Graduation Year: 1999
How did your time at Middlebury lead you to pursue a career in technology? How did you make the major transitions in your career? At Middlebury, I was an Economics major and Computer Science minor. While I enjoyed both disciplines, I found myself really enjoying my computer science classes, especially towards my junior and senior years. I’d often start with the assigned problem sets, but end up building something completely different to tackle an opportunity that I was observing. Suppose it wasn’t great for my grades, but ultimately I think it was exactly what my professors would want out of their students… at least, that’s how I rationalized it!
In my junior year, I had an opportunity to intern with Accenture. It was a great place to start my career, since it allowed me to work on the most challenging technology problems for companies across several industries. Ultimately, I decided that I didn’t want to write code all day every day and I wanted to build more business acumen, so I went to the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth. Aside from the benefit of getting back into the woods, it allowed me to narrow down exactly what I wanted to do with my career.
After graduating from Tuck, I joined Google where I’ve been for the past twelve years and I currently lead our Chrome Operating System (Chromebooks!).
What were your most memorable experiences at Middlebury? What did you like about Middlebury the most? First of all, I met my wife at Middlebury. That was a life event. She went to Middlebury as well and we graduated in the same year, so we’re padding the stats of Middlebury alumni marrying one another. I also enjoyed playing basketball and baseball while at Middlebury. My most memorable moments were probably the spring days on the baseball field. But I also had a lot of really close friends who did not play any sports. That is what I liked most about Middlebury, that there were so many different types of people and I could float around and get to know people.
I also liked being in a rural setting. It took me away from big cities that are usually earmarked for a specific industry. At Middlebury I was able to take a step back and decide for myself what I wanted to pursue, without being distracted by the outside forces.
What qualities do you usually look for in prospective candidates to join your team, especially knowing that they come from a Liberal Arts background? I look for people who are highly collaborative — team players who know when to lead and when to follow. I also look for people who are problem solvers. At Google we are constantly faced with new problems that have never been solved before. Having creative problem-solving skills are essential to my team. I think folks with a liberal arts background constantly ask the root of the root of the root of a problem so that we can solve that issue, as opposed to the surface level problem.
Another thing I usually find in Middlebury students is an incredibly strong work ethic – people always willing to go that extra mile to deliver results for their team and their company.
What is your advice for Middlebury students seeking mentorship and networking opportunities? I would suggest that students start with their Middlebury network. There are so many Middlebury alumni in the technology industry who are eager to help Middlebury students who are just starting their careers. From a mentor’s perspective, it is very helpful for me to understand the challenges junior team members are going through. Mentorship is not a one-way street. Students should not be shy to reach out to mentors – generally speaking people want to help other people, especially if there’s that Middlebury connection. And both mentors and mentees get value out of the experience together.
This series is coordinated by Xiaoli Jin ’19. Look for more alumni profiles each week. You can connect with Xiaoli on LinkedIn.
If you are interested to interview alumni and contribute to this series, please contact Xiaoli Jin 2019′ on Midd2Midd.
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