March 12th, 2010 | Published in Google Student Blog
Hi there! It's Caitlin again. I'm back for another episode of "Caitlin Talks to an Engineer." A few colleagues recommended that I interview Software Engineer Sam M. and, luckily, he had no major objections. Here's how it went down.
Remember - if your'e interested in becoming an engineer at Google, visit www.google.com/students. We're still looking for talented students to fill positions around the globe!
Caitlin: Hey Sam! How long have you been with Google?
Sam: I've been at Google a little over 4 years. I started in August 2005 as a new grad right out of college. I was in Mountain View for a year, then I moved to Santa Monica. Then, this London gig came up, and I decided I wanted to go explore the world. I've been here over a year now.
C: What projects have you worked on?
S: I've predominantly worked on Google AdSense. AdSense is a program for online content providers or online publishers who want to make money from their online content-- social networks, mobile applications, media and news sites, blogs, e-commerce sites, and web portals --by placing ads against their content without requiring direct advertiser relationships through their own sales force. For example, a publisher who runs a site about pets can monetize the site by serving ads for pet supplies.
I work with the AdSense front-end team. We handle the product's user interface and web development--what customers see when they log on, sign up or when they check how much money they've made.
C: Have you made any changes to AdSense that someone like me would notice?
S: The very first change I made had to do with the way Google handles postal codes. When you go to a website to register or buy something, you generally have to enter your postal code in a specific format--but postal code formatting varies widely depending on your country. Our formatting was very strict and made it difficult for international customers to use the AdSense product. I went in and fixed this--not just for AdSense, but for all other Google products using common code. It's not something I'm going to go into a bar and brag about, but it's great to initiate improvements that affect a lot of users.
C: What technological developments outside Google do you find most interesting?
S: Cellphones! Mobile! I think it's just fascinating--ten years ago, I didn't have a phone. It's amazing how naked I feel without one now. Some of the things I've heard about the future of mobile technology are sort of sci-fi-ey. For instance, people will have super computers in their mobiles or watches. No one will need computers, you just go up to a monitor and log-in via your Rolex. I think these types of technologies present a double-edged sword, though. They'll help people stay more closely knit with the people they know--but will keep us further apart from the people we don't know. In the past, if I was on the street looking for a Sainsbury's, I'd just ask someone: 'Excuse me, where's the Sainsbury's?' Now, I just pull out my cellphone, punch in my location and there you go--I don't actually talk to anyone.
C: What do you do when you're not being a Google engineer?
S: I play drums--I love drumming because it's a great way to relieve stress and a good outlet for my desire to make noise. I also do yoga and have recently taken up swing dancing. There's a cool place in Marble Arch called Jitterbugs. You show up, take a few lessons and do some social dancing afterwards. Exploring is another hobby. London is a great city to explore. I've found a lot of cool restaurants and hang out places just by jumping on the Tube and heading somewhere random. I've also taken a bunch of weekend trips to Stockholm, Amsterdam, Paris, Rome, Florence...and even with all that I still feel like I need to be more active!
C: In conclusion, I have one final question for you. Why?
S: Why not?
C: Can you elaborate?
S: Well, that 'why not' is what helped me make the jump to London. People have this fear of change. They think they might as well keep doing it. If you think that way you're never going to grow, expand or experience. So, when people ask me why I moved to London I said, 'why not?'
C: Good answer to a tough question. Thanks for talking with me today!
S: No problem!