**********************************THIS BLOG IS NO LONGER ACTIVE*********************************
This blog captured my summer adventures while an APM Intern at Google.
I have currently moved-on to full-time work in the start-up world and am writing my new Sprucing It Up blog instead.
Thank you for reading!

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Intern at Google by day; San Fransisco devotee by night.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Eternal Flame: You Must (First) Set Yourself on Fire.

I'll concede that I can be a bit cheesy at times. So grab your favorite Melba toast and bottle of wine ... this will be my final post on this blog, and cheese is inevitable.

Saying goodbyes at Google was just as difficult as you might expect -- if anyone reading this has parted ways with me at some point, you need no further explanation! Packing up my beautiful Victorian room also wasn't fun. My last two breakfasts in the city took place at a cafe a few blocks from my house -- The Grove, Fillmore. It's one of my favorites and should not be missed if you're in the area (I recommend the Mac&Cheese and orange juice ... though maybe not paired together). 

It's time for me to close the last twelve weeks of my life in Silicon Valley, and begin a new adventure here in Boulder, Colorado.  I opened this blog with a couple mantras I picked up in Elizabeth Glibert's
Eat.Pray.Love. : La dolce vita; La dolce stil nuovo (the sweet life; the sweet new style).  I am overwhelmed as I realize that I spent my last 3 months fulfilling the potential of these quotes. I truly lived a sweet life and could not be more grateful to the people who contributed and celebrated these ideals with me this summer. 

A quest to continue living my life in a way that fuels my eternal flame is no trivial feat. But I think I'm up for it. I have a few people in my life who add kindling to my fire, just by letting me in their presence. I have a few blocks of wood, stacked and built over time to outlast the winds and chills that may come up. And of course, I always have the hope of finding those handfuls of gasoline, that when thrown on the fire, cause everyone to step back and silently say, "Wow," as they watch the flames erupt in a beautiful display towards the sky.  

Here's to my (and your) future being lit by consistent, flickering light.


Friday, August 13, 2010

Googley Highs and Advice from Executives

You might think the excitement would stop there for the day, but you would be wrong. After filming this video clip, I found myself casually chatting with Google co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin. It was all luck really. I was hanging out with an intern friend of mine who is working on some cool research for Google. Many of the secret projects within Google get a fair amount of executive attention, and my friend's project is no exception. Thus, my friend and I were catching up this afternoon and suddenly Larry and Sergey stroll up together right next to us. It's a good thing their eyes were initially scanning the area for stuff about the project, because I think I saw them and my jaw literally dropped open. Honestly, they look and interact like a couple of overgrown college nerds who have been friends for years (surprise! This statement in-of-itself is factual... but people are still consistently surprised to hear it's true). After the initial shock wore off quickly, we proceeded to have a completely normal conversation with them -- well, I mostly listened since it was about the project. Yet it was one of the most surreal experiences I have had at Google to date. 

Tomorrow is my last day already. Wow.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Shoelaces: It's just another Whirlwind Wednesday

(Extra points for those who noticed the Manic Monday reference)

It's 7:30am and I'm riding the shuttle bus towards Mountain View for one of the last times this summer. The city, as usual in the mornings and evenings, is overcast and muggy. Given that it's my last week, you might be tempted to think (as I did) that it would be a bit boring as I tie up loose ends on my project and say goodbyes…not quite.

This morning, I opened my calendar and laughed out loud at what I found (I didn't literally laugh out loud, as people tend to sleep on the shuttle in the morning. Besides, they already got woken up by the man to my right who sneezed so furiously that he hit his head on the seat in front of him! Good morning, sunshine!). Back to my calendar: I laughed because my last Wednesday here has a whirlwind of events. Following breakfast on campus -- I am thinking it's going to be a Belgium waffle this morning -- I have an interview with a Product Management (PM) director. All APM interns who would like to be converted as full-time employees must go through a final interview with a director. Wish me luck!

Right after the interview? Sprint to a conference room across main campus and jump onto a video conference bridge with a Zoogler in the Zurich office. Even though my time here is ending, some of my projects are not, and I want to give them as much momentum as possible before leaving.  Following the Zurich meeting, I will be working with our user experience designer on a project or two. I also will be presenting for about 10 minutes to my team shortly after lunch about my summer at Google.

