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Google Engineering Fellow Geoff Hinton and Amazon's director of machine learning, Alex Smola. Photos by Geoff Hinton and Alex Smola

To Find AI Engineers, Google and Facebook Hire Their Professors

Photo: Google Engineering Fellow Geoff Hinton and Amazon's director of machine learning, Alex Smola. Photos by Geoff Hinton and Alex Smola

For several years, Google, Facebook and Microsoft have been raiding the ranks of academia for artificial intelligence talent. Their idea is not just to grab an expert in the highly specialized field. It’s also to create a pipeline of AI talent coming out of universities—the thinking is that hiring a professor will make it easier to hire their students when they graduate.

Publicly available data suggest that this approach isn’t always that effective. Hiring a professor can jump-start recruiting to some degree. But just as important is the caliber of the company and how it allows its AI researchers to interact with the broader AI research community. (See below for a company-by-company breakdown of professors hired by companies and the students who followed.)

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