Late last month, a surprise announcement surfaced that Google’s Hugo Barra was leaving the company for Chinese handset maker Xiaomi, something that was confirmed a short while later. With the announcement came a variety of speculation, not the least of which was fueled by news of workplace relationships within Google, but such was not the cause of his departure, with the wheels having been set in motion years before that.
Barra elected not to speak of the workplace romance that went through various news outlets during an interview he had with the folks over at AllThingsD, instead talking about the process that led up to his Google departure for foreign pastures. He and Xiaomi had been in talks for over a year before the decision was made, with the foundation for that having been laid years before that. Says Barra, it was his second day working with Google when he found himself in Beijing, where he ended up meeting Xiaomi’s president Bin Lin.
At the time, Bin Lin had also worked for Google, running engineering in the Internet giant’s China mobile unit. A business relationship was formed, and eventually Bin Lin left for Xiaomi and Barra was placed on Google’s Android unit. He found himself keeping tabs on Xiaomi’s Android efforts, saying that he “had a keen interest in what they were doing.”
All of this ultimately culminated in talks between Barra and Xiaomi about him joining the company last year, with the former Google employee stating that it was ultimately the opportunity he saw in Xiaomi that drew him in.
Said Barra in the interview: “To me, right away, it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, truly a dream job, this idea of building a global company which could be as significant as Google, from the ground up. It was just something that I will never come across, with a team whom I know, with a company that has DNA similar to my own and, on top of that, to live in Asia for at least some period of time.”
How did Google take the news of his derpature? “It was an interesting three-way conversation. But,” said Barra, “I think it came down to, if you’re going to lose someone from the team, you might as well lose them to a friend.”