Pittsburgh Google office opens

For those searching for something new in the Steel City, Google has an answer.

Google officially opened its Pittsburgh engineering office, Google Pittsburgh, on November 17.

The office is located in the lower level of the Collaborative Innovation Center, a four-story building built in 2005 to provide office and lab space for businesses to collaborate with Carnegie Mellon. It is located on Forbes Avenue, between Hamburg Hall and Panther Hollow.

Renovations to the Google office were completed recently for the official opening, but employees started working in the office as early as April 2006. The purpose of the renovations was to customize the space to Google’s requirements.

“It’s very similar to Googleplex,” said Sunny Gettinger, a Google spokeswoman, referring to the company’s world headquarters in Mountain View, Calif. “It’s a very Googley office.”

The office has an open floor plan with many common areas and large windows to keep employees easily accessible to each other. Even Andrew Moore, the director of the office, works in a cubicle like other employees, in order to keep in line with the Google’s culture of maintaining a small-company feel.

Google Pittsburgh employees receive a variety of perks, including micro-kitchens stocked with food and drinks, a reading area, and a lounge area with a pool table and a flat-panel television hooked up to video game systems.

Google’s signature exercise balls and large bean bags in the company’s trademark blue, red, yellow, and green are scattered throughout the office.

A projected screen in the window of the lobby displays search queries from the Google website. An image generated by Google Earth, Google’s virtual 3-D globe program, is projected behind the receptionist’s desk.

“The office is very bright and colorful, and very stimulating. It has all of the best amenities … that make Google what it is,” Gettinger said.

Moore, a former Carnegie Mellon professor, is the director of Google Pittsburgh. Prior to being appointed director in January, Moore taught robotics and computer science in the School of Computer Science.

Google Pittsburgh is working on several projects that directly involve the software that powers Google’s search and advertising business. This includes click fraud prevention, which ensures that advertisers using Google’s advertising services are not charged for invalid clicks.

Another project aims to show “the right ads at the right time” by using artificial intelligence to predict the interests of users based on their search queries. This technology ensures that advertisements displayed to users are relevant to their searches.

In addition to the office’s contributions to the Google’s search and advertising business, Google Pittsburgh has a lot to offer to the Carnegie Mellon community. On Friday mornings, the Google Pittsburgh office holds seminars to address new research and scientific experiments.

“We have a whole bunch of research seminars open to the CMU community,” Moore said.

The Google Pittsburgh office is also sponsoring a program called CS for All. The program would seek to find new ways to introduce computer science to middle and high school students.

“Google’s local office gives us an opportunity to expand our outreach efforts in the next few years to reach many more teachers,” said Tom Cortina, a professor in the School of Computer Science. “Plus, they have been open to participating with us in talking to the teachers about computing careers so the teachers can tell their students all the exciting things they can do in computing careers”.

The office currently has about 40 employees, but Google plans to hire more.

“We’re looking for great people,” Gettinger said. “We’ll always have work for them.”

Currently, more than 50 percent of Google Pittsburgh employees are Carnegie Mellon alumni. The location of Google Pittsburgh will help the company recruit talent from Carnegie Mellon.

“We are looking for software engineers, research scientists, statisticians, user interface designers, product managers, and engineering managers,” Moore said. “In the summer of 2007, we are going to have our first fully fledged summer internship program at Google Pittsburgh. I think this will be a high point in the Google-CMU relationship.”