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A former Google Cloud engineering leader is joining Microsoft-owned GitHub to lead its data group (GOOG, GOOGL, MSFT)

  • GitHub announced Friday that Rachel Potvin, formerly an engineering leader at Google Cloud, will join as its new vice president of data.
  • Previously at Google, Potvin worked on building developer tools and managing customer and product data.
  • Potvin says she joined GitHub because of its focus on making software developer more accessible for all types of users including beginner coders.
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It's not easy to find a company with more reach than Google, where Rachel Potvin worked for more than a decade, rising to lead a key part of Google Cloud. 

But in moving to GitHub, Potvin says she saw a chance to create developer tools for a much broader audience than she had previously considered. 

"I was so motivated and excited by the mission of GitHub to make software development more accessible for that broad group of people who had never had the opportunity to enter the tech sector otherwise," Potvin told Business Insider.

Potvin joined GitHub as its first vice president of engineering to lead the data organization, GitHub announced on Friday. It's a new role at GitHub that speaks to its ambitions roughly a year after becoming part of the Microsoft empire. 

GitHub, which Microsoft acquired last year for $7.5 billion and now has 40 million users, is popular with developers for sharing their code. 

As GitHub's vice president of data, Potvin will oversee analytics, data engineering, and machine learning. She says that one challenge will be prioritization, as the team was taking on many initiatives but didn't have a leader before.

Before GitHub, Potvin spent 11 years at Google, where she most recently ran the Google Cloud Insights organization that managed Google Cloud's customer and product data. Her team also built data products to inform Google and its customers on business and product decisions. 

And prior to that, she worked for six years at the video game company Ubisoft and nearly two years at Deloitte. 

"The amount of impact this company is having is just so broad," Potvin said. "When I was in the video game industry at Ubisoft, at the time I was writing developer tools for hundreds of people. At Google, I was writing developer tools for thousands of people. Now at GitHub, we're writing developer tools for millions of people, and the impact is very exciting."

A 'developer focused universe'

Potvin's team creates the annual Octoverse report, which compiles trends in programming, such as what are the most popular and fastest-growing programming languages

Potvin says her goals as the new data vice president is to also work on tools that make it easier for people to code, such as autocomplete suggestions, vulnerability-finding tools, and more. 

"I think there's a lot of potential to make software development more effective and secure and give people more confidence in the work they're doing," Potvin said. 

Potvin says she has a passion for creating developer tools, which she did at Google and will be doing at GitHub now. She says that at Google, while the team did "great work" in building systems for "elite developers," she also wants to build for students, academics, and other types of developers who may just be starting out. 

For example, most of GitHub's users are from outside the US, and GitHub also has many student users. Potvin hopes to make GitHub more intuitive for these users.

"I certainly know some students in my life who are using GitHub but who also need some hand-holding sometimes because they need to figure out what are the next steps and they have some current concerns about navigating the system," Potvin said. "There's always more opportunity to improve."

Read more: $20 billion Stripe is making a new global push with the product that's helping open source developers on GitHub get paid for the code they write

When she heard about the role opening up at GitHub, she felt it combined her passions for developer tools and data. She says that once she started talking to GitHub about the role, it was "a ball rolling downhill."

"This role is super exciting to me because it takes advantage of the world of data and couples it really nicely with this developer focused universe," Potvin said. "I think it was really the perfect role for me despite how much I love Google. It was a tough choice but I feel confident I made the right choice."

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