Long-time Google Australia director of engineering Alan Noble is to leave the company after more than a decade, and plans to focus on the expansion of his Adelaide-based ocean research not-for-profit, AusOcean.
Mr Noble is among the highest profile startup leaders in Australia, and is one of a handful of people who can claim a truly leadership role in the resurgence of tech entrepreneurialism in the post-dotcom era.
Prior to joining Google Australia in 2007 where he oversaw a team of more than 700 engineers, Mr Noble had a career in tech as a serial entrepreneur.
He will be replaced as head of engineering at Google Australia by Anil Sabharwal, a product vice-president who originally joined Google Australia in 2009, where he spent four years in Sydney on the engineering team before relocating to the Google headquarters in California.
While in the US, Mr Sabharwal led the team that conceived, built, and launched Google Photos in 2015. In just two years, he grew Google Photos to over 500 million monthly active users who upload more than a billion photos and videos daily, making it one of the fastest growing consumer apps in history.
Mr Sabharwal’ responsibilities have expanded to include Google’s connectivity and communications portfolio. Although now based in Sydney, he will continue to lead Google’s global efforts in personal communications and in photos, and will report directly to chief executive Sundar Pichai.
Mr Sabharwal is a Canadian by birth, but is naturalised as an Australian citizen.
Mr Noble said that after “11 wonderful years at Google” and decades “tinkering” around the technology sector it was time to turn his attention to his other great passion of protection the oceans through AusOcean.
“It’s wonderful to have Anil back in Australia – his presence here presents a fantastic opportunity to further showcase the amazing work done by Australian engineering teams across Google globally,” Mr Noble said in a statement.
“For me, the decision to leave was not easy, let alone saying goodbye to the many incredible people I get to work with every day.”
Alan Noble has been a significant presence in the Australian tech and innovation scenes, and a primary driver behind the resurgence of government interest in the sector.
As a co-founder of advocacy group StartupAus, he was a leader in galvanising the disparate components of the startup ecosystem in an effort to encourage new policy development. Google has been a foundation of sponsor of StartupAus.
In addition to his active role in pressing for governments to make tech and innovation a higher priority in policy-making, Mr Noble has acted as an adviser to the Chief Scientist of Australia on STEM education, a member of the federal government’s 2.0 Taskforce in the early days of digital transformation, and an industry advisory board member for the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner.
He has also been an active investor and mentor to many, many Australian startups.
Mr Sabharwal, who is married to an Australian and already settled back in Sydney, is clearly happy about the move.
“I’m thrilled to be home! The site has grown tremendously in the last five years and I can’t wait to jump in and support the amazing work that’s being done across projects like Chrome, Maps, and our products for the Next Billion Users,” Mr Sabharwal said.
“Australia has some of the most talented engineers in the world, and our Sydney office will continue to work on efforts that make big impact at a global scale.”