Wednesday was spent at the one, the only -- Google!
We left the hotel a little before 9:00 a.m. so we could get to the Googleplex, which is Google's original four buildings. Fun fact: Google is named after a misspelling of googol, the name for 10 to the hundreth power, and googolplex is 10 to the tenth to the hundredth!
Anyways, at the Googleplex we met up with Craig Cornelius, a '74 Luther grad and former professor of computer science (CS)--in fact, Craig was our professor's professor, so Craig called us his 'grandstudents'! He was very kind and personable, making sure to talk to everyone throughout the day and answer all of our questions. I especially liked his t-shirt which looked like the classic "I love NY" shirt, but instead read "I love i18n". The heart had the word love in multiple languages, and not just those with Latin letters. The i18n is shorthand for 'internationalization', which has eighteen letters in between i and n. The others mentioned were l10n, or localization, and a11y, or accessibility. A bit more complex than LOL, right? Craig's work with integrating new languages to function with Google's software, which most recently had him spending some time in Guinea, sounds extremely fascinating. Between this and Microsoft's translator app, I'm starting to be very intrigued by AI and translation software.
Ellen Widerski, a '16 Luther grad, works at Google as well and was our other tour guide for the day. We were especially fortunate to be able to talk to such a recent graduate whose first job is with a tech giant. She gave us some really good insights on how to prepare for job interviews, such as reading and practicing from books like Cracking the Coding Interview, as well as personal side projects. We also spoke via a Hangouts video call to Charles Banta, a recent Luther grad who works in Google's San Francisco office as a corporate operations engineer. His advice for us was to learn about unit testing, a topic he felt was not covered enough in Luther's CS curriculum. Considering we have heard this same opinion from the Luther alumni at Microsoft and Amazon, I think we will all strive to prepare ourselves by practicing this skill. Charles also encouraged us to take advantage of opportunities and "never say no to anything". Craig agreed, adding we should "say yes to things even if they're a little different or scary...'what the heck' is a great way to approach things". So far one of the biggest common themes I've heard on this trip is to take chances, challenge one's self, and to get out of the comfort zone; that's not where progress is made. Reminds me of a saying I saw recently that really resonated with me: Everything you want lies on the other side of fear.
Other, non-Luther affiliated employees we had the pleasure to speak to as well included Anurag Batra, a product manager who has worked at Google for four years now. He told us that building a good product along with trust and good relationships is key to succeeding in his position, but is really applicable across the board. As an engineer, we should understand why we're writing the code that we do by understanding the users; it's all about the user's experience with a product. Vladimir Weinstein is an engineering manager who started as an engineer at IBM before being recruited to work on an open-source library called ICU, or international components for Unicode. When he found programming people more interesting than programming computers, he switched to more of a management position. He has a passion for education, which shows in his work with grow.google, a site that provides free education of data skills. The last two folks we spent time with before going to lunch were Kim Roberts, who works in engineering education to bring computer science programs to schools that lack them, and Antoine Picard, a software engineer who switched from physics to mechanical engineering and finally to computer science when deciding on his major in college. It's been very interesting to see how many physicists have taken up CS -- considering I still need a lab class, I may just consider physics this summer since I always enjoyed physics in high school. (Thanks, Mr. B!)
Craig also said that Google actively encourages continued learning, another common theme of this trip. I believe it was also Craig who said the days of going to school, college, and then getting a job you'll have until you die are simply over. Nowadays, we must be flexible, self-driven, and smart without being too arrogant; there is also little tolerance for jerks, or those who are too ambitious. We should instead start with a solid foundation that gives us a great chance of being successful and productive.
After a morning of great advice, we were treated to lunch. An interesting thing about Google is how well they take care of their employees -- all three meals each and every day are free for employees, who can eat as much as they like. Besides simply fueling their employees so they can do the best work possible, this is done in an attempt to foster community within the company, as mealtimes are seen as a very social time, especially to keep up relationships as well as form new ones. I was very astonished at first with all the amenities Google provides for its employees, but it also makes perfect sense; if they care deeply for their employees by providing them with any facilities they may need, as well as encouraging a healthy lifestyle almost like a parent, the employees will return the same affection. Another value I admired was their dedication to sustainability; of the 20,000 people who work at the Googleplex, the entire place is net carbon neutral. Compost and recycling bins are far more common than trash bins, a sight that makes me immeasurably happy. I hope that if I do not work for a company that so highly values such practices, I can instill these values wherever I go.
The afternoon was a bit more of a sightseeing experience; we roamed around the Googleplex, visited the shop, and took pictures at various locations. I have plenty from the visitor's center where we all practically reverted to our childhood selves in the ball pit!
We had such fun at Google, I think we all know each other a bit better now. I guess ball pits and free food are great ways to bond!
Excerpt taken with permission from Kari's blog