Google in Australia-wide hunt for top techie talent

Google Australia will this week run recruitment drives in Australian capital cities as the local arm of the software giant searches the nation for new engineering talent.
Written by Brett Winterford, Contributor

Google Australia will this week run recruitment drives in Australian capital cities as the local arm of the software giant searches the nation for new engineering talent.

Starting today in Melbourne, the G'day Google series of events aims to raise awareness among Australian software engineers that Google's local R&D operation is hiring.


"We are basically getting word out that Google is doing R&D here in Australia," says Google Australia senior engineer Alan Noble.

Google's local operations employ around 200 staff in Sydney and have doubled in size in just over 12 months. Many of its staff are software engineers working on Google Maps, a project that originated in Sydney.

While the company has no "headcount target" as such, Noble said the company has a policy of "pursuing top-notch candidates when we identify them".

"There are always more products to build than the engineers available to build them."

The roadshow is essentially a "networking" event, featuring a presentation on the R&D opportunities at Google Australia, plus a more in-depth presentation from a senior Google engineer around one of the key technologies the company is working on.

Several hundred software engineers and project managers have been invited to the roadshow. Today's event in Melbourne has some 100 confirmed attendees. The events are "invitation-only", Noble said, as past experience with more public events often attracted the wrong candidates.

"A lot of people, especially recruiters, aren't exactly our target group," he said.

"The emphasis is on software engineering. We are looking for people who are hands-on and enjoy not just designing and architecting but building products. That means solid programming skills are essential. They also need some good general problem solving skills. A lot of the products we are building are challenging in terms of scale. It's easy enough to write software used by 10,000 people, but when it's for 10 million, that's an interesting challenge."

The company is also looking to recruit project managers to direct product and engineering teams.

The key areas Google Australia will focus its future R&D efforts is on geospatial applications (extensions and enhancements to Google Maps), online applications (new features if not new applications for the GoogleDocs suite), and systems infrastructure (further development of the Google App Engine, upon which third-party developers can build new Google applications).

"There's something for all the engineers out there, whether they like the user interface development or the back-end systems," Noble said.

Google Australia has already run similar events in the US, at its Mountain-View headquarters late last year, and in its UK office earlier this year, in an attempt to attract Australian expatriate software engineers to move back to their homeland.

"We recognise that Australia has had a wealth of talented people move overseas for better quality work, particularly in the UK," Noble said. "We just want to make sure that there is at least some awareness among those people that exciting opportunities do exist to work on global products from here in Australia."

Noble said Google Australia uses a few recruitment agencies, but isn't into public recruiting drives on the major job sites — preferring to head-hunt high-quality talent using "its own dog food" &mdash the search engine.

"The people we are looking for tend to have worked on some open source projects, they have published papers, they are in user groups, they have blogs," said Noble. "It's unusual that this kind of talent is hidden."

Noble said Google plans to maintain all of its local R&D in Sydney, but may consider expanding its operations if it "identifies large pockets of talent in other cities".

"As yet we just don't know how large the talent pool is outside of Sydney," he said. "In a sense we are testing the waters with this roadshow.

"Remember that Google has some 40 R&D locations around the world — we are one of the few companies that have truly embraced global R&D. We are certainly capable of building more."

More IT companies should be investing in attracting and retaining engineering talent in Australia, Noble said.

"We are quite upbeat though about the local sector," he said. "While we'd like to see more students studying computer science here, we think there is incredible engineering talent."

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