Sprinkled in over the entire day is what I have dubbed "the Shoelace Challenge." At the end of this week, it would be ideal for my work to bed seamlessly passed off to my team. Projects inevitably create loose-ends of "untied" thoughts that are hard to trace after a person leaves. My goal is to tie-up as many of those loose ends as possible. After all, it's clearly preferable to receive a shelf of tennis shoes all laced-up neatly in a row than a jumbled box of tangled laces! (I suppose that's not true if you're a cat...but cats can't read blogs...)

The late afternoon hits and I will find myself in a Google conference room learning a  secret flashmob dance routine. For those not familiar, a flashmob is when a group of people storm a busy, public area and do a unexpected dance routine in the middle of a confused crowd (there are some great examples on YouTube!). Thus, I will be learning a routine in order to flashmob the deck of busy boat deck later this evening. To celebrate the end of an awesome summer, Google rents out a massive boat on the bay and cruises interns all around it. Did I mention it's a 3-story boat and has an open bar? No doubt in my mind: it's going to be a whirlwind of a Wednesday.

Friday, August 6, 2010

And just when you thought it couldn't get more ridiculous...

...a free Android phone appears. Details in the video:

Sunday, August 1, 2010

How many Silicon Valley companies does it take to make two loaves of bread?

My experiences this past Saturday would indicate that it takes 3 companies. It's odd, after growing up in Colorado, to suddenly find myself casually interacting with employees working at some of the most recognized company names in the country. Introductions are almost laughable. After getting someone's name, you might ask, "What are you up to this summer?" only to hear the nonchalant reply: "designing the next version of the iPad."

On Saturday, I found myself in the company of of seven eclectic people, spread across three of Silicon Valley's hottest companies: Google, Apple, and Facebook. No big deal. The irony is that we were getting together to delve into some good old-fashioned home cooking. The goal? Multiple batches of homemade dough, which would yield 3-cheese pizzas and a loaf of whole-wheat bread.

This particular group of people was very social, avoiding most of the stereotypes associated with "super-nerds" (although there WERE a few pretty intense rounds of Settlers of Catan played in the early evening). Nevertheless, it's inevitable that the conversation occasionally slips into tech talk mode. The typical banter with a mix of people like this tends to revolve around the hot topics of the moment, such as "Facebook Questions: viral or useless?" or jokingly, "Careful, you're holding your iPhone the wrong way and blocking the antenna!" Or the product that just never seems to get old to rip on, even months after the release: the iPad.  While the conversation flared and laughter filled the kitchen, my mind disengaged, and a nutty idea occurred to me: the people in the room, if we were not all steadfastly devoted to each of our stellar employers, could collectively destroy Google's, Facebook's, and Apple's product roadmaps for the upcoming years!! Of course, these topics did NOT come up in conversation, as everyone there was fully aware of nondisclosure agreements and passionate about the privacy of their company. But nevertheless, I laughed to myself at the power circle around me: there were many secrets stored between the eight of us.*

Note that while I said it takes three silicon valley companies to make a loaf of bread, I haven't commented yet on the edibility of the outputs. I'm happy to report that the pizza turned out stunningly delicious…but the whole-wheat loaf of bread is about as edible as a brick. It's a good thing that the future engineers will be asked to design spaceplanes or the next great mobile platform…as asking us to cook up a quick ratatouille for the world may result in an excess of indigestion. 

*I have to call out Apple here, because it's no fun not to. Apple is highly (in?)famous in the valley for being highly secretive. Even Apple employees are kept completely in the dark about many products, to the extent that most have no better idea about what the next version of the iPhone will look like than the general public.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Thanks for being an intern: Here's your $4,000 bonus!

I had decided awhile ago I wasn't going to write this post. I think the idea can come off a bit pompous... so I will attempt to be completely transparent here: my intention is to playfully speculate at the a dollar amount representing the ridiculous perks I have been privileged to enjoy this summer. The value, however, is noisy for two reasons, 1) I have not included every single perk I've been part of, and 2) I am generally guessing at the value of benefits which I don't fully understand (imagine an extreme version of the Price is Right, where estimation skills are tested beyond the grocery-store-level!).

If you're reading this to learn about Google salaries, feel free to stop reading. You won't find any details around that topic here. Okay, let's move onto finding a price to describe "ridiculous"!

You may ask what spurred me to change my mind and actually write this post? Yesterday, Google topped itself in a way didn't even think possible. I was told to arrive at work at 5AM. The day essentially boiled down to a one-day, insanely fun, round-trip airplane ticket trip to an off-site location. (The vague description is intentional, as I don't want to spoil the surprise for future APM interns who will search the web in hopes of discovering the day's agenda!). I began to realize, "Wow, how much is Google 'paying' me extra to fund all of these outrageous activities?" And since I am an engineer also love numbers, I decided to go through the exercise and attempt to get an actual dollar estimate.

