Thursday, July 26, 2007

Job QnA: Software Engineer--Isn't it amazing

Brought to you by Google

Name: Niniane Wang
Title: Software Engineer
Company: Google

Monster: What led you to choose a career in engineering? Is it something you always wanted to do?

Niniane Wang: I excelled at math as a kid -- skipped three grades, started college math courses at 11. I figured I would go into science or engineering. One of my dad's friends taught me LISP when I was 10, and I was hooked. It took me a while to decide on computer science [as a major] in college, but after that, there was no looking back. I earned a BS at Caltech and an MS at the University of Washington, both in computer science.

M: What led you to choose software over hardware engineering?

NW: I took hardware classes in college. I designed a VLSI chip, built an audio recorder, did my share of soldering and wire wrapping. In the end, I just liked software more. It's a personal preference.

M: How did you wind up working at Google?

NW: I was working for a large Seattle-area software company. A friend from Caltech, Dan Egnor, had just joined Google. I asked for his assessment of the search space. Dan is usually a cynical guy, but he strongly advocated Google, saying, "I'm finally firing on all cylinders." I loved the people I met during the interviews.

M: What do you do in your position?

NW: As tech lead, Gmail Ads, I lead a team of engineers to assess Gmail revenue through improved ad targeting. I also just began a confidential new Gmail project.

M: Tell us about your typical day.

NW: I write code, attend meetings and talk to other engineers and project managers.

M: What are some of the satisfying things about your work?

NW: Impacting millions of customers; shipping quality products; working with brilliant engineers; making users happy.

M: What are some of the challenges you enjoy in your job?

NW: It is not simple to make a product that is polished, scalable and easy to use. There are technical considerations as well as establishing a long-term vision for the product.

M: What's the best advice you could give to someone looking to get into your field?

NW: Write code for the fun of it. Develop a good sense of what's useful to society, and within that realm, follow your passions. Don't develop databases if your true love is games -- or vice versa. This goes double for female engineers.

M: What do you enjoy most about working for Google?

NW: Engineers here are empowered. If an engineer at another company comes up with a wacky idea for a new project, he might be told by his boss: "Stop dreaming, and focus on your tasks." Here, they're given a chance to prototype their idea and sometimes pitch it to executives. Many of our best products came about this way. Also, there is so much interesting work and so many new projects that people don't fight each other for the best work.

M: What do you look for when you interview people on behalf of Google?

NW: I've done more than 150 interviews in two years at Google. I look for a creative spark, the ability to find innovative solutions to problems and deliver a quality product. I also look for coding ability -- algorithms and CS knowledge -- and cultural fit. I want to hire someone that I'd want to work with every day.

M: How important is it to have a life and interests outside work?

NW: It's crucial. You need to understand the user in order to create the best product. That means you need to live a balanced life, or you end up making products that will only be used by technical people. Also, people who work too much tend to get cranky, and that's hard on their coworkers! My main hobby is creative writing. I started a self-study creative writing group at Google.

M: What's the most inspiring book you ever read?

NW: Now, Discover Your Strengths, which teaches people to focus on their own strengths. Don't copy others or spend a lot of time repairing your weaknesses. Instead, focus on improving the areas at which you already excel so you can be world-class.

cheers Aurobindo

No comments: