Within five years, Dr Hugh Williams went from lecturing at RMIT to working as an eBay executive in Silicon Valley . Here he tells his story.
When you were studying at RMIT in the mid-90s, did you predict how the internet would change theworld?
When I was doing honours at RMIT, a lecturer predicted that one day there would be more than amillion pages on the world wide web. And we were thinking, "Wow! This thing's going to be big! A million pages!" So I didn't see it coming.
I really didn't see the internet coming for lots ofreasons - one is that the web was initially designed tobe a static publishing medium.
It took a lot of hackery and crazy engineering to reallyget the web to behave the way it does today, so that you can interact with the kind of applications that there are, and I don't think anybody saw that coming.
How did you get your first job in Silicon Valley ?
My career has basically been chaos, in a really good way. I was working at RMIT and I felt like I'd been an academic for long enough. A good friend of mine told me Microsoft was starting a new effort in search tocompete with Google, and would I be interested in a job in Seattle?
Google had an eight-year lead with its search engine. At Microsoft, there were 20 of us and we were all completely convinced that we could do better than Google.
The image search on Bing was one of the things I built, and obviously some really good people have done great work on it since I left. But I was lucky enough to start the team who did that.
The challenge was that Google and Yahoo had so much of a head start. We had formidable, awesome engineering teams that were working really hard as well, although the challenge was about how to catch up.
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