As I compiled this magical value, here are the kinds of free perks I was assigning values and adding up:
  • paid while attending secret APM off-site, as described above
  • free breakfast ($4), lunch ($5), and dinner ($5), 5 days a week, all organic, hormone-free meats, better-than-most-restaurants quality ... for 12 weeks. Not to mention all of the wine tasting events during afternoons on the patio and regular beer/wine/appetizer Friday afternoon parties.
  • 2-3 cups of coffee a day; around 3 smoothies a week
  • free tickets to see the musical Wicked in downtown San Francisco
  • use of free Google rental car service on 3 occasions
  • not paying for gas all summer by commuting 2-hours via shuttle
  • free 8 week hip-hop dance classes, 4 weeks of Bollywood dance classes 
  • Kayaking off-site with sea creatures in Pacific
  • one visit to free on-site Google doctors
  • 10 loads of free on-site laundry/detergent/etc.
  • ...and many more...
After creating (fairly conservative) estimates and a little math...POOF! It would appear that I'm getting about an extra $4,000 in perks for 3 months of work -- this number blows my mind! I'll be the first to admit that interns get spoiled more than full-time employees...but still, $4000!? As a college student, I tend to understand the magnitude or wow-factor of a number by comparing it to how many Chipotle burritos it's worth (for example, when considering whether or not to go to a movie, I might ask myself, "Is it really worth 1.5 Chipotle burritos, Katie?"). That game here is laughable: it's as though Google has awarded me 500 of the tastiest burritos on the planet! I am one, happy college student.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Strolling Sundays in San Francisco Sity

"Sity!? Ugh!" I can hear all of my obsessive-compulsive friends cringing at the misspelling. Generally I would be convulsing over the choice as well, but perhaps because I had such a lovely weekend (or because engineering has finally managed to stamp out all grammar/literacy from my brain) ...it simply doesn't bother me at all. A lazy Sunday spent wandering the city has put me in an exceptionally good mood -- okay, okay: it may also be the inordinately large chocolate sundae I just consumed in Ghiradelli Square!
Stinking Rose review: if you love garlic, you won't go home upset. We got the pork ribs and gnocchi, which were both wonderful. They had a garlic ice cream dessert, which the skeptic in me couldn't quite order -- however, if anyone ends up going there, I'm curious to hear what you thought!

We also hit the Cobb's Comedy Club this past Friday. My review for this place is a thumbs-up for the club setting, atmosphere, and openers...and an extremely awkward turtle for the headliner. I'm sure he's regularly quite funny, but we found ourselves laughing most because the show was so unexpectedly lame. I kept thinking someone from Candid Camera was going to jump out and say, "Gotcha!" At least my friends made it fun, and we all had a good laugh about it afterwards.

Ok, enough blogging for now. Back to playing in the "sity." (Really, it's ok. Breathe. And eat a chocolate sundae. Or two.)

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Wait, most hip-hop dance classes don't involve flow charts...?

I work on the main campus at Google, known generally as the Googleplex. Join me on my trip to a set of buildings slightly off the main campus, affectionately called the "Honeyplex."
It occurred to me that I have been fairly deliberate about obfuscating a lot of my actual work activities from this blog. It seems like the majority of people who stumble upon this blog aren't going to be as interested in my day-to-day tasks which include events like: creating designs and human-interaction models for web products (e.g. suppose you were given the task to design the colors, buttons, user-flow, etc for a new online movie-watching application), dreaming up huge lists of features we could make and then prioritizing which ones actually get built, meeting with engineers for debugging code and playing with (or breaking!) demos ... and hundreds of other things. It's hard to describe concretely, in that the APM role at Google requires the enthusiasm to tackle a bunch of roles at once and create the perfect storm among your team to deliver awe-inspiring products. I can assure you that this lofty goal isn't accomplished by doing a standard set of daily tasks, and most days I am still discovering the subtleties of the role from observing those around me.

