Google picks ex-IBMer to lead expansion in Europe

Google Inc. has appointed a top IBM Corp. researcher to lead the expansion of its engineering group in Europe, the search company announced Thursday.

Nelson Mattos worked for 15 years at IBM and was most recently a vice president and “distinguished engineer” at IBM Research, where his projects included data management and search. He becomes Google’s first ever vice president for engineering in Europe, responsible for managing project teams and hiring new engineers in the region.

Google has been working hard to expand its services in Europe. While its search engine leads in most European countries, it faces strong local competitors in areas such as mapping and online video.

The appointment of Mattos, who will be based in Zurich, Switzerland, underlines Google’s commitment to Europe and a desire to harness its “extraordinary local computer science talent,” the company said.

Google employs about 2,500 people in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, roughly a third of whom are engineers.

That’s a relatively small portion of its global workforce, which stood at almost 14,000 at the end of June, but the company appears ready to step up its European growth.

Google plans to increase its global workforce by a third in the next few years, with most of the new additions coming in Europe, according to a report in Thursday’s Financial Times newspaper. Mattos told the paper he plans to expand the EMEA engineering team to be the same size as that of North America.

He also hopes to improve Google’s image here. “We are not seen correctly in Europe,” Mattos told the Financial Times. “My impression is that Google is seen as a big U.S. company that is here to make money.”

The company’s recent expansion in Europe has included new versions of Google Maps in Scandinavia, and localized versions of YouTube for France, Germany and other countries. It has also stumbled occasionally. Google News has faced protests from publishers in Belgium, Denmark and elsewhere, and data protection officials in Brussels have raised data privacy concerns about its services.

Google’s engineers in EMEA work at 12 research and development centers in cities including London, Dublin, Munich, Moscow and Tel Aviv. They work on products that are offered worldwide, including search, advertising and mobile services, as well as those for local markets.

At IBM Research, Mattos was most recently vice president for information and user interaction, working on a variety of IBM’s advanced data management technologies. In the past he played a key role in developing IBM’s DB2 database, represented the company on standards bodies, and built IBM’s Information Integration segment from scratch to be a big business for IBM, according to his profile on IBM’s Web site.

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