtually killing the most popular free alternative.

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jwp profile image
John Peters • Edited

When I first heard about this program, I thought it odd they tell you about the GDE program but only they select the candidates.

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alcfeoh profile image
Alain Chautard

You can ask any GDE or Googler to be nominated for the GDE program. The list of all available GDEs is publicly available and the criteria listed on the GDE program website is exactly what one needs to do to become a GDE. So I don't see how anyone can say it's a "secret society" when a simple web search would give you all the answers.

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jwp profile image
John Peters

You're right, it was my first impression. But I was wrong.

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alcfeoh profile image
Alain Chautard

How so? I would love to know more.

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jwp profile image
John Peters • Edited

My thoughts were when I picked up on the "don't call us we'll pick you" and not sure how I picked up on that, I thought to myself that it was too exclusive of a club for me.. I think there was a post here on Dev.to from one of the GDE Team members.

I think it was this post that left a sour note with me. dev.to/stephenfluin/how-to-become-...

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alcfeoh profile image
Alain Chautard

Is that any different from the Microsoft MVP program? I believe that all such experts program work on a nomination basis as they don't have the resources to review thousands of candidates.

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jwp profile image
John Peters

Probably the same thing.

I think these programs are a bit useless, because I've never once in 30 years had an employer ask are you a MVP or GDE? Or even, are you a Top 5% contributor to Stack Overflow?

They don't want designations, they want solutions to their issues.

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alcfeoh profile image
Alain Chautard

That's very true. The other thing is that most GDEs or MVPs don't even need a job because they'd make a lot more on their own than at a regular job.

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layzee profile image
Lars Gyrup Brink Nielsen Author • Edited

Is that any different from the Microsoft MVP program?

A Microsoft MVP Award starts with a nomination and then it's all about community contributions over the past year. The process of reviewing contributions over the past year repeats every year.

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layzee profile image
Lars Gyrup Brink Nielsen Author • Edited

I think these programs are a bit useless, because I've never once in 30 years had an employer ask are you a MVP or GDE? Or even, are you a Top 5% contributor to Stack Overflow?

Even it that is the case, it doesn't make the GDE or MVP programs useless. They should be about contributing to and supporting the technical communities surrounding a company's products. If you think this is useless, that's okay. There are many other ways to benefit from this though.

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jwp profile image
John Peters • Edited

They are useless from the perspective that no employer ever asks for that type of certification. Besides even you said you don't want to be a GDE. The reasons you gave are inherent in these types of programs.

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meeroslav profile image
Miroslav Jonas

While I don't have any personal experience with GDE harassing another GDE, I did experience several occasions where GDE would heavily gossip about another GDE. The fake friendship and artificial positive emotions meanwhile stabbing each other in the back were too much for me to digest at times.

I also felt (some) GDEs were under pressure to boost their own track record (to maintain GDE status) over the actual community needs.

That being said, there are occasional unhealthy situations happening in other communities as well, but I have a feeling Angular is trying to hide it under the carpet more than others.

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caroso1222 profile image
Carlos Roso

We need a post like this for every single organization on earth because, guess what, all of them have issues. Too much drama for very trivial stuff.

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layzee profile image
Lars Gyrup Brink Nielsen Author • Edited

Luckily, we're not all affected by every single organization on earth. But the whole Angular ecosystem and community are affected by the Angular team management's decisions. The technical issues are one thing that many of us can agree on. Let's put them aside for a moment.

I'm sick to my stomach of learning about people leaving the Angular team with stories of ridicule, emotional abuse, harassment, being yelled at, being belittled and patronized. I feel sorry for Angular GDEs living in fear, afraid to speak up. Afraid for the consequences of making one wrong move in the eyes of whoever's influencing this program. Afraid of being harassed by their peers.

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swyx profile image
swyx

would you ever consider leaving the angular community and joining vue or react or svelte?

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meeroslav profile image
Miroslav Jonas

Why not be a member of multiple communities at the same time?
It's the same as saying "you can use only one framework".

I personally use Angular, React (+ Gatsby), Preact, and Svelte. And I see reason to be member of all of these communities. On top of that I like Vue very much.

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Mo Sharif

Thanks for sharing! Most of us devs really just want a pleasant experience from these frameworks. We enjoy coding GDE or !GDE, who doesn't like creating sexy and reactive UIs ??