Also today at Google (and ironically related to a "bee"): Alex Trebek from Jeopardy! visited to host a geography bee among Googlers.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Sunsets in Sausalito

In many ways, the best view of San Francisco does not exist anywhere in the city. Drive north through the city, cross the Golden Gate Bridge, and you will yourself right next to the quiet and beautiful town of Sausalito. After having dinner at a delectable, historic restaurant called the Alamo Square Grill (if you go, I highly recommend ordering the daily prix fixe!), I jumped in a car with some friends and headed north:
San Francisco sunsets are more fickle than the sensational sunsets of my past two summers spent in Seattle and San Diego. While I could almost guarantee a breathtaking sunset over the water in the other locations, the fog that tends to descend on San Francisco in the evening. Thus, each clear sunset feels extra special this summer.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Hmm...I'm too sick to stay at home today

Here's a new (fake) term to add to your vocabulary: half-sick. This is not the kind of sickness that requires a doctor's visit to sort out. It's not the sort of debilitating cold which requires an extra box of tissues as your new favorite side-kick.  It's also not the fake "sick" that people pretend to be when they're sneezing more than usual or have a caffeine headache. No -- half-sick is that odd gray area where you could arguably take the day off work to stay at home or, conversely, go into work and deal with it. I've been half sick for 4 days now.

The recipe for half-sick is fairly simple: (move to SF) + (surround yourself with amazing people you can't get enough of) + (plan on dancing and yelling, a lot) + (a 2-hour daily commute to Mountain View) - (sleep) = inevitable half-sickness.

Even after 4 days of half-sickness, I repeated the vicious pattern last night. I met an old friend from Colorado at 9:45pm in the Haight-Ashbury area to grab drinks and catch up. He has just finished his first year of med school at UCSF and promptly diagnosed me as the all-to-common half-sick I have described. As we chatted more, it occurred to me that during this half-sick phase, I have never once even considered the possibility of taking a sick day from work. Even in my beautiful home in San Francisco, cuddled in bed looking out the Victorian windows, I think I could heal much better while...yeah, at Google. Think about it! There's no strictly enforced dress code, so sweatpants for a day would work. I've been drinking grapefruit juice all week, as well as eating a multitude of fruits and vegetables at all meals. I've used the nap pods at work this week. Twice. The only thing I'm not doing right is modifying my sleep routine in the evenings! And the incentives continue: Google has doctors on campus which will see all employees for free and give basic medical treatment like illness diagnosis, injury treatment, travel consultations, vaccinations, etc. If I can't kick this cold by Monday, I think I'll be stopping by the Wellness Center!

I can hear the angry HR emails filling my inbox already, so let's be clear: I don't think Google is advocating that sick people come into work and spread the illness...but they sure do create a tempting environment to recover!

Sunday, July 11, 2010

At Google, everyone gets FREE CARS!

....okay, okay -- the title is an embellishment of the real perk. Here's a quick look into a car-sharing program I used last week at work:

And let's not forget about the many other ways to get around the Google campus efficiently! Hundreds of bikes litter the entrances to buildings, all designed with that quirky Google attitude we've come to love. I have heard rumors of segways as well, but I haven't snagged a ride just yet.  My friend Alex and I took a bike tour around campus on Friday. Here we are styling the bikes (before she got pulled over by a cop for riding on the sidewalk, haha!). 
The irony? Notice anything missing? Google helmets, anyone? Apparently our employee brains are precious enough to nurture using tech-talks, exorbitant amounts of food, and challenging problems...but not precious enough to enforce a helmet rule!  

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Google Kittens: Being a Stray Never Looked So Good

I admit it: I am getting used to the over-the-top nature of life at Google. This morning I took a video conference with Zurich while eating breakfast: vanilla chai and  9-grain organic oatmeal with strawberries and honey. I did about an hour of UI design while sitting in one of the many free massage chairs. What can I say: life is good at Google. And yet some things still surprise me...

I was walking through main campus back to my office this afternoon, when I found my gaze drifting over to the large collection of bushes and shrubs to my left. I blinked. No, not an illusion: there were Googlers standing in bushes at various points as if looking for something. So naturally, I decided to join. I learned that they were attempting to catch the stray Google kittens that frequent the campus. A woman was straddling a cardboard box with a encased kitten settled snugly in the corner. But don't be fooled by the domestic appearance (see the well-practiced-innocent-kitten-face below); a hand near the box opening results in 10 new scratch marks!
Why so many kittens on campus, you may ask? The logic to me is actually fairly simple: mix an excess of free food (including steaks, chicken, fish, you name it!) and a bunch of suckers for adorable kitten faces...bam! KITTEN COLONY! Today's progress includes two kittens now safely in a shelter waiting to move into a good home. Two down...hundreds to go?

