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Oren Etzioni accepting the Hire of the Year award at the 2014 GeekWire Awards.
Oren Etzioni accepting the Hire of the Year award at the 2014 GeekWire Awards.

Talent is the name of the game in the tech industry.

Organizations, both large and small, are doing everything they can to recruit and retain top engineers and executives. After all, a fast-growing company is only as good as its people. The five finalists in this year’s Hire of the Year category represent key talent acquisitions for each of the companies and organizations, helping to supercharge their efforts. (See below for voting and descriptions).

awards sponsor postIf you’re just tuning in, we’re in the midst of picking the winners in 13 categories — ranging from Startup of the Year to Innovation of the Year to Geek of the Year — as part of the annual GeekWire Awards, recognizing the top people, companies and innovations in Pacific Northwest technology.

We’re nearing the end of voting in each of 13 categories, with GeekWire readers choosing their top picks. To vote in each category, visit this page and cast your ballot prior to April 29th. All of the winners will be revealed at the 2015 GeekWire Awards — presented by Wave Broadband — on May 7 at EMP.

A big thanks to Xtreme Consulting, the presenting sponsor for the 2015 Hire of the Year category.

Vote here, and keep reading for descriptions of each of our five finalists this year.

Chee Chew
Chee Chew

Ex-Google executive Chee Chew hired by Amazon: Poaching key tech executives happens all of the time in Silicon Valley, but it is not quite as commonplace in Seattle. That’s why the hiring by Amazon.com of Chee Chew, who led Google’s operations in the Seattle region as a vice president of engineering for a number of years, is so symbolic.

Chew hasn’t said much about his role at Amazon since joining the online retailing juggernaut, which is commonplace once executives get sucked into the Amazon vortex. In a Google+ post before his departure, Chew described his departure as “bittersweet” and wrote that “i know it’s time for me to try a new challenge outside of google.”

Chew joined Google in 2007 after working at Microsoft. His LinkedIn bio lists him as vice president of consumer engagement at Amazon.

Richard Clarke
Richard Clarke

Richard Clarke, former White House terrorism expert, joins Context Relevant: You probably know Richard Clarke as the outspoken critic of the Bush administration’s policies in Iraq, or the longtime diplomat who served presidents such as Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton in counter-terrorism roles.

But last fall Clarke, a 64-year-old cyber-security expert, landed at fast-growing Seattle predictive analytics startup Context Relevant.

“Global businesses come under daily attacks. They need next-generation defense for next-generation threats,” said Clarke at the time of his appointment. “In the wake of recent breaches at banks, exchanges, hedge funds, payment processors, and retailers, it is clear that there is a market for Context Relevant to deliver automated intelligent systems to help address these challenges.”

Dr. Gary Gilliland
Dr. Gary Gilliland

Dr. Gary Gilliland joins Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center as president: When Dr. Gary Gilliland was named president of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center last fall — just the fifth leader of the prestigious Seattle cancer research center in its 40 year history — he said that everything he had done his career pointed him to the job.

“It feels like I’ve been preparing my entire life for this job,” said Gilliland, who prior to working at the University of Pennsylvania worked at pharmaceutical giant Merck and Harvard Medical School.  “This is the perfect time and perfect place and opportunity to truly target cures for cancer.

Joanna Lord
Joanna Lord

Joanna Lord joins Porch as VP of Marketing: Home improvement startup Porch is making a big play to become the next big consumer Internet company to emerge in Seattle. And the person making sure that Porch achieves that goal is marketing veteran Joanna Lord, who joined Porch as vice president of marketing last summer.

A startup veteran, Lord previously worked at BigDoor and Moz.

“Porch combines so much of what I am personally really passionate about: the power of the visual web, solving a real-life problem facing millions of consumers, creating a community, and doing data-driven growth-focused marketing,” she said. “It’s like all my favorite things came together and I just couldn’t pass the opportunity up.”

Charlie Tillinghast
Charlie Tillinghast

Charlie Tillinghast named CEO of Mixpo: Former MSNBC.com boss Charlie Tillinghast returned to Seattle from London last year, taking on a more active role at Mixpo, a Seattle video advertising company where he served on the board. Then, earlier this year, liking so much of what he saw, Tillinghast stepped into the full-time CEO role, bringing years of experience in the video advertising business.

“I was immediately struck by Mixpo’s culture where employees are so strongly committed to one another. I experienced a fantastic culture at msnbc.com that drove so much of its pre-acquisition success. I hoped I could find a great group of people whose values matched mine to lead again and Mixpo has provided that opportunity, for which I am grateful” Tillinghast said. “We have ambitious growth plans that have the tremendous advantage of a strong company culture and supportive board as a foundation.”

Founded in 2007, Mixpo is backed with more than $10 million in funding from Madrona, Yaletown Venture Partners and others.


Don’t forget to grab your tickets for the GeekWire Awards. This event usually sells out. And this year, things will be especially geeky as we open up the amazing Star Wars costume exhibit at EMP to all GeekWire Awards guests. What better way to get your geek on than go face-to-face with Chewbacca!

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