Google Pittsburgh's new co-directors

What’s new at Google Pittsburgh?

The normally tight-lipped search engine company stepped out this week to introduce its two new co-directors, Jeremy Kubica and Kamal Nigam, and share the latest news at Bakery Square. The program at the Station Square Sheraton also reaffirmed plans for continued hiring and offered insight to prospective job-seekers on what takes to be a “Googler” in Pittsburgh.

Kubica and Nigam moved into the leadership role at Google following the departure of founding director Andrew Moore who returned to CMU as dean of the School of Computer Science earlier this year. Moore, a distinguished computer science and robotics professor at CMU, was instrumental in bringing the Google office to Pittsburgh in 2006.

Google’s plans to expand their footprint as anchor tenant at Bakery Square 2.0 are moving forward, they said. The new building will include a sky bridge across Penn Avenue that connects Google’s new space with its current offices at the original Bakery Square.

The following are a few of the questions posed by the audience.

Was Moore doing the work of two people? How will the co-leadership work?

While co-leading the office, each will be responsible for running groups in their respective areas of expertise, they said. Kubica will focus on Google’s advertising business. Nigam’s focus will be the Google shopping experience.

Nigam previously served as director of engineering projects. Kubica was senior staff engineer. Both joined Google in 2006 and are graduates of CMU.

“There are issues within the office that one will take the lead on, but we are very effective at covering for each other,” said Kubica. “We’re also good at getting out of each other’s way.”

What exciting projects are on the horizon?

One project is focused on making advertising safer and spam-free. Google has strict policies on what it allows advertisers to do and not do. “We have a talented group focused on the next scam before it impacts users,” says Kubica. “Anyone who has worked in the spam and fraud domain knows it’s a constant race to stay one step ahead.”

Another group is working with facial recognition technology that would allow Android users to “face unlock” their smartphone rather than using security passcodes.

What does it take to be a Googler?

Google currently employs 450 people, mostly engineers, and plans call for more hiring. As a software engineering office, Google looks for diverse skill sets, smart graduates who are able to work in a collaborative company culture.

Googlers feel proud about being part of the vibrant, growing tech scene in Pittsburgh. “It’s been good to see the growth of entrepreneurship in Pittsburgh and the startup scene. Now when people think of Pittsburgh, they see a scene out there and we’re a part of that growth,” says Nigam.

Advice to college students who might want to work at Google?

“Take academics seriously. Find a professor you respect and work for him or her. It opens so much up on the innovation side of thinking, working on unsolved problems. Go out in the real world and get an internship,” said Kubica.

Deb is an award-winning journalist who loves ancient places and cool technologies. A former daily newspaper reporter and Time-Life Books editor, she writes mostly about Pittsburgh. Her stories have appeared in Fast Company, Ozy and Pittsburgh Magazine.