Microsoft Recruits Top Twitter, Google Engineer For Security Role
Wade Tyler Millward
His new role “sits right at the nexus of critical infrastructure, security, and privacy, so it‘s a subject that speaks very closely to my heart,” Yonatan Zunger said on LinkedIn.
Microsoft has hired Yonatan Zunger, once the “seniormost engineer” at Twitter and a 14-year-plus Google employee, whose tenure at the cloud computing vendor included work on Google Assistant and now-shttered social media network Google+.
Zunger updated his LinkedIn social media account to show that Redmond, Wash.-based Microsoft recruited him last month, giving him the title of corporate vice president and chief technology officer of identity and network access. Microsoft owns LinkedIn.
In a post on LinkedIn, Zunger said that his new role “sits right at the nexus of critical infrastructure, security, and privacy, so it‘s a subject that speaks very closely to my heart.”
CRN has reached out to Zunger, Microsoft and Twitter for comment.
His post received more than 110 comments and more than 890 reactions. Comments came from Envaio Media founder and CEO Luca Kastner; Stanza CEO Niall Murphy; Reef Technology Chief Product Officer Dylan Casey; Databricks Senior Vice President of Engineering Vinod Marur, and Shawn Griffin, chief information security officer at Siemens Digital Industries Software. Fellow Microsoft CVP Igor Sakhnov also posted a congratulatory comment.
Former coworkers from Twitter, including a senior program manager, senior software engineer, software engineering director, product head, senior product manager and a senior engineering manager, commented on the post to congratulate Zunger.
Time At Twitter
Zunger joined Microsoft from San Francisco-based social media network Twitter, which has lost more than 66 percent of its employees over the past month, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. Twitter had about 7,500 employees before Tesla CEO and billionaire Elon Musk bought the company for $44 billion on Oct. 27.
He joined Twitter in 2020 and held the title of distinguished engineer, according to his LinkedIn account. As the “seniormost engineer for the company,” Zunger’s “job description was ‘go talk to people, figure out what‘s broken, and fix it.’ That involved everything from helping teams refresh their strategies to helping change the ways basic things like decision-making worked.”
Before joining Twitter, Zunger worked at Mountain View, Calif.-based employee experience vendor Humu for about four years. He left the company in 2020 with the title of distinguished engineer and data protection officer.
“After 14 years at Google, I came across a problem compelling enough to make me get up and go: making work better for everyone, at scale,” Zunger wrote on LinkedIn. “We are applying the state of the art in both data and behavioral science to reducing turnover and absenteeism and increasing productivity for companies by making individual workers‘ jobs better.”
Lengthy Google Tenure
Zunger’s 14-plus years with Google ended in 2017, when he held the title of distinguished engineer on the privacy team.
In that role, he created “Google‘s roadmap for data governance, including everything from engineering design, to building a team, to building the cross-company consensus required to make major changes in our systems, and working to craft Google’s overall privacy strategy, especially in the run-up to GDPR” – referring to the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation, which went into effect in 2018.
Zunger’s time at Google included about a year as head of infrastructure for the Google Assistant digital assistant.
In that role, he “was in charge of software infrastructure for the Google Assistant, transforming the twenty or so independent projects at Google, which worked on ‘things that talk,’ into a single, unified product [that] could be presented to users both via apps and dedicated hardware devices like the Google Home,” according to his LinkedIn account.
For more than four years, Zunger also held the title of chief architect for social at Google, according to his LinkedIn account. During this time, he oversaw the technical design of Google’s social products, especially Google+, according to his personal website.
Google shut down the social media network in 2019 “due to low usage and challenges involved in maintaining a successful product that meets consumers’ expectations,” according to an online post from the vendor at the time.
Before becoming Google’s chief social architect in 2011, Zunger spent three-plus years as principal engineer of the company’s planet-scale storage, leading “the technical design, product, engineering, deployment, and operations for Blobstore 2, Google‘s first natively planet-scale storage system,” according to his LinkedIn account.
At the time, the product powered Google Cloud Storage, Gmail email attachments, Google Photos and other offerings from the vendor.
For more than three years, Zunger worked as project lead for TeraGoogle, “a novel type of search engine capable of scaling to 100x as many documents as existing search engines of the time at 1/20 the cost per (document*query per second),” according to his LinkedIn profile. TeraGoogle “served over 95% [percent] of the documents in Google search for over ten years, before being replaced with a next-generation system derived from it.”
He joined Google in 2003 as a senior engineer on the Search team.
Zunger has also garnered a reputation as a prolific, outspoken writer on a variety of topics. A series of his tweets on Nazism captured attention following the Charlottesville, Va., white supremacist rally in 2017. That same year, he authored an opinion article for the British newspaper The Independent criticizing the viral internal memo on Google diversity policies by engineer James Damore.
In 2018, he wrote an opinion article for the Washington Post about Cambridge Analytica.