This past weekend was a four-day weekend (thank you, Google, for an extra day off!). The best way to describe my 4th of July weekend is wonderfully tiring: went hiking to waterfalls north of Santa Cruz, went dancing for hours in the famed Castro district downtown, watched fireworks on top of 15-story building overlooking the San Francisco bay, played in parks and visited farmer's markets across the city, and spent a day at the Great America theme park for free (thanks again, Google). Suddenly, being a Google kitten doesn't sound as awesome, huh? Love my life.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

"The Stars" Love Google: 2 Concerts, 2 Days

Famous people! Movie stars! Doors magically open at their feet. If they want to open a restaurant in downtown Manhattan, they can! If they want to buy thirty new cars and park them along their 30 foot driveway, they can! If they want a VIP visit and tour of the Google campus, they can?

Oh, yes. They can. And they do.

Why not visit the campus? Admittedly, I think Google holds a certain amount of intrigue for many people. This week, Google welcomed Michael Franti, a brilliant (and humble) songwriter, to the stage in a free concert for all employees.  I happened to attend two concerts within two days. A window into the fun:

In the video above, I mentioned that Michael Franti asked everyone to post anything and everything they captured on the internet -- it's free advertising, after all! After the concert, a number of employees hung around to chat and take pictures with him. This reminded me one man who has a unique twenty-percent-time project at Google -- tangent: all Google engineers are encouraged to work on any project that strikes their fancy 20% of their work hours (a day or so each week). Many famous ideas of come from this, including Gmail, Google News, and even the Google shuttles I recently told you about! -- While many projects are engineering related, there have been some funny ones too. One of my favorites is the person who vowed to get a picture with every famous person who has attended Google (the myriad of pictures he has taken are displayed in the main entrance to the Google buildings). He has pictures with movie stars, multiple presidents, and other famous names across the board. While I looked, however, I didn't see him at the Michael Franti concert!

Perhaps more interesting to me though, is not the movie stars that Google attracts, but rather the brilliant minds from the globe that join us weekly for guest lectures. I cannot even begin to describe how often I leave a talk speechless and awestruck at the great work being completed on this planet. 

La dolce vita.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

It's Monday Morning: Beware of the agressive, adolescent, male seals!

Most people walk into the office on Monday morning, preparing themselves for the week ahead. This past Monday, I did as well. Okay Katie, what meetings are big this week? What meetings will be big this week … as soon as you organize them! Are any projects of yours launching this week?
I waited patiently in the Google bus line in downtown San Francisco; it's a bit reminiscent of the third grade recess line; the casual passerby observes a line of antsy, excitable people fidgeting along the side walk. However, instead of the members of the line being 7 years old and covered in candy remains, the employees are decorated in Google badges and the newest smart phones (and yes, probably most are covered in candy remains as well). The Google bus approaches and people hurriedly take their seats and whip open laptops to connect to the on-board wifi. At this point in the morning, I have settled myself near the back of the bus, sharing the double seat with a member of the Google legal team. Upon opening my calendar, I see that I actually have one meeting taking up the whole day!? By squinting at the text further, I read the headline: "KAYAKING."
After arriving at the office, I followed my same morning routine: scanned a news feed to learn about the various tech talks and other events at Google that day (A mediterranean tapa cooking class, free waltzing lessons, The Future of Social Networking talk, etc). I went and got an egg-white made-to-order omelet, grabbed snacks from the kitchen around the corner from my office…and then instead of starting off the day thinking about millions of users searching the web, I jumped into a car with my team at headed south.
We kayaked in a place called Elkhorn Slough a little south of Santa Cruz. I didn't get any video, since the waterproofing wasn't very good in the kayaks, but we were within three feet of seals and otters. There was one particular area filled with adolescent, male seals lounging on the docks (they smelled terrible too - surprise!). We were warned to steer clear of them, as they have been known to chase down some kayaks. The otters were particularly curious and would come right up next to the kayaks, floating on their bellies with their heads cocked to the side. It's especially nice to experience this adventure with my team, as it is (admittedly) entertaining to see some of the top code-writers in the world getting splashed by the surf or paddling furiously away from hormonal seals!

Sunday, June 27, 2010

If Nooglers are New Googlers, then Gayglers are...?

Gay Googlers!

Today I had an experience unlike any other: the biggest celebration of LGBT pride in the middle of San Francisco. It was...chaos. A truly combustive grouping of the most bizarre (and fabulous!) people I have seen to date. I am an engineer; I love counting. I saw:
  • 12 Starbucks along the parade route
  • At least 10 million sequins
  • 4.5 stark naked people strolling down the street (the 0.5 actually accounts for an entire cohort of topless women)
  • Hundreds of thousands of people joining together to sing a message of acceptance.

