Yahoo Expanding Research Division With PhD Hires

Michelle Maisto covers mobile devices, Android and Apple for eWEEK and is also a food writer.

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Marissa Mayer is looking to hire 50 PhDs by the end of this year to rebuild Yahoo Labs, which saw major cuts under her predecessor

Yahoo chief executive Marissa Mayer’s latest efforts toward reinvigorating the Yahoo brand and driving up profits include rebuilding the company’s research and development division, Bloomberg reported on 1 August.

In addition to expanding Yahoo’s talent pool through acquisitions – it has acquired at least 17 companies under Mayer – over the last seven months it has hired 30 researchers with Ph.D.s and hopes to hire 20 more by year’s end, said the report. Mayer told Bloomberg that Yahoo is investing “heavily” to rebuild Yahoo Labs, which saw major cuts under her predecessor.

Rebuilding

In April 2012, former Yahoo chief executive Scott Thompson laid off 2,000 employees, most of them in its products division, marketing, research and international units, calling the move a “bold” one toward a “nimbler, more profitable” Yahoo.

Yahoo Labs is led by Yahoo vice president Ron Brachman, who before joining the company in 2005 was a director at the Defence Advance Research Projects Agency (DARPA), an organisation credited with helping to invent the Internet. (On his website, Brachman said that while at DARPA, he and colleague Zach Lemnios created a Personalised Assistant that Learns (PAL) programme that became the backbone of Apple’s Siri.)

yahoo09In 2012, project development spending at Yahoo, which includes R&D, was down 27 percent, compared with 2008. When Mayer came on board – 17 June marked her one-year anniversary – spending in that area was at $199.6 million (£130m), for the three months ending in June 2012. For the three months ending in June 2013, it was at $236.2 million.

Mayer has an engineering background – she was in charge of search at Google for more than a dozen years, before taking the lead role at Yahoo – and she’s “worked to put engineers back at the centre” of Yahoo, said the Bloomberg report, emphasising the importance of Yahoo’s technology council. The council is a group of eight leaders, including Yahoo co-founder David Filo and Chief Architect Amotz Maimon.

If she, Filo and Maimon don’t agree, from a tech-council standpoint, that a product is “excellent”, Mayer told Bloomberg, “it doesn’t happen”.

San Francisco relocation

Yahoo’s San Francisco team will be moving to a new office, Yahoo chief development officer Jacqueline Reses (she of the now-infamous end-of-working-from-home memo) announced on the Yahoo Tumblr blog on 1 August.

The group will move from San Francisco’s financial district to a space within the San Francisco Chronicle building, in the Market Street neighborhood, where it will keep company with a growing number of high-tech companies, including Twitter and Spotify.

“These days, transformation is palpable everywhere you turn at Yahoo,” wrote Reses. “For this reason, we love the symbolism of moving into the Chronicle building, as it personifies the digital revolution in how people around the world consume media.”

Collaboration has been a major theme for Yahoo under Mayer. She directed changes to the physical workspaces at Yahoo’s Sunnyvale, California headquarters, to encourage it, and it was the motivation behind the decision to end work-from-home arrangements.

Reses said the new office will give Yahoo space to further grow its team, and it will, of course, also include “great food, a game room, collaborative work stations and ample room for teams to work together and have fun”.

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Originally published on eWeek.