CS on Air in collaboration with Women Techmakers - Interview with Mandy Waite

Uploaded by eduatgoogle on 23.01.2013

hello, in collaboration with women techmakers
this is the second in a series of informal interviews with female engineers at Google
for us to learn what motivated them to embark on a career in computer science, and to find out what excites them about
the field today. We're lucky to be joined today by Mandy Waite, who's a developer advocate in our office in London
My name's Alison and I'm in Zurich, and we're also joined by Lynette in London
and Marialena in Dublin.
So Mandy, thanks for joining us. Maybe you could start off by telling us a little bit about your
current role at Google
and also the kind of projects that you've worked on in the past
OK, cool...
So I've been working at Google for about two and a half years now, starting in
September of 2010.
I've been doing the same role, pretty much
all the time I've been here. I work for a group called developer relations in Google
where we
work with developers to help them try to be successful... help them *try* to be...
to help them *be* successful with our products and technologies
last year and the year before I worked on Adwords, the Adwords API
helping developers and partners particularly get up and running... get them
up to speed with all of the APIs we have... get them being successful with that particular API...
Currently I'm working on the Cloud platform
The Cloud platform is all of our cloud products, things like
Google App engine, Google compute engine, Big Query
and lots of the data storage options that we have
and, yeah, I work with partners in the UK mostly, and startups... getting them
up and running with those products.
And... you mentioned that you've been at Google for just a couple of years.
Can you tell us a bit about what you did before that?
Yeah sure.. I think, a couple of years at Google
looks like a lifetime to most people!
It make seem like a short time on paper, but
it's been an extraordinary ride so far.
So yeah, beforehand, I started my career at Kodak
working on video, that kind of technologies... I can talk a bit more
about that later.
uh... and
after that I worked for Sun Microsystems, one of the big tech companies of the [2000's]
The dot com boom people..
you know we were behind the dot com, we drove the dot com...
I used to work on
the java programming language back then
I did pretty much the same role
at Sun Microsystems as I do here, I worked with partners, mainly independent software
vendors... helping them to get their products into our platforms...
Back in those days they weren't as interested in our platforms as people are today in Google's platforms

We were on a big downslope and ultimately got
purchased by Oracle...
uh, in twenty...
2009 I think
Cool, so you've had a pretty long career then!
Yeah, I'm really old! ... So, how did you come to get started in computing?
You know, what was the hook that got you started?
So OK, it was really career wise. It started off with my career
uh... well not really even just my career. At college I was studying radio
and television... radio and television mechanics
and that involved a lot of video processing, that kind of thing...
and once I started my career I was working on electrical circuits, many of them had
logic gates, integrated circuits, those kind of things... They were the
previous version of chips, things that were
kind of designed to do one specific job and do that really well
uh... and then later on things got a bit more complicated as microprocessors
came to the fore... things that would be programmed.
And that was all part of my job as well, so I was working with them continuously.
So once microprocessors kicked in things got
got a lot more interesting in terms of computing.
yeah, I even started programming in postscript which is a document
language, a language for creating documents
uh... which was used by, back then it was Kodak... we used to have these image
We'd have a document publishing system that would
process documents from a word processing system into
Postscript, and then print them on a printer.
So that was my first programming language...
Then since then I've kind of
moved into a much more technical role working on Unix systems and that kind of thing.
And what was it that you particularly... that kind of grabbed you
about it, that made you fascinated and interested...
I just think that there were so many things that you could do with it...
At a particular point in time everything seemed to be pretty muddled

There were things being created and such like that were new, but there was nothing
like this...
We started seeing videos, well not even videos, probably live
recordings of robot arms in factories and things doing stuff that was really
interesting, it seemed like there's so much potential here, things that you could never
previously have imagined were becoming possible, and that's just tremendously
exciting... and the wonderful, the most exciting part of it is that

it is things that you've never thought of before, not just doing things bigger and faster than you previously did
but just doing things that you could never possibly have imagined
and that really just grabbed my attention and made me want to work in it.
Another thing, I actually made a conscious choice is to say, oh I'm going to go and work in computing
I had a career
and my career went in a certain path and that path led me to being a computer engineer.
And Mandy, what's the most amazing thing that you've seen created by computer science?
That's really difficult