I was told that Alan Eustace, Googler's SVP of Engineering, is quite the dancer! I am proud to work at a company which can openly accept and celebrate diversity of the people on this earth. Now onto an impossible task: attempting to remove a fraction of the 10 million sequins which surreptitiously accumulated on my clothing over the day.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Stranded and exhausted in Louisville, Kentucky.

It's 4 AM from the floor of the Louisville, KY airport. This is where your inner-monologue kicks in: waaaaait a second -- aren't you living in California this summer, Katie? Why on earth would you leave that paradise to find yourself in the, well... unnecessarily hot, humid, admittedly-a-little-less-exciting-than-San-Francisco, city of Louisville?

The ultimate irony is that for the past three nights, I have been living like a princess in a Hyatt suite while attending the ASEE Confernce -- king-sized bed, hot showers, a nice panoramic view of the downtown Louisville skyline. Now, after a series of tornados in Chicago and a stroke of bad luck, I found myself choosing to endure an overnight stay in Kentucky (the "emergency hotel room" was $80 and the college student in me just couldn't justify that!). It has, however, allowed me to experiment with my amateur architect skills, as I have collected three chairs from around the airport and constructed a very lumpy "bed."

On the bright side, I have made many, many friends over my last 18 hours in this airport. One of my favorite coincidences is meeting someone who went to high school with Google's Marissa Meyer, and was barely able to recall her name. Bear in mind that she is arguably the woman in technology right now! I am still here for a few hours, so who knows what this treasure trove of airports holds?
Santa Cruz Blissss

Thursday, June 17, 2010

World Cup - Goooooooal!

This morning I got into work excessively early. I took the a shuttle leaving from downtown San Francisco at 6:40 AM in order to make it to work before a video conference for a new project I am working on with Zurich. Needless to say, due to the 9 hour time difference between California and Switzerland, Zurich teams have to stay late for meetings and California teams arrive early.

After working on the wifi-equipped shuttle for the hour in preparing for the meeting, I decided to take a break and go for a walk. One of my favorite things to do in the morning is take a five minute walk across the Google campus to a Google-run coffee shop. It's no Starbucks, but they can make you almost any kind of drink you want. And the pastries are homemade and delicious. Oh right, and it's free!

Next to the coffee shop, I was surprised to find a collection of Googlers sitting in couches facing a wall this early in the morning. And then I noticed the three big screen projections on the wall facing them -- a triple display display of live World Cup action, all day long! While I don't follow soccer much, I thoroughly enjoyed joining a group of Googlers on a couch and listening to the tactical talk while sipping my caramel macchiato. I felt it was a bit ironic to listen to the banter about Switzerland recently upsetting the favorite, Spain, yesterday. Note to self: find out if the Googlers in your Zurich meeting like soccer -- if so, CELEBRATE!

Also, if you haven't seen it yet, you don't want to miss the Google feature specifically for the world cup. If you type in "world cup" into Google.com, you'll see a cool display of the most recent action. Be sure not to miss the bottom of the page, which has been changed from Gooooooogle to Gooooooal!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Why success stifles innovation...always hate the facebook layout changes?

Join me on my most recent though experiment:

Imagine for a second that everyone in the United States owns the exact same microwave. This microwave has a set of numbers to enter the cook time. Now imagine a dazzling new design which automatically recognizes speech and you simply tell it how long to cook. It also can answer basic questions for you --  if you ask it aloud, "How long will it take to melt frozen chocolate chips?" the microwave will preform the Google search in the background and speak back to you, "45 seconds, but stop and stir it twice." What a cool microwave?! ... Until a vivid image of my grandmother creeps into my mind: she accidently asks the microwave a question (when she really trying to talk to my grandma) and drops her chicken stew to the floor when the microwave surprise "speaks" at her. If this truly happened, and millions of people were waiting for the next microwave because there old one needs to be replaced, the world would unite...and complain. They would complain. A lot.

After a long day at the office:

Monday, June 14, 2010

Point Reyes National Park

A brief look at some weekend exploring:

Also, I have officially moved into my room in San Francisco! After living out of a suitcase for the past 5 weeks, it feels good to be all settled in.

