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Showing posts from June, 2011

Being Googley

I've been at Google for almost a year now and have been thinking back on what my expectations of the job would be like compared to what it has turned out to be. This got me thinking about corporate culture in general and how important it is for fostering innovation and being successful.

Google is well known for having a creative work environment with tons of perks -- free food, yoga classes, massage, on-site doctor. Here in Seattle, we can borrow kayaks to take out onto the shipping canal next to the building. (I am fond of telling people this but know full well that I am unlikely to ever take advantage of it.) On the surface these things might seem frivolous, but I think they go a long way towards creating an environment where people are passionate about what they do. The term we use is "being Googley," meaning, doing whatever it is that Google people do: thinking big, focusing on the user, not being evil, etc. On a more day-to-day basis, being Googley means turning out …

The changing face of Computer Science education

The New York Times has a great article today on changing attitudes towards CS, driven in part by movies like "The Social Network." Apart from the movie's (glossy and inaccurate) depiction of what it's like to be a hacker, there's something else going on here: the fact that CS students can jump in and apply their knowledge to build great things. At Harvard, countless undergrads taking the introductory CS50 class are producing games, websites, and iPhone apps -- some of which are good enough to turn into commercial products. I don't know of any other field where this is possible after taking just a single semester's worth of courses.

Of course, it wasn't always this way. For a very long time, Computer Science education at most Universities was grounded in the abstract and theoretical. Undergraduates rarely got the opportunity to build "real" applications or products. After all, before the advent of cheap, powerful PCs, a department might have …