The Friday Interview: Nelson Mattos, Google

20 Jun 2008

Google’s Dublin base, which employs over 1,300 people from 40 nations, has a unique role in the search giant’s operations. Nelson Mattos (pictured) is vice-president of engineering for Google EMEA.

Google is approaching five years in Ireland now. What role has the operation in Google’s mission?


I oversee all of the R&D for Google EMEA, basically over 1,000 engineers in various offices. They work on a combination of three things: projects that have global impact, projects that primarily have regional impact, for example Google Maps, and the third thing they do is support internal operations to make sure data centres are running 24×7 and to make sure our offices are operating.


Not all offices have projects in those categories. In Dublin, there are projects that have global impact, projects that are helping the region, as well as keeping Google up and running.



From early on, Google began working with universities like Trinity College Dublin. How are these collaborations proceeding?


We are actually expanding our collaborations with universities, including Irish universities.


We have a series of initiatives with universities, not only in terms of obviously recruiting, but financial sponsorships, internships, doing tech talks with students and working with faculties to develop seminars.


More recently, Google has begun expanding research activities in EMEA and this year we are in the process of bringing research awards for faculties in Europe and making it a lot easier for professors to do sabbaticals with us.


We kicked this off in late February with a faculty summit in Zurich attended by over 80 professors from different faculties and colleges across Europe, including quite a few from Ireland.



Google has 12 engineering offices across EMEA, why so many?


Google produces products that go directly into the hands of end users and also products that get applied through the internet, and we all know human beings differ from country to country.


Google realised very early on – and because it is a very engineering-driven organisation – that it’s very important for engineers to have a deep understanding of users.


You can’t possibly do that having everyone centralised in Mountain View. If you did, you couldn’t understand how people in Ireland or in China go about searching and consuming information.



How vastly different are people’s ways of accessing knowledge?


Social networking, for example, is very popular in some countries but absolutely not popular in others. Blogging is very high in France but not in other parts of Europe.


In the Nordics, because people read an average of three newspapers a day, the type of queries they do when they are searching are very different than in Switzerland, where they read one newspaper a day on average.


Search in Switzerland is almost like a replacement to newspapers, whereas in the Nordic countries, it is more complementing what someone read in a newspaper – they want to go deeper into a topic or get specific details or perspective.


This is why Dublin is particularly special for us. There are over 40 different nationalities here and that makes it extremely effective for us to create products and capabilities.



What kind of products have emerged from Dublin?


Dublin is a key centre for web analytics, gaining a comprehensive understanding of supply and demand combining search and ads.


The Dublin team has created tools with which our partners can analyse supply and demand in terms of searches and ads, and in doing so making the effectiveness of ad campaigns significantly better.


A second initiative is what Google calls business systems which support our sales and reporting of what partners are doing and help and support customers. The team in Dublin has created an automated system that provides help to millions of customers who can go to the site and ask questions about products and we’ll automatically respond.


The third thing that is huge in Dublin is keeping Google up and running. If the lights were to go out in California, Dublin would maintain Google worldwide.


By John Kennedy

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years