First official meal as a city girl? Coq Au Vin, a savory chicken dish, from an incredible little restaurant called Cafe Claude. It would have been difficult to find just strolling along the streets of San Francisco. Yet I knew it would be amazing, since we couldn't get a reservation until 9 PM on a Sunday night! With the exception of a mildly haughty waiting staff, I definitely recommend Cafe Claude if you're looking for great French food.

Avoid the Melt Cafe -- it may masquerade as a fondue place, but the whole experience was off: mediocre food, empty at 6 PM on Saturday, bad service, etc. Maybe we just were there on a bad night. Thus, I'm now on a quest to find a great fondue restaurant this summer.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

IMPACT: No plans for Russia ... don't panic...yet.

Did I mention that other than playing all the time, I happen to learn too? When you are surrounded with many of the most brilliant people in the country, learning in high volume is somewhat inevitable, I guess. However, this also translates to exceedingly high expectations of all Google employees, including interns.

While at work, I find myself in a somewhat alternate reality as I spend the day working with people and on projects that we all understand (or, as the case for interns may be, eventually understand). Sometimes I try to allow my mind to detach itself from my body and float off as some ephemeral observer over the room -- everything surprises me, as I quietly take in how bizarrely fascinating this place can be. Here a few moments just from the Friday in my third week at work that caused my conscious to hiccup:

  • I had one-on-one video conference meetings today with both Zurich and New York City. The most ironic part? This is not atypical for a given day of the week. We looked over some of my designs and talked about the engineering feasibility of launching the features within weeks. Again: weeks. Google rolls products out fast and furiously.
  • There is a cafe on the Googleplex campus which makes delectable mango smoothies. Most afternoons when I am not in meetings that I can't take over video chat on my laptop, I go and sprawl out under the trees with a smoothie. My favorite work spot happens to be on the field where the sand volleyball court is (and yes, Mom, since I know you're smiling a little... sometimes I get a little distracted and watch the Googlers play! haha). Today I met Sameer who was in search for a Co-ed doubles volleyball partner for a tournament next weekend in Santa Cruz. He had already paid the fees when his regular partner had to cancel. Sigh...so I'll be playing all day on the gorgeous beaches of Santa Cruz next weekend. We hit around a bit after work, and it seems like all of my old doubles reactions haven't left me yet.
  • Every Friday afternoon, Google throws a giant party. This past week, it was a large awards ceremony celebrating a few special achievements made by some employees. OH -- have I told you about Ken? Ken is a new deaf friend who helps me practice my ASL; he works on CC for YouTube. He is brilliant, funny, and most lucky for me, patient. Anyway, we watched the awards ceremony together, along with his interpreter. It was fabulous to get some practice and begin picking up some technical signs.  
Also this Friday, I had my first small moment of panic. As I was working in my office, I got an email that made me realize I could be in a little over my head. Here's my attempt at capturing the moment on video:

Wednesday, June 9, 2010


NERD ALERT: This post is likely to contain mostly things only a huge nerd would find funny. On the other hand, if you bear with it, you may learn a thing or two.
I've recently stumbled across two comics that seem fitting. First, perhaps the most succinct value prop. representation possible:

Second: At some point, I shall talk more about my projects with Google (currently, I am working on 3 separate ones). One of them has to do with Google Maps, which reminded me of this from xkcd.com:
For those readers not familiar with xkcd, it is a viral cultural phenomenon of the computer world. You can increase your nerd-cred by many points if you read and reference these. If you're looking to take a dive into the site, I recommend starting with a few of my favorites:

Monday, June 7, 2010

I hate Walmart but love shopping on Amazon!

The scenario: You have just discovered that you want to surprise your friend with a book that you know he would enjoy. It was published recently enough, and in the morning paper you spot that it costs only $10 at Walmart! You think, Wow -- that's cheap! But no way will I buy that from big, ugly anticompetitive Walmart. Thus, you decide to consult the quaint local bookstore and discover the book is $15. It then occurs to you that you will need to ship the book to your friend, and the post office is inconveniently located across town. After a quick Google search on the book, the first search result takes you to Amazon.com. There it costs only $10, and you can ship it directly to your friend for only a few dollars more. How convenient! Two clicks and it's bought and on its way. Amazon is already showing you a  list of other great books that you might want to buy -- it's as if they're reading your mind! Wow. 

The question: Why is it that monopolies on the web aren't seeing the grassroots movement that monopolies on the ground increasingly must fight?

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Google: Self-Actualized Employees Do Great Work

Self-actualized employees do great work.

