Zimbabwean high flyer James Manyika hired by Google as senior vice president

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa – Google has hired Zimbabwean James Manyika, the head of McKinsey Global Institute, to be the company’s first senior vice president of Technology and Society, the company said.

Manyika, who has been based in Silicon Valley for more than 20 years, will report to Sundar Pichai, with his role focusing on how tech affects society.

“I’m thrilled that James Manyika will be joining Google’s leadership team,” Pichai said in a statement.

“He has spent decades working at the intersection of technology and society and has advised a number of businesses, academic institutions and governments along the way.”

Manyika’s work at McKinsey lines up with the new role; the McKinsey Global Institute works to understand the global economy through the economic impact of tech, productivity and labour markets.

Leaders for the intersection of tech and society aren’t particularly common at large tech companies. There are philanthropic roles, such as Microsoft’s global head of Tech for Social Impact or Twitter’s head of Social Impact and Public Policy, but this position appears to be more broadly an examination of the impact of tech on people’s daily lives.

A Google spokesperson said Manyika’s role works on “shaping and sharing” the company’s view on the way tech affects society, the economy and the planet. His areas of focus include the future of work, sustainability and the impact of artificial intelligence (AI).

Harare-born Manyika was appointed by President Barack Obama to serve as vice chair of the Global Development Council at the White House and by two US Commerce Secretaries to the Digital Economy Board and to the National Innovation Board as part of the Competes Act.

He serves on the board of the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) and is a member of the Trilateral Commission. He has served on several national and international taskforces, most recently cochairing CFR’s taskforce on innovation and national security, and appointed by the governor to cochair the state of California’s future of work commission.

A Rhodes scholar, Manyika received a DPhil, MS, and MA from Oxford in AI and robotics, mathematics, and computer science, and a Bachelor of Science first class in electrical engineering from the University of Zimbabwe.

Manyika is on the boards of the Hewlett, MacArthur, and Markle philanthropic foundations and a trustee of the Aspen Institute.

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