Software Engineer, Google
I was born/grew up in: Kodiak, Alaska, grew up mostly in Anchorage, Alaska (USA)
I now live in: Kirkland, Washington, USA
I completed my training/education at: I have done a LOT of school! ☺ I studied Electrical Engineering and Math at the University of Alaska, Anchorage; more Electrical Engineering and Astrophysics at Utah State University (I even got a PhD, omg!); and I'm currently working on another degree in Software Engineering at the University of Texas, Austin.
Describe what you do at work.
Currently, at Google, I write computer code to help the Android Messages app run better and crash less. I need to know a lot about computer programming, and I use that knowledge every day. At a serious software company like Google, I need to work hard to make sure my computer code is really high quality, that it is well tested, and that it plays nice with all the other code here. I work on a team with about ten other people. Together we try to solve tricky problems about how to make our software do new and exciting things.
When I was a student I enjoyed:
How does your job affect peoples lives?
The Android messages app is used by more than one hundred million people around the world! Other stuff from Google is used by even more people! That's pretty cool, but it means Google needs a LOT of smart people working hard to make sure things keep running, to make those things even better, and to invent newer and cooler things, too!
What motivates you in your career?
I love computer programming, but even more I love learning new things. My job at Google gives me lots of chances for learning new things. That's pretty much what I've loved about my whole career so far, learning new stuff. Working at Google gives me a chance to learn every day, and to see how the biggest software systems on Earth operate. It's amazing to see, and I am always excited to learn more about how this giant system works.
When I was a student, I would have described myself as someone who:
Describe your career path to this career.
It's funny, back in early high school I did think I would be a computer programmer. Then I thought I would be a film maker (haha!). After high school, I joined the Air National Guard and worked there part time as I went to college in Alaska. I studied Electrical Engineering and Math. At the end of college, I wasn't sure if I wanted to go to graduate school or be Air Force Special Forces ... I chose grad school.
I got a PhD in Astrophysics, then went and worked on Geophysics for Chevron. At that job, I used my physics, math, and engineering knowledge to help turn echoes of sound waves in the ground into a realistic picture of the layers of rocks under the surface. Then a bunch of Geologists would try to understand where to look for natural resources. At this job I used a lot of signal processing skills that I learned in my Electrical Engineering courses. Even before that, I did research in Gravitational Wave Astrophysics (Einstein stuff) to try and understand what we might be able to see and “hear” when two small black holes get captured by a supermassive black hole! This work took all of the math and science skills I could find: General relativity, calculus and differential equations, computer programming, and lots more!
Finally, I decided that my first high school dream was real, and I went to Google to be a full blown Software Engineer. Lots of twists and turns, but I just kind of followed my nose, and looking back I wouldn't change a thing!
What activities do you like to do outside of work?
Oh the usual! Camping, hiking, watching movies, walking my dogs, playing with my kids... Maybe even some extra programming or video games sometimes ☺
What advice or encouragement would you give others seeking a similar career?
Stay curious! Always keep learning. You might have to work hard, but a good foundation in math will carry you a long way. It's never been easier to learn how to write computer programs, so give it a try if that interests you.