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Lighting, beyond illumination

I’m George Yianni. I’ve been working at Philips for almost 8 years now. I am the Head of Technology – Home Systems for Philips Lighting. I first joined Philips because I wanted to be involved in making tangible things you can hold and not just pure software. Before joining Philips I worked as a Software Engineer at one of the first Big Data startups. I decided to join Philips because I was ready for a change. In my old position, I disliked how far removed the work I was doing was from something tangible. The personal identification when you are one of 10s of software engineers working on a small component of a giant software package was too great. At Philips, there are smaller projects where you can make an impact – projects you can really point to or even hold and say “I did that.” I made the choice to join because there was a promise of applying software to physical everyday objects.

In the beginning, we were still very much a company that built hardware, so as one of the first people with Software/System background it was a totally green field to start finding new ways to solve problems and create new things. Philips is really a technology company at its heart and it is always easy to pitch and try out new ideas. I began my career as a development engineer doing feasibility investigations. After that I got to run my own projects as project leader and architect. Next, I had the opportunity to work on the concepts for adding connectivity and software to the full spectrum of how lighting is used from office or hotel lighting, to street lights all the way to the home. One of the things I pitched was smartphone based control of lights for the home, where I was given the opportunity to start it as an internal venture. This has since grown to become Philips Hue, which is one of most successful smart home products today. I got to start the business in the CTO role and have been part of its explosive growth ever since.

On an average day, I spend a lot of time talking to different people inside the business, in my role I need to act as a linking pin between our engineers, marketing and technology developments in the outside world. Typically, I’ll spend a couple of hours each day sitting with some of our engineers or architects to discuss a new feature we are building and how we’ll realize it. I also spend time chatting with our marketing team about the new ideas they want to realize and try to help them sharpen it into something we can build. Next to this, I do a wide range of different things from talking to the technology press about our products, listening to pitches from internal researchers or external companies for things they’d like to do, to working closely with our big partners. The interesting thing about the smart home industry is that the business/partnership discussions are often very heavily influenced by technology choices, so there is a great opportunity to be involved in these business decisions. I am currently working on a major project which we’ve just launched, support for Apple HomeKit in our bridge. I’ve been working directly with Apple closely on how to realize new innovations for our customer within this framework.

Light is amazing and yet so under appreciated. There are so many ways it has a tremendous impact on us, but we just don’t realize it. I find making products which show more people what light can do is enormously motivational. Working at Philips, I have had the opportunity to learn a wide range of new skills beyond my background. I have experienced career growth, have been encouraged to try new experiences and also had the opportunity to take a new role where I have had to learn totally new skills. Philips is different from the other companies I worked for because there is a great culture of work/life balance with little pressure to work long hours, unless really needed. There is proper respect for the need to disconnect and have enough vacation time to recharge. Our team works in an open plan office where we mix the different disciplines together to encourage optimal collaboration. Philips is a great place to work, if you want to make an impact.

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George Yianni

George Yianni

Technical leadership and strategy

Title: Head of Technology - Home Systems
Time with Philips: 8 years
Interests: I love to cook and travel. I'm an avid skier and mountaineer, so I try to get out to the mountains as often as I can for new things to climb up or ski down.