Pinterest announced that it has hired Li Fan as its new head of engineering, where it’s likely that she’ll utilize her experience in image search, infrastructure, and data analysis to improve ranking and discoverability of pins across the service. Prior to joining the company, Fan was the head of image search at Google and the vice president of search at China’s largest search engine Baidu.
In a statement, Pinterest chief executive Ben Silbermann remarked, “We’re building the technology to help millions of people discover everyday ideas. Li’s expertise in large-scale image search technology and engineering leadership will be key as we continue developing a comprehensive recommendations engine for people around the world.”
A graduate of Fudan University and the University of Wisconsin-Madison in computer science, Fan has spent her career in the search space, not only managing the ads spam infrastructure team at Google, but also other areas such as Page Rank, crawl diagnostics, regional indexing for non-U.S. users, and systems for regions outside of the U.S. While at Baidu, she was responsible for the company’s system and platform group, which ensured scalability, and founded its cross-function data processing and analysis group.
With her hiring, Pinterest has made additional investments in the search and engineering field. She’ll be working on current projects such as object detection, visual search, and camera search, which was unveiled this summer, while also developing the service’s video product, buyable pins, and multi-item cart checkout feature.
Her experience could be useful as Pinterest continues to improve how it makes its 75 billion pins easy to find and shareable. While having similarities to a search engine, the big difference is that Pinterest is heavily image based, so ordinary protocols and processes for services like Google, Bing, or Yahoo won’t be easily transferrable to Pinterest. The company needs to bring in strong technology to help it decipher the images constantly uploaded to the service daily.
Fan joins other new hires, including Snapchat’s former head of measurement and insights Gunnard Johnson and former Xbox design lead August de los Reyes.