With a new operating chief in place, Verily CEO Andy Conrad told employees he plans to delegate power to help fix a turbulent leadership culture

  • Verily, Alphabet's life sciences division, has appointed Stephen Gillett as its new chief operating officer.
  • Gillett, who had cofounded Chronicle, will be taking over more of the day-to-day running of the company.
  • In an all-hands meeting this week, CEO Andy Conrad said he will be handing over more responsibilities to Gillett and wants to empower a stronger leadership team.
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Verily, the Alphabet life sciences subsidiary, appointed Stephen Gillett as its new chief operating officer earlier this week, as the company appears to be dismantling a top-heavy leadership structure that was a struggle for many employees.

Gillett was the cofounder and CEO of Alphabet's failed cybersecurity company Chronicle, which was absorbed back into Google last year. In May, he jumped over to Verily to build a cybersecurity center and now, as its new COO, will play a large role in commercializing the company's products.

He also replaces Ashraf Hanna, who joined Verily in 2018.

"Moving forward, Stephen will lead our overall business operations, including development of a modern commercial capability and an end-to-end orchestration between products, services and go-to-market activity for Verily," said CEO Andy Conrad in a blog post announcing the news. 

Gillett also will help to improve Verily's leadership culture.

In an all-hands meeting on Wednesday, CEO Andy Conrad told employees that he wants to build out a stronger leadership team that will take on more of the broader business decisions, according to sources who were present and asked to remain anonymous because they were not authorized to talk to the press.

"He admitted he has his shortcomings and is going to allow Stephen to handle certain day-to-day operations at Verily, and build a stronger leadership team," said one employee who was present.

A Verily spokesperson did not respond to Business insider's request for comment.

Since Verily was launched from Google in 2015, insiders say Andy Conrad has been very much the power center.

"The leaders worship at the alter of the CEO," said one former executive. "There's not a lot of pushback against Andy."

In 2016, Stat News reported that the company had seen an exodus of employees who found it a challenge to work with the CEO. Earlier this year, Business Insider reported on Verily's response to the COVID-19 pandemic, in which employees described a high turnover rate inside the company.

Now, Conrad may be looking to fix what some employees have described as an unhealthy leadership culture.

One insider described Conrad as "oddly introspective" during this week's all-hands. "I think he's acknowledging that he's built too much of an ego around him. He's willing to step back and have other adults and professionals in the room operate the business a little more."

Sources say Verily recently celebrated its five-year anniversary with a video chat between Andy Conrad and Google cofounder Sergey Brin, who, along with Larry Page, has effectively vanished from public view.

During the "fireside chat," which was broadcast for all employees to watch, the two discussed the founding and mission of Verily.

"There wasn't anything too exciting said," said one employee who was present. "But it was nice to see Sergey pop up."

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