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December 27, 2007

5 Questions with Ask Italy's Antonio Gulli

"Pisa?" I've had friends react, "Why do you guys have an office in Pisa?" As easy as it would be to joke about frequent "business" trips to Tuscany, I was curious myself. So I corralled the head of the Pisa office, our Director of Advanced Search Projects Antonio Gulli, for an e-mail interview. He sent back answers liberally sprinkled with links from Ask products, including News and Image Search, to which the Pisa folks are major contributors.

By the way, if you're an engineer and want to go to work in a 14th century Tuscan palace, start learning Italian now.

1. So, Antonio. What are the advantages of Ask having an office in Pisa?

Pisa has one of the most prestigious Engineering and Computer Science Universities in Europe. Therefore, Ask has access to much talent for both our local and remote offices. In addition, Pisa is located in Tuscany, a region loved by many people for the food, the wine, and the quality of life. Pisa is connected with New York JFK by a 7-hour direct flight and the airport is 20 minutes walking distance from the office.

2. Italy's a center for computer engineering? How'd that come about?

Well, for the record, the first University of Pisa was founded back in 1343! Long time ago. But the history of Pisa as center for computer engineering goes back to 1954. That's when Pisa University, on the advice of the Nobel laureate Enrico Fermi, decided to design and construct a computer intended entirely for scientific use--the first in Italy. The University of Pisa's Computer Science course curriculum back in the 1960s was Italy's first.

Pisa also hosted one of the first Internet connections in Italy--and one of the first 50 WWW servers in the world--back in 1986. Nowadays, Pisa has three different universities: Pisa University System, Scuola Normale Superiore and the Sant'Anna School of Advanced Studies.

3. Does the Pisa office have a particular role at Ask.com?

Our office was a key contributor for Ask Image Search, Ask AP Image Search, and Ask Blog search. Currently, we're collaborating with the other offices on upcoming Ask Search products.

4. Are your employees only from Italy?

No, we also have staff from other European countries like France, Lithuania and Hungary.

5. Where do you find your engineers? (Don't give away any trade secrets ;-)

We've hired many talented people from University. Being from a company that people know makes recruitment much easier ;-) Of course, another good reason why they come and work for Ask.com Pisa is our location. Here's some new photos:

Our office is the former Palace Gambacorti, on Corso Italia (literally "Italy Avenue"). Built in the 14th century, it was the home of the Gambacortis, Pisa's most powerful family. Henry VII stayed in the palace, as did Charles IV of Luxembourg. The new office is GORGEOUS even for Italian standards.

He ain't kidding. Check out these photos:

Told you.

Ken Grobe
Product Content Manager

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