Google promotes Prabhakar Raghavan to lead Search, replacing Ben Gomes | Digital Agency Canberra
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Google announced several major personnel changes Thursday. They involve search, engineering and ads and the internal promotion of some Google veterans to new roles: Prabhakar Raghavan, Jerry Dischler, Jen Fitzpatrick and Ben Gomes.

Ben Gomes moves from Search to Education

Gomes isn’t leaving Google; he’ll be taking on a new role connected to various Google education and learning initiatives: Google for Education, Google Scholar and education search, as well as Google Arts & Culture. These areas are said to be a “big priority” for the company with the increased importance of distance learning in the wake of COVID-19.

Gomes, according to a Google spokesperson, will also remain a technical advisor to Search. Gomes has been at Google for 20 years and was one of its first principal engineers. He’s also described as “one of the founders of Google search.”

Prabhakar Raghavan is the new head of Search and Assistant

Prabhakar Raghavan, who was running Ads and Commerce (since 2018), will replace Ben Gomes as the new head of Search and Assistant. Search encompasses News, Discover, Podcasts and Google Assistant. Raghavan’s got a long history in search, having worked on it at IBM in 1995, followed by a position at Stanford where he taught the first course in its computer science department on search. He also authored a foundational text on the subject.

Raghavan later founded the research lab at Yahoo after joining the company in 2005. In 2010, he spoke about the concept of the “web of things” vs. the “web of objects” (documents). He said at the time that the overwhelming majority of Yahoo search queries included nouns, indicating people were using search to find information about the real world.

Raghavan joined Google in 2012 and worked initially on Search and mobile location initiatives. He then ran Apps (Gmail, Docs, Drive, Calendar) and in 2018 took over Ads and Commerce from Sridhar Ramaswamy who went to the venture capital firm Greylock Partners.

Jen Fitzpatrick exits Maps/Geo for central engineering

Jen Fitzpatrick has been with Google’s Geo team for more than a decade and took over as its head six years ago. She’s been at Google for more than 20 years and came to the company from Stanford as part of its first intern program. During her tenure at the company, Fitzpatrick has worked on Search, Ads, News and Shopping and co-founded the company’s user experience team.

Fitzpatrick’s new role will be to run the company’s central engineering team, which has 8,000 employees, and is responsible for the company’s core technical systems and infrastructure: corporate IT, UX / design, Google accounts and privacy. We were also told that her team will expand and be adding “some new corporate engineering functions.”

Geo will now be led by Liz Reid and Dane Glasgow.

Jerry Dischler becomes the new head of Ads

Jerry Dischler has been working on Google Ads for more than 10 years. The company says he’s been instrumental in defining Google’s Ads strategy over the years.

Dischler came to Google in 2005 and worked on Google Checkout, the company’s early payment product (now Google Pay). He also worked on Product Search (Shopping). He moved over to Ads in 2009 and assumed leadership of Search Ads in 2013. He later added YouTube Ads and then ads on Google’s owned and operated properties (Shopping, Travel, Gmail).

He has been a keynote guest at SMX events over the years.

Significant internal changes during a time of upheaval

These changes are significant but not disruptive internally. Many teams will now roll up under Prabhakar Raghavan: Search, GEO, Ads, Commerce and Payments. Dischler and Bill Ready, who leads Commerce, will continue to report in to Raghavan. But this marks a change from the current org structure and a return to the way things were organized several years ago. Raghavan in turn reports directly to Google CEO Sundar Pichai.

In addition to advancing highly qualified people who’ve been at Google for many years, the company is positioning itself for what feels like a new era — one that will see new growth, as well as ongoing social, political and regulatory challenges in the U.S. and abroad.

Here’s the internal email from CEO Sundar Pichai announcing the changes:

[Note about the info that follows: Given everything that’s going on in the world, I recognize this is not a great time to be making changes to how we work. Last week we started to roll out this announcement and then held it back out of respect for what our colleagues — most especially Black Googlers — are dealing with. In the course of preparing for these changes, we had to inform a number of people of our plans, and the news naturally began to filter out to more and more people. It’s important to me that Googlers hear about changes affecting their work in the right way, rather than through rumors or news stories. Since we did not think we could successfully hold back the news any longer, I am sharing this with you today.]

Hi Googlers,

For some time now, I’ve been thinking about how we could bring the voice of the user more clearly into our products so we can be more helpful to them. 

I think we’ve done this well in the context of the Covid crisis, delivering useful information and experiences across so many products and surfaces. While there are many separate teams working on different parts of the user journey, from the user’s perspective, it’s just Google helping.

I want every user experience to feel like this and I’ve been thinking about how we can best achieve it. So, when Ben and Jen — who both just celebrated their 20th Googleversaries last year — mentioned they were ready for new challenges, I took the opportunity to make some changes across our flagship knowledge products and help them work together more seamlessly.

Here’s what’s changing:

  • Ben, after two extraordinary decades building Search from the ground up, will move to a new role tying our longstanding efforts for learning — across areas like Education and Arts & Culture — more closely to our flagship products and core user experiences. Ben has always had a deep interest in education innovation, and we’re excited to see him build on our work here. Ben will remain a product and technical advisor on Search and will also partner closely with Google.org on product and technical initiatives related to our corporate philanthropy priorities.
  • Jen, after 10 years of mapping the world and leading our Geo teams to make our products ever more helpful, will take on a big, new challenge leading the Core and Corp Eng teams. Jen’s deep product knowledge and experience focusing on important areas such as privacy will set her up well to lead these teams. This role gives her the opportunity to further improve our cross-product and cross-PA systems and user experiences, as well as deliver great experiences to both Googlers and developers. The move will also give Luiz additional time to really drive technical roadmaps, expedite cross-PA tech decisions, and manage engineering investments across the company. This was a key part of his mandate when forming Core a year ago. Luiz will remain in Core, reporting to Jen, and is committed to doubling down on Core’s mission as the organization continues to grow.
  • Prabhakar will be stepping up to lead Search and Geo, with Ben and Jen’s senior leads reporting directly into him. To support Prabhakar in these efforts, Jerry will step up to lead the Ads organization. Prabhakar will also continue managing Commerce (led by Bill) and Payments/NBU (led by Caesar), bringing a user focused view across our knowledge product efforts. For Prabhakar, this new role brings his experience with search full circle. He’s spent more than two decades obsessing over algorithms and ranking, and his association with Google Search predates … Google. He published a foundational text on search and then went on to lead search teams at IBM and Yahoo. He joined Google in 2012, and — prior to his current role — worked with teams in Research, Geo, and Google Apps. A member of the National Academy of Engineering, Prabhakar is one of the most respected engineering minds in our field. His experience working across so many of our product areas gives him the perfect lens to spot the seams between them. 

For many of you these changes will feel quite minimal. For others, they may feel more significant Personally, I think it’s always good to see leaders embracing this type of career mobility as it helps bring fresh perspectives to our teams. I realize that any change right now might be harder to process at a time when everything outside of Google feels very uncertain as well, so please do take care of yourself first. Your managers and leaders will be there to support you and answer any questions. 

In the meantime, please join me in congratulating all the leaders who are taking on new opportunities. Look forward to working together in your new roles!


About The Author

Greg Sterling is a Contributing Editor to Search Engine Land, a member of the programming team for SMX events and the VP, Market Insights at Uberall.