June 7th, 2011 | Published in Gmail (Google Mail)
In this edition of “Faces of Gmail,” we’ll introduce you to Hareesh Nagarajan who balances managing datacenters with improving his golf game.
What’s your role on the Gmail team?
I am the tech lead for part of Gmail’s backend infrastructure. Gmail has lots of datacenters to support hundreds of millions of users. We try to balance out these users in a way that will ensure that a good experience and run our datacenters at maximum efficiency. You could say that we like having our cake and eating it too: the software we’ve written tries to come up with a fine balance between keeping both our users and our datacenters happy.
What did you do before joining Google?
Google is my first full-time gig. Before Google, I went to graduate school at the University of Illinois at Chicago where I lived above a piano bar. Before Chicago, I went to college in Bangalore. I wrote a bunch of software that no one uses (including me!). I did give my creations memorable names though: I built a text editor called “Save Trees,” an instant chat messenger called ionicChat (after the ionic bond in chemistry), and an assembler called “miASMa.” I was also active in the local quizzing circuit. I think I raked up about 40,000 INR in prize money in those four years.
What do you do when you’re not working on Gmail?
I’ve been playing golf for nearly two years now. I’m not very good, but I’ve been seeing improvements in my game. Since I like data and statistics, I try and collect everything that I can when I’m playing. The data I’ve collected so far says that I’ve pared or bogey one in three holes in 2010, but so far in 2011 I’ve improved to one in two holes. Hopefully there are more big improvements to come. Golf is a hard game: errors propagate. I’ve tried to analyze why tennis has fewer unique winners than golf on my blog. Apart from golf and occasional blogging, I also like writing software (in a few hours) that empowers people. For example, I built pravaas.org to provide high quality mentorship and advice to any student for free, and I built tweetandbeat.com to track real time updates for the keyword cancer. You can follow my updates and my photos from my phone on twitter.com/hnag.
How do you get your workday started?
I come in at about 10:00 in the morning. I check system dashboards to make sure that Gmail users are happy, that our datacenters are running cool, and that I haven’t broken anything from the previous day. I usually do all this while eating cereal. I buy cereal boxes (Kashi Autumn Wheat) by the dozen from Amazon. Folks who enter my cubicle at the start of my cereal cycle are shocked to find 12 boxes of cereal right next to my desk and ask, “Are you going to eat all that cereal?” to which I say, “Well yes, would you like some?”.
Photos by Cody Bratt, Google Talk team