I did have some advance knowledge of this question and so I kind of looked at it and gave it some thought.
I'm thinking, as I say, it's about all of those things that we could never have imagined doing
before, you know, not just doing things faster and better.
Things like the Internet itself... We're fortunate enough to have somebody in our office who knows
Tim Berners Lee, which is amazing, because he invented the Internet, and it's just a leap ...
a leap of ...
a leap of innovation that
we could never previously have thought of. It takes minds like Tim Berners Lee to
actually come up with those things. So it's things like that, and social media.. We could never really have imagined social media
and the way that works... Mobile phones even, you know, those kind of things are just amazing.
Advances in science that would
just not be possible without computer science...
Today computer science is pretty much everywhere
so it's driving everything...
I'm pretty much stunned by everything, and every day I look on Google+ and see new products
and things being produced that are just amazing
they just make me..
I just say wow!
I could never have thought of that myself, it just amazing.
So, looking forward... if you could jump forward
five years even ten years, what do you expect to be amazed by?
Well, I think 5 years in tech is a huge amount of time, I really do. I think 5 months
is probably pushing it nowadays! The next thing I'm looking forward to
is my vision of the cloud, I'm looking forward to ubiquitous computing
I'm looking forward to
computing being
It being like an electricity supply almost, like a electricity utility
where you just plug something in and it gets computing resources and and you can
use those resources to do anything.
You plug your microwave, not just into a electrical outlet, but also into a
network socket
and then it becomes active on the Internet and you can do things that you couldn't do
even possibly have imagined doing.... Weighing scales that can actually record your weight
and show you trends in your weight over a period of time
You know, it may say,
look last Christmas you put on ten kilograms and this Christmas you put on
ten kilograms, there must be a pattern here somewhere! Those kind of things, I'm really looking
forward to that, so the "Internet of Things", everything being connected, everything being ubiquitous
but mostly as well I think
everything being hidden and discrete, you know, that it's not obvious to people that
they're working a computing device anymore. Everything works
kind of interactively within the whole environment, there's nothing that stands
out that you would recognise as a computer. A lightbulb is a lightbulb, but it's got a microprocesser in it...
same with a fridge and those kind of things, everything is kind of
hooked up and wired up but it's not obvious t the user, and they don't have to worry about
all of that stuff, they just get useful information back from it.
And also the analysis of data that comes from all those things and showing us trends and patterns that
we couldn't possibly have
looked at before. An example would be the flu kind of
analysis that we've done through Google search before, and it's shown patterns of
people searching for particular terms that
indicated where flu epidemics were actually breaking out across the world, those kind of things.
So, welcome back, apologies there for our connectivity loss for a few moments. I think Mandy was so excited about the
future of computer science and what it could do, that she actually blew
the systems!
So, we'll try and keep it a bit calmer now!
So Mandy, just as our final question, what would you advise someone who's in school right now who's thinking about studying computer science, and what
should they do to find out if it's something they should be good at?
I'm guessing that today
computer science is multidisciplinary, that you have kind of paths within computer
science that you can choose. And I think it's probably deciding
very early on which path you're going to take. Do you want to become a programmer,
you don't have to become a programmer I guess nowadays,
I think it used to be very key to computer science back in the old days,
probably not so much nowadays.
Do you want to do application development, do you want to work on
networking, do you want
to work on the social aspects of it, do you want to become a founder
of a startup, those kind of things
and I think even if you do want to become a funder of a startup, you probably need some
technical skills, so you actually understand what you're trying to do,
what you're trying to achieve.
I think it's very important to work out early, at a very early stage, what it is exactly
you want to achieve by going into computer science. I also think, even if you only studied
computer science for a year, you can get a huge benefit from some of the skills you would learn that
will allow you to be powerful things with applications and such like that you
probably wouldn't be able to do otherwise.
For example, Google Documents has this thing called App script that allows you to
really do exciting things with documents and spreadsheets and uh...
presentations and those kind of things. App script is a hugely powerful tool, and
you do have to have little bit of programming skill to do it, and I think if everybody
learnt some programming skills early on that would be very useful to them.
But again, as I say, you have the option to choose a particular path in
computer science, I think you should really give it a lot of thought about exactly what it is
you want to achieve
We interviewed somebody, a very famous
person yesterday called Ping Fu, she's the
CEO of GeoMagic
CEO of GeoMagic
and she always wanted to make things, and it became very obvious
and I think
one thing there is a danger of is entering computer science just for the sake of it
without really a clear idea of what you want to achieve.
I think if you're a maker, and you really believe in making things, then I think you can look
at it and approach it from that kind of angle... If you want to become a startup and a founder then
approach it from that kind of angle. If you want to design cool things, that kind of stuff as well
rather than actually just producing then that might be interesting.
So I think it's very important to choose at an early stage what it is you want to do

and hopefully when you become an intern you'll
get into a role that's particularly suited to that need and then you can move on
into a career that really suits you as opposed to something that you're just kind of like
shoe-horned into
shoe-horned into
Great, thanks very much for joining us Mandy and answering all our questions. Thanks to everybody else who joined
the broadcast.
If you want to find out more about the women techmakers series
if you go to developers dot google dot com
forward slash women dash techmakers, you can see these videos there. We'll be back tomorrow
with an interview with a software engineer from Zurich. Same time, same place

and details of all of the CS on Air sessions are available on our Education on Air website.
OK, thanks everybody and have a nice afternoon.