Ning Hu is chief technology officer of monetization products for Qihoo 360, the largest internet security provider, top Web browser, No. 1 mobile app store and No. 2 search engine among China’s internet users.
After trading on the New York stock exchange, the company was taken private last year for about $9.3 billion.
The Carnegie Mellon alumna said her CMU education helped propel her into the position. She said she so valued her research accomplishments at CMU’s Entertainment Technology Center (ETC) that, after earning her master’s degree in 2002, she enrolled in CMU’s computer science Ph.D. program.
Today, Hu uses her CMU training to lead research and development for the online advertising at Qihoo 360, the company’s main revenue source.
“Along with the solid academic knowledge I gained at CMU, the critical thinking skills and systematic approach to problem-solving have also helped me tremendously in my career. All of the hard work at CMU has paid off well.”
She credits her ETC adviser, Roger Dannenberg, professor of computer science, art and music, with inspiring and encouraging her to excel.
“Ning is one of the best programmers I’ve known,” Dannenberg said. “While at CMU, she suggested that we create a special system for editing and debugging to support a music language I used for teaching — a huge development effort. To my amazement, she brought back a working system in about a week, and it was real production-quality code.”
Dannenberg said Hu’s work on matching music audio to symbolic representations has since had a huge impact in the field of Music Information Retrieval.
It was Dannenberg who urged Hu to complete her dissertation. She had left CMU for a position at Google prior to writing it, and over the ensuing years, Dannenberg repeatedly encouraged her to return.
“I became fed up with his constant nagging,” Hu joked. She eventually took a three-week break from her grueling work schedule in 2013 to spend days and nights completing her thesis and ultimately earn her doctorate.
“During my years in the industry, I’ve encountered many colleagues who started careers before finishing their Ph.D.s, and their jobs became so consuming that they never returned to complete their degrees,” she said. “Were it not for Roger, I would never have known I could push myself that far to get my Ph.D. while working full-time. He is the best adviser I could ever have hoped for.”
In 2010, Hu had left Google for MediaV, a digital advertising technology startup, which now ranks among the top four digital marketing groups in China with tens of thousands of advertisers. As its co-founder and chief technology officer, she oversaw the product and engineering division. In 2013, the company split in two, with Hu leading one half. Her segment was acquired by Qihoo 360. Today, she is helping Qihoo 360 maintain steady advertising revenue growth with the ultimate goal of taking the company public in China.
Hu’s advice on overcoming obstacles? “Keep learning new things and seek support from the family.” she said. “Be passionate about the work.”