Analysis: Who’s running Google Australia?


analysis Over the past month Google has taken a triple hit to its Australian management team, losing its local managing director Karim Temsamani to its US headquarters, as well as suffering the resignations of its first local employee, YouTube chief Kate Vale, and its most high-profile engineer, Lars Rasmussen.

And it doesn’t appear as if its local leadership structure will be resolved for some time — more than two months after he announced his departure, the search giant is still advertising Temsamani’s job.

There’s no suggestion at this point that there is any instability in the operations of Google Australia. But it is unusual that the company has not announced an acting managing director in Temsamani’s stead, or clarified who is making top-level decisions at the company.

According to a spokesperson for the search giant, running Google Australia is more in the nature of a team effort than an individual dictatorship anyway.

“At Google Australia & New Zealand we have a very strong leadership group which drives strategy and operations for Google locally,” a spokesperson said, when asked who was currently in charge of the company. “This group, which includes leaders from each of the core areas of our business, also connects teams in Sydney to the opportunities and resources that come from being part of a global company.”

The spokesperson didn’t include any details of who might be in that group — but some hints can be found in some of the company’s recent announcements — as well as in its ongoing company structure.

Google — in Australia, at least — tends to structure its local organisation along several lines. Firstly, as a general rule, it likes to promote local staff in some areas to wider Asia-Pacific responsibilities. We saw this with the appointment of Richard Kimber, who was Google’s managing director of sales and operations for South-East Asia, in July 2006.

Kimber — who left two years later to lead Friendster — sat above then-Google head of sales and operations Kate Vale. It appeared as if he had broad responsibility for Australia and the wider geographic area.

Extrapolating, in March this year, Google promoted its head of agency relations Guy Gibbs to lead agency relations in the Asia-Pacific region. Before Gibbs joined Google in 2006, he was a deputy sales director at News Corporation in Melbourne. His current role sees him liasing with the advertising agencies who are key to Google’s revenue base.

It’s likely Gibbs is part of Google’s local leadership team, as will be several of the people we will list below.

Another clue to Google Australia’s structure is its differing uses of the words ‘head’ and ‘leader’. So, for example, Karen Stocks was promoted to the role of head of media sales in Australia in March, after joining Google as its online sales and operations manager in 2007. She was previously a general manager at Vodafone.

Like Gibbs, Stocks is a ‘head’ of an area at Google, and likely responsible for a sizable chunk of the company’s Australian revenue.

Other ‘heads’ at Google Australia include the head of retail and consumer goods Ross McDonald, head of product management Mickey Kataria, head of Asia-Pacific marketing Deepak Ramanathan, head of online sales Sandra Robles, head of public policy and government affairs Iarla Flynn, and head of strategy & sales operations Jason Pellegrino. Another likely ‘head’ is Jenni Aldrich — Google’s managing regional counsel (chief lawyer).

Most of these executives are ad and product marketing/management people — with a few operations and administration types.

When you get into product development, on the other hand, things appear relatively clear. Google runs a fairly substantial engineering centre in Australia. And the ‘head’ of that centre is engineering director Alan Noble. Rasmussen’s departure won’t affect that, although it may mean a slight change of focus in Google Australia’s technical development following his departure.

One of the other ways Google structures its local team is by industry verticals. These executives are typically known as the ‘leader’ of their vertical. And it’s possible that they would have dotted lines of accountability to the overarching ‘heads’ that have bigger remits.

Two examples of recently promoted industry leaders that we could find are:

  • Travel, Government and Local Business: Claire Hatton (joined Google in 2007 from Travelport)
  • Retail, Technology and Consumer Goods: William Eaton (joined Google from Microsoft, where he was director of sales for its Home and Entertainment division. Previously regional sales manager for Coca-Cola)

We’re not sure if “industry manager” is the same as “industry leader” within Google. But it appears as if a whole clutch of industry managers might sit below the industry leaders and look after even smaller sub-verticals. Or they might function as deputies.

Then there are some wild cards.

Richard North was promoted to the role of YouTube partner manager in March after three years with the company. North has a strong history dealing with advertising agencies. There’s Gina Chiang, who’s also a strategic partner manager at Google. Another strategic partnership manager is David Heymann, who has a history at financial services company Tower Australia.

Most of the executives listed above — especially those with job histories which have both ‘sales’ and ‘operations’ in them — would probably like to think they could be candidates, now or in the future, to run Google Australia. Odds are — given Google’s history of promoting from within — that some of them have already applied for the managing director role which Google is still advertising.

But it remains unclear just how the company’s operations are being run right now, with Temsamani out of the picture and senior heads like Kate Vale also gone.

One final interesting note to come out of this analysis: Out of all of the names we dug up who might be involved in Google’s management team, we only found one concrete technical one — that of engineering director Alan Noble. There were also a couple of other engineering management types that popped up — such as manager of network operations Phillip Grasso — but it’s unlikely they are involved in day to day management decisions.

Did we miss anyone?

Image credit: Google. Note: Data for this article was pulled from online sources such as LinkedIn and other offline sources


  1. Australians get so into the drama and have no clue how fluid the real engineering environment really is. In Silicon Valley, California, if you don’t change jobs every two years you are toast. This is just the lame Australian media drumming up what they hope is a story. Here’s an idea, why don’t your run a story on everyone’s pets?

    • Hmm I’m sorry you feel this way, but this wasn’t really a story about engineering — more a story about Google Australia’s commercial management.

  2. I heard an interview on 2GB radio in Sydney last week with a Google representative and I got the impression they were running by the seat of the pants. The lady was unable to answer any statistical questions. and when was asked if she could stay and answer some listeners’ questons she said they were busy and she may be able to answer one question. There is obviously no training or supervision from Head Office and no one trained in marketing or public relations. Perhaps Google is all front and no back-end.

    • Google has had some changeover in its Australian PR team recently, but I have always found them to be competent and good to talk to. The only caveat is that they sometimes cant answer too many questions because of the nature of the company as a global business; but that’s normal for IT giants in Australia.

    • Hi Renai,

      Whatever issues are raised by commenters, it indicates that these should be tidily and comprehensively addressed if the perception of Google is to remain high or be raised. I personally would think that to spend time on any issues would be worth it for perpetuity. Thanks for your reply!

  3. Renai, you get to the real problem at Google Australia; there’s a whole army of sales and agency people who, while clever and hardworking, have no direction and aren’t under any pressure to make sales.

    I would imagine this drives the Engineers and developers mad, particularly when it falls on the coders to sell a product as they had to with Wave.

    To Joe in the earlier comment, I wouldn’t assume it’s just dumb Aussies not getting it, there seems to be an overstaffing and management problem at Pyrmont which isn’t related to the development and support teams.

    • To be honest, I hadn’t realised to what extent Google Australia was dominated by these multiple, overlapping waves of advertising executives until I did some analysis on it. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with that in many ways — advertising is the company’s business, and it needs the best talent in the area. However, I really anticipate that it would be like trench warfare inside the company at the moment — when you get dozens of ad execs in a highly profitable business like Google’s, that is what is going to happen.

      I would anticipate that Google Australia truly is a company in two halves — sales and engineering. The engineering types are obviously focused on the global engineering effort; the fact that they are based in Australia would be almost incidental. But the ad types would obviously be squarely focused on the local market — and that’s where the in-fighting would be going on.

      One real question I have is what happened with Temsamani. He was a pretty invisible figure — no charisma, rarely seen in public etc. I really believe he played a minimal role in shaping strategy inside the company over the past several years — which makes me wonder who played the major role.

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