Welcome to Google, where signing the offer letter means far more than a commitment to come to work each day. I have a new theory: Google recruits and invests in employees such that they are often in the top-level of Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs, self-actualization.

Level one is the purpose of the Google office environment (fulfilling basic needs like food, water, and sleep). Hungary? Eat at one of the dozen organic, hormone-free cafe's on campus for free. Thirsty? Walk 20 steps out of your office to one of the micro-kitchens and grab an Odawalla from the fridge or make a caramel latte (all still free). Tired? Rest your eyes in a Google nap pod, sitting along the corridors. Or why not get a professional massage down the hallway (literally, 5 office rooms away from my office).

Levels two through four (safety, love, and belonging) are taken care of during the recruitment process. Their interviews incorperate many efforts to identify highly-functional individuals. However, a few extra perks can't hurt! How about on-site childcare (oh yes, there are Google babies!) or free on-site laundry services?

With all of these levels taken care of, there is only one place left to live: the incredibly rewarding experience of self-actualized work. Need more proof? Here are some of the things that happened to me today which spurred me to come to this conclusion: I sat outside and ate Eggs Benedict while perusing the New York Times morning paper on my laptop; I was assigned a female mentor in the Zurich office and will be "meeting" with her next week over video conference to talk about life; I laughed for a solid half-hour with another PM in the New York office about the possibilities of Google search; I heard Olivia Cabane speak about the "science" of developing charisma; AND (the kicker!) I got a bunch of great work done with Google engineers too.

But don't take my word for it. Come and visit the Google campus. There are a lot of smiling and laughing people. And it's not just the Nooglers. Although you can usually pick out the Nooglers in a crowd, because not only are they wearing the new Google t-shirt they got last week (again) or walking out of the cafes with two plates of food (WARNING: The Google-fifteen is not a joke) ... but they're also the ones writing ridiculously optimistic and sparkly blog posts to the outside world, still in shock that places like this actually exist. Self-actualized employees do great work.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Excess Introductions at Top Companies

I spent my first weekend in the bay area… away from the bay. A friend and I jetted off to Santa Cruz (backdrop of the video below) for the weekend to enjoy beaches, margaritas, and garlic fries. Week one at Google offered me a chance to live in “excess”: an excess of free meals, an excess of bright people to work with, and an excess of introductions. Hence the inspiration for this video, which looks at basic strategies when meeting engineers at top companies:

Here, I will take a moment to comment on Ivy League schools and other top-rated universities across the globe. If you did not attend one of these (like this lowly University of Colorado graduate – ha!) then you are also probably blissfully unaware of the subtleties of the different Princeton “eating clubs” or implications of attending Stanford instead of Yale for computer science. There is a world of culture around this. Thus, my solution is what I tend to do with all topics that may lead to a dramatic exchange… avoid it like the plague. While I recognize that many people attending these institutions may have a tremendous amount of personal pride in their university (I do too, by the way), it seems appropriate to drop any extra ego at the door when entering a building like Google. Everyone made it here through the same process, so perhaps let’s annihilate the defensive lunchtime banter about why Carnegie Mellon has more modern teaching practices than Olin. Why? Because it leaves us more time to plot about taking over the world…just kidding. Kind of.

Monday, May 24, 2010

La dolce vita. La dolce stil nuovo.

The idea of “blogging” actually makes me somewhat uncomfortable. It seems to be a step beyond the creep-echelon of facebook, to where I have decided to transparently expose my thoughts to (potentially) complete strangers. Right... let’s do it anyway.

I’ve created blogs for the previous two summers I spent with Qualcomm in San Diego and Microsoft in Redmond, but I think it’s time for a fresh twist. I plan to use this blog as a somewhat glorified Twitter (although, for the record, I actually consider Twitter a futile, waste of time). In the past, my blogs were written for the sole audience of my grandparents and namely focused on the people/places of my internship. This summer? A new venture: Video-blogging! This blog will likely consist of shorter updates and videos related to my endeavors as a Google APM intern, my devotion to San Francisco life, and a heap (oh yes, computer-pun-intended) of other bits (double pun, FTW) of my imagination.

I recently finished reading the book Eat. Pray. Love. by Elizabeth Gilbert, where I picked up two of my new favorite mantras: la dolce vita; la dolce stil nuovo. This translates to: the sweet life; the sweet new style. I can’t help but wonder that the combination of working at Google and living in San Francisco will fulfill this ideal.

Let the sweet life begin. Day one at Google starts tomorrow.