Google hires Facebook director Hema Budaraju, worked on blood, health

  • Google has poached key Facebook health-tech exec Hema Budaraju.
  • Budaraju worked on Facebook’s blood donation tool, and its Health Support Groups.
  • At Google she will work on social impact projects relating to Google Maps, like emergency alerts and mapping emissions from automobiles and buildings.
  • The move illustrates the growing demand at tech companies for top talent that can lead initiatives outside of their historic focus on advertising and content.
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Google has hired one of Facebook’s key executives working on health-tech initiatives to join its mapping team.

Hema Budaraju, a product management director at Facebook who led the social networking giant’s blood donation and health group initiatives, was poached by Google in November to work on social impact projects related to Google Maps, Business Insider has learned.

The hire illustrates the burgeoning interest among internet giants to expand beyond their traditional business spheres, using their scale and computing resources to tackle real-world problems in areas like healthcare and the environment. That’s caused a growing demand among tech companies for the top talent to help guide these efforts.

Budaraju is a veteran product guru, who has worked everywhere from Monsanto to Oracle, Amazon, Ebay, and PayPal. She joined Facebook four years ago, first working as a product lead on emerging verticals before switching to the Health team in June of 2017, according to her LinkedIn profile

She led the $564 billion company’s efforts to encourage users to donate blood by connecting them to blood drives and medical organizations, as well as Health Support Groups — groups on the social network designed to provide a support network for people with medical conditions and with custom features to help them. She was a key public face of the initiatives, frequently giving interviews and appearing on panels to discuss them. 

In June 2019, Facebook launched its blood donation tool in the US for the first time, after earlier trials in Brazil, Bangladesh, India, and Pakistan that saw 35 million people sign up for it. In September 2018, Business Insider reported that health officials in India warned that the tool risked fueling a black market in blood.

At Google, Budaraju will work on Google Maps as a director of product management to “create social and environmental impact at scale using Google Maps and understanding of the real world,” she wrote on LinkedIn.

She linked out to two social impact projects Google is working on — including Crisis Response, which involves working “with local authorities and first responders to provide access to critical information and resources when people need them the most,” like SOS alerts and natural disaster alerts in Google Maps;  and Environmental Insights Explorer, which maps pollution in urban areas. The complete list of projects and products she will have responsibility for isn’t clear.

Google is also investing significantly in healthcare-tech initiatives. The search firm is working with US healthcare giant Ascension to store data on millions of Ascension’s patients, and building a search tool for people’s medical records. It has also previously worked to add more healthcare information to Google Maps, like incorporating needle drop-off points with pharmacy CVS.

Spokespeople for Google and Facebook did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

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