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Google comms head Jessica Powell is departing for — wait for it — grad school

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The well-regarded exec has been a close adviser to Google CEO Sundar Pichai.

Jessica Powell, Google’s well-regarded head of comms, is departing the company for what sounds like a very good thing. No, not personal time with the family — instead, she is going to grad school.

She is apparently already enrolled and has been going to classes for the last two weeks, according to a memo she sent to staff today. Powell takes off for good on Sept. 1.

The well-regarded exec has been a close adviser to Google CEO Sundar Pichai. She was instrumental in communicating the search giant’s transition into the Alphabet structure and also around its push from what Pichai calls “AI-first” computing.

“It’s a rare person who feels the itch for a challenge beyond the already challenging role of leading comms at Google,” said Pichai in a statement to Recode about Powell. “But Jessica is that rare person. I am extremely grateful for all that she has done for Google, most especially for leading a strong comms team that represents us so well and thoughtfully to our employees and the world.”

Powell — who has been at Google for more than a decade and speaks lots of languages, including Portuguese, and reads hieroglyphics — delayed her departure after all the news that broke out in the wake of a controversial memo from ousted engineer James Damore. She took over the top comms job in 2015 after Rachel Whetstone left for a job at Uber.

Mike Nelson will become interim lead of the unit, which has over 200 employees, until a permanent replacement is selected for Powell.


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