Catching up with world class Kiwis: Craig Nevill-Manning

By Siobhan Leathley

Google guru has holiday in New Zealand all mapped out

Craig Nevill-Manning, Google's engineering director, will spend this summer on Waiheke Island with family.
Craig Nevill-Manning, Google's engineering director, will spend this summer on Waiheke Island with family.

Google Maps is famous for getting the commuter, cyclist and pedestrian from A to B; but it is a little known fact that the man who oversaw its development is a Kiwi.

Craig Nevill-Manning is Google's engineering director and founded its first remote engineering centre. Under his direction, Google has developed Google Maps, Google Finance, and Froogle or Google Products-Google's good-specific search engine.

More recently, he has been focusing on leading engineering teams to develop Google's philanthropic arm - by building products to track global influenza levels and respond to crises around the world - including the Christchurch earthquake - by providing maps, imagery and a missing person's service.

He also integrated his Kiwi roots into the global search engine by creating a Maori language option, which was based on translations from numerous Maori speakers.

Mr Nevill-Manning was born and raised in Blenheim, and went on to receive his PhD from the University of Waikato where he co-created the learning machine suite Weka and Greenstone's digital library software.

What do you most look forward to about coming home for summer? There are lots of things to look forward to, but it all starts with the little bit of New Zealand that meets us in California - the Air New Zealand aircraft, with the friendly crew and great food. It's a great way to start relaxing into the New Zealand experience.

Where will you spend your time in New Zealand this summer? On Waiheke Island with family, local friends and friends we are bringing from the US for their first time. We are looking forward to taking them to some great casual cafes, sampling olive oil and wine.

What books will you be reading this summer? I have a couple of books on my Kindle (I do not like travelling with paper books) about Mumbai: Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts, and Maximum City by Suketu Mehta. Reading about a chaotic megalopolis will be a good counterbalance to relaxing in New Zealand.

What's December like where you live? December in New York is magical. It gets dark by 4.30pm, which means that stores outdo themselves to create beautiful lighting and store displays. The weather's cold, but the air is crisp, and outdoor skating rinks pop up around the city. Bundling up for formal holiday parties is fun, and while Google is frugal most of the year, we always have a stylish holiday party - this year at the Waldorf-Astoria, where we can all feel like the Great Gatsby for a few hours.

What dish will you be cooking on the barbecue this summer? Some great steaks and homemade sausages from the Village Butchery on Waiheke.

Where are you living? Next to City Hall in Manhattan, with the new World Trade Center rising in front of our windows.

When you started with Google as a research scientist, was your primary focus on refining search engines? Yes - making Google better at answering questions and searches for products. Since then, my teams have built the search technology behind Google Maps and figured out how to respond to crises like the Christchurch earthquakes.

- NZ Herald

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