Lifestyle

Wednesday 17 September 2014

The woman who broke through the Google Glass ceiling . . .

A PR woman who went to the same school as Kate Middleton is now dating the firm's founder.

Love triangle: Amanda Rosenberg
Hugo Barra, a former executive at Google
The search engine's co-founder Sergey Brin

She arrived in Silicon Valley as a junior public-relations woman. Now she is at the centre of an extraordinary love triangle at the top of Google involving the search engine's co-founder Sergey Brin.

With her quirky sense of humour and visible social- media presence, Amanda Rosenberg has become a celebrity overnight in California after being named as Brin's girlfriend.

Brin (40) is now reported to have separated from his wife of six years, Anne Wojcicki, who is herself a powerful figure in the tech world. There is no suggestion that Rosenberg was involved with the Google boss before the split.

Rosenberg was also linked romantically to another senior Google executive, Hugo Barra, who recently quit the company and moved to China.

All over Silicon Valley, geeks have been frantically Googling Amanda Rosenberg, the self-proclaimed "Chew" (Chinese Jew) who grew up in England and went to the same school as Kate Middleton.

The 27-year-old seems to have landed on her feet in San Francisco after a tricky start.

Women hoping for romance in California's male-dominated tech industry are said to find the search somewhat erratic.

There is a saying about relationships with the computer eggheads: "The odds are good, but the goods are odd."

On the other hand, some argue that Google's workplace is the ideal place to kindle office love affairs.

Richard Brandt, author of The Google Guys, has said in an interview that relationships were inevitable: "They all work so closely together. The company is set up so that people practically live there. You can get all your meals, do your laundry – they even have places to have a nap. It's very intense."

Ms Rosenberg attended the posh English fee-paying school Marlborough, where she was a contemporary of Pippa Middleton and Princess Beatrice.

In an online profile, she writes: "I'm part of the master race that is the Chinese Jew, or Chew, if you will. Born in Hong Kong, but bred in the UK. A misanthrope."

Having found a job with Google in London she applied for a transfer to San Francisco and moved in 2011.

In a posting on a friend's blog she offers tips to those arriving in a strange city.

She advises meeting "office people outside the office" and describes a social scenario.

"A few people are going to a place for drinks after work? Yes, I'll come, what's your number? Here's my number ... "

"Go out, introduce yourself and have awkward conversations, because it's better than no conversations."

She said there could be lonely days at the start and she described having her lunch in the toilet because no one talked to her.

All that seemed to change when she became the marketing manager of Google Glass, the company's heavily hyped and somewhat annoying computerised spectacles gadget.

Brin has tirelessly promoted the small square glass piece that hangs in front of the wearer's right eye. It works as a screen, camera, monitor and microphone, and can play videos, text messages and even video chat.

Before her relationship with Brin became public, Rosenberg might have gone down as a footnote in tech history as the woman who came up with the phrase, "OK Glass", which is spoken by users to activate the device.

Google also considered the phrases, "Go Go Glass" and "Glass Alive". But Ms Rosenberg's wish became Google Glass's voice command.

Although the break-up of Brin and Wojcicki was said to be "amicable", the relationship may be difficult to unravel from a business point of view. According to Forbes magazine, Brin himself is worth €17bn.

As one observer put it: "The split could not be more personal for Google. Wojcicki has known (Brin) since before Google was a verb."

Brin and his fellow Google founder Larry Page set up their first headquarters in a garage, rented from Wojcicki's sister Susan, back in the 1990s.

The smart sister-in-law happens to be vice-president of Google and the company's highest-ranking female employee. She helped devise the search engine's legendary doodles.

Google invested around $10m in 23andMe, the company Wojcicki co-founded in 2006. It offers DIY genetic tests to consumers to reveal their ancestry and medical profile.

Google bosses may be unhappy to have the personal details of their executives splashed all over the media, but they are hardly in a position to complain about privacy.

No company provides such a wealth of private information about individuals through its products, including Google Street View, which allows us to peer into front gardens.

Ironically perhaps, much of the information that has emerged about Rosenberg has come through Google Plus, the company's social network

There she is featured in a series of somewhat kookie poses, sometimes wearing the Google Glass spectacles.

In one she is pictured a in a mask from the film Iron Man and holding a cuddly Spiderman toy. And in another she is shown peering out from a wearable cushion.

Since the relationship with Brin went public a month ago, Rosenberg has maintained a lower profile.

It is easy to be too judgmental about office romances, which are a fact of life in almost every workplace. Naturally, however, close observers of the Silicon Valley firm have been studying Google's code of conduct with an eagle eye.

"If a romantic relationship does create an actual or apparent conflict of interest it may require changes to work arrangements or even the termination of employment of either or both individuals involved."

Employees are urged to ask themselves: "Would this activity embarrass Google or me if it showed up on the front page of a newspaper or blog? If the answer is "yes", the relationship or situation is likely to create a conflict of interest and you should avoid it."

Irish Independent

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