By Liz Wimberg
Graduate Jake Voytko came to the College on Wednesday, March 21 to speak about working for Google. Voytko and his former professor Dr. Peter DePasquale joked like old friends, creating a comfortable atmosphere for the audience.
Voytko was funny and