Facebook's vice president and European head, Joanna Shields, is leaving the company to become chief executive of the UK government's Tech City Investment Organisation (TCIO).
Shields will take over from Eric van der Kleij, who previously announced his intention to step down as CEO of TCIO when his two year contract comes to an end. She will work alongside Benjamin Southworth, who was appointed Deputy CEO in July.
As CEO, Shields' role will be to promote the East London technology hub – known as “Silicon Roundabout” – to the rest of the world. She will also take up positions as Business Ambassador for the Digital Industries and chairman of the Tech City Advisory Group.
Meanwhile, Southworth – one of the founders and organisers of Digital Sizzle and Silicon Drinkabout – is responsible for organising events and supporting the community internally.
“I’m delighted that Joanna is joining the Tech City Investment Organisation,” said Prime Minister David Cameron. “The success of Tech City shows just what can happen when we back some of our most innovative and aspiring companies to grow, helping the UK compete and thrive in the global race.”
He added: “Joanna's experience will be hugely valuable in supporting Tech City as it goes from strength to strength, and as a Business Ambassador promoting the UK around the world.”
Before joining Facebook, Shields was President at AOL, responsible for social and communications businesses, and previously served as chief executive of Bebo. She has also been Google’s Managing Director for Europe, Russia, Middle East & Africa.
She said that her experience of working in the UK for the past decade has proved to her that Britain has the potential to become a major force in digital innovation.
“Throughout my career I have had the privilege of working with great entrepreneurs and innovators to create thriving new businesses and industries. The seeds have been sown in East London for a dynamic and successful cluster: we have the infrastructure, the technology and the talent, now we need to accelerate the growth,” said Shields.
“I am looking forward to leading the Tech City Investment Organisation in the next phase of its development. With the right boost now, there is no reason why we can’t make London the number one location for tech in the world.”
The appointment follows the news last week that Facebook has opened a new engineering centre in London – the social network’s first major engineering centre outside the US.
Based in Covent Garden, the new centre hopes to draw on the thriving community of skilled developers in the city, and help boost the local engineering talent pool through initiatives such as the Next Gen Skills campaign.