Exxon exodus turns floating ‘cube’ into internet meme

HOUSTON, Oct. 4 (Reuters) – Exxon Mobil’s US campus trophy becomes an internet meme.

The visually stunning complex, sometimes compared to Apple’s ring and Alphabet’s Googleplex campuses, opened in 2014 when Exxon was atop the global oil market. The centerpiece is a giant cube that appears to float above the office and research facility.

The cube has become the emblem of a heartbreaking staff exodus and Exxon’s financial ruin. Hundreds of departing employees have posted images to social media this year of their last day of work before, and versions have been distributed to Exxon locations around the world.

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A historic loss of $22.4 billion last year caused the departure of thousands of employees. Cost cuts will cut 14,000 jobs by the end of the year, and this year’s job evaluation has led to voluntary and forced departures – accompanied by the cube’s posting on social media. read more

“You have to scan the social media and find all the people who are excited to join ExxonMobil,” Exxon spokesman Casey Norton told Reuters. The restructuring cuts ended last December and all positions opened this year due to performance-related layoffs could be filled, he said.

Auld Lang Syne

“That photo will always remind me of the positive experiences I had,” said former Exxon financial supervisor Jason Crawford, posting his own three weeks ago. He resigned after concluding that top management was ill-prepared for the challenges ahead and that Exxon’s “days of being a global leader are long gone.”

The cube is designed to demonstrate Exxon’s technical and technological prowess. A feat of engineering, it looms over the 385-acre campus, floating over an open courtyard and reflecting pools.

Officially called the Exxon Energy Center, it opened in 2014 at a time when the company was at the top of the global oil and gas market. Oil sold for $100 a barrel and Exxon’s market value, now about $258 billion, was approaching half a trillion dollars.

The building was initially a symbol of Exxon’s high-tech ambitions for itself and a lure for talented engineers who then flocked to high-tech companies. The campus has walking trails that run through the area, restaurants, a gym with trainers, and science labs.

HIGH-TECH lures

Avery Smith, who posted his photo in front of the cube earlier this year, was among those drawn to the complex. The 26-year-old data scientist worked at Exxon Mobil Research & Engineering and left last January to start Snow Data Science.

Exxon’s “rigid culture” limited the projects he wanted to pursue, and the pandemic constraints of working from home annoyed him. “I was a bit stuck in my position and wanted to do bigger projects,” said Smith, who chose to start his own venture.

The cube represents the company at its best, said Smith and others who posted their cube portraits.

“I was challenged to work with people around the world,” wrote engineer Margaret Webb, with assignments “to tackle some of the biggest problems in the world today.”

Though she left Exxon in February “before this trend became popular,” Webb recently felt compelled to add hers after seeing hundreds of colleagues show up.

“The most important thing I take with me is this: Something needs to be done about the way engineers view the ethical, social and environmental impacts of their day-to-day work,” she wrote.

A LEGO REPLICA

Cube references now appear in farewell far from Texas. An Exxon scientist in Calgary, Alberta, built a Cube replica of Legos for his parting image. A financial supervisor in Buenos Aires, Argentina, used a photo from a previous visit for him.

“I don’t have the usual picture of an energy cube,” lamented Krishnan Kumaran, 55, who took early retirement last month after 18 years with the company. His farewell included “a photo of the (Exxon) building in pastoral Clinton, New Jersey,” where he worked as a computer scientist.

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Reporting by Gary McWilliams; Editing by Dan Grebler

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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