The week Danny Sullivan started working at Google's headquarters in Mountain, California, he felt like someone was going to throw him off campus.
He noticed a handful of double takes as he walked around unattended and would half-jokingly start meetings by assuring other participants of his good intentions.
The bafflement arose because before he joined Google last October, he was a sometimes-critical outsider who had written stories about the company for nearly two decades. As a journalist, his trips to the Googleplex would include a prominent visitors' badge and a public-relations handler at his side.
"It all felt very strange," Sullivan told CNBC of his early days inside the company.
In hindsight, his appointment seems well-timed: In the months since Sullivan took on his role, the tech industry has faced increased scrutiny over how its algorithms affect the public. Critics have lambasted Google, YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter for exacerbating filter bubbles, serving consumers fake news or conspiracy theories, and failing to adequately support the creators they rely on.
Google's search algorithms, in particular, have produced a string of high-profile mistakes in recent months. Part of Sullivan's job is to explain those errors. He's responsible for bridging the gap between Google's engineers and the outside world and, ultimately, using feedback from both sides to make its systems work better.
"I'm really part of trying to improve search now — a direct part of it," he said. "That's the most rewarding thing."