I love creating technology that gives consumers new superpowers. I’ve spent two decades in Silicon Valley building breakthrough products and high-performing teams at both startups and large companies. I’m a passionate leader who inspires those around me and can sell a big vision while still remaining hands-on and sweating the details. I focus on combining data-driven algorithms with user experience to develop novel products that are simple but powerful. I have years of experience driving product growth, thought leadership, and forging partnerships within and between companies. I strive to be an effective change-maker who brings out the best in the people I work with, all while having fun.
Google (2010-present) · Principal Software Engineer
Google Assistant (2016-present)
I joined the Assistant team shortly before the first Google Home speaker launched and founded a team to build horizontal conversational technology that would let us improve the quality and consistency of all Assistant features, which had previously been built in a comparatively fragmented fashion. This required forming a clear vision of how the complex technology should fit together and evolve, plus a dedicated multi-year effort to “change the engine in mid-flight”. Our platform now powers the vast majority of Assistant traffic, both in the cloud and increasingly on-device, and will enable the widespread rollout of advances in underlying NLP tech over the years to come (recent example).
In the process, I built up a team of 25 engineers reporting to me (including intermediate eng managers) and was asked by Assistant execs to lead or coordinate the work of hundreds of Google engineers across teams in Silicon Valley, Los Angeles, New York, Zurich, and Tokyo. In 2020, in recognition of this work, I was promoted to Principal Engineer (comprising the senior-most ~0.5% of Google’s engineers).
Google Photos (2013-2016)
I helped create the Google Photos team when we split it out from Google+ as a standalone app. I led the creation of our Stories feature that automatically finds and compiles albums from your best photos during trips and events (example). It was a much-loved feature that reinforced Google’s differentiation as “a smart home for your memories”. I also did deep technical work to improve the accuracy of the photos’ metadata (timestamps, locations, etc.) on which the algorithms were based.
Google recruited me to help start Google+, their major foray into social networking. I created the Circles model to enable more nuanced sharing, one of Google+’s key selling points. I also started its growth and engagement team, dramatically improving sign-ups and retention. Google+ was generally considered a superior product to Facebook and led them to add lots of rapid copycat improvements, though it was ultimately launched too late to counteract their established network effects. It also drove unification of Google’s internal user profiles and data that laid the groundwork for pan-Google products like Assistant.
Plaxo (2002-2009) · Chief Technology Officer
I joined Plaxo as their first employee, initially building an NLP engine that could automatically extract updated contact info from people’s emails, which we used to bootstrap our smart address book service. I then led our ambitious (early AJAX) web apps and ultimately became CTO, focusing on our Open Social Web strategy to let users connect across services, including significant public advocacy (talks, blog posts, conference panels, etc.). I helped create several open standards for data portability, including OpenID, OAuth, and OpenSocial, and helped build Plaxo Pulse, the first widely used online activity aggregator. Plaxo was acquired by Comcast in 2008, by which point we had >50MM active users and 60 employees.
Master of Science, Symbolic Systems (2002-2003)
NLP masters thesis
Bachelor of Science, Symbolic Systems (1998-2002)
Concentration in Artificial Intelligence and Natural Language Processing
University of Illinois Laboratory High School
More about me
- My work has led to more than a dozen published patents and academic papers
- I helped create the technology powering Dreamscapes, an exciting new form of AI art
- I’ve been a frequent public speaker on topics of AI and data portability
- I love music and play guitar (mostly rock/blues); I played in a band at Plaxo
- I was born and raised in Urbana, IL; I started building web pages in 1993 after my dad showed me this Mosaic project his team was working on…