Mike Isaac

Recent Posts by Mike Isaac

Twitter Firms Up Top Ranks With CTO, Tightens Product and Design Roles

Twitter has appointed Adam Messinger as the company’s Chief Technical Officer, according to his Twitter profile, in a move that solidifies Twitter’s top C-Suite ranks on the company’s slow, steady trudge to going public.

Messinger joined Twitter in 2011 as vice president of application development in the engineering department, where he has been responsible for making key decisions regarding app design and experience, user growth, and search and relevance issues, among other duties. Previous to this, he spent close to four years at Oracle as vice president of development.

Messinger has been described as a “big picture” guy by some, and will move into working on what future versions of Twitter will look like, but from a very high-level standpoint. That could involve the continued integration of Twitter’s satellite application, Vine, and the soon-to-debut Twitter Music application, which has been in the works for some time.

Twitter CTO Adam Messinger

As engineering was previously split between two heads — Messinger as VP of app development and Chris Fry as VP of infrastructure — Fry will now become senior vice president of overall engineering, as his Twitter profile currently shows. Fry previously worked at Salesforce, where he led all product development and dealt with scaling up infrastructure in periods of hyper-growth — obviously an area where Twitter has vastly improved since its “fail whale” days.

Messinger’s appointment also comes just months after Twitter appointed employees to two other key executive positions, naming long-time Pixar vet Ali Rowghani as company COO, while sliding former Zynga treasurer Mike Gupta into Twitter’s CFO seat. Rowghani used to hold the CFO position, but many have said that he has long been an influential, respected force inside Twitter, and that his move to COO could be seen as a shift in title to reflect the work he has long been doing already.

Twitter’s willingness to solidify its top brass — while charging headlong into the media and advertising world under the direction of global revenue president Adam Bain — looks more and more like a company gearing up for an initial public offering, which many speculate will occur some time in 2014.

VP of Product and Design Michael Sippey

With Messinger’s appointment also comes a set of organizational changes that seem to hint at some past deficiencies. Going forward, VP of Design Mike Davidson will report to Michael Sippey, who has also updated his profile to reflect his new title as vice president of Product and Design. Previously, Sippey was VP of product, while the design department reported directly to Messinger in engineering.

But as I’ve long maintained, that configuration was far from successful. The design department has been a revolving door of exiting employees for the past six-odd months, and a number of the company’s updates to its application in the past have been clunky, counterintuitive or perhaps not as successful as drivers of growth and engagement as Twitter would have liked. It’s a tacit admission that Design just wasn’t meant to report to engineering.

Instead, Design will now report to product, a switch that essentially elevates Sippey to a much loftier position than before. One could see how the Design department would have dictated what product would look like in the future. But instead, Sippey is now charged with the last word in design decisions; essentially, a product guy driving design forward.

That’s even more important considering Twitter co-founder and design visionary Jack Dorsey is far from being involved in the day-to-day stuff of design. Now removed from Twitter and mostly consumed with Square, it’s a large vote of confidence in Sippey’s ability to lead product.

With the series of new appointments, I’d imagine the chatter over Twitter’s IPO and valuation won’t be settling down any time soon.

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Just as the atom bomb was the weapon that was supposed to render war obsolete, the Internet seems like capitalism’s ultimate feat of self-destructive genius, an economic doomsday device rendering it impossible for anyone to ever make a profit off anything again. It’s especially hopeless for those whose work is easily digitized and accessed free of charge.

— Author Tim Kreider on not getting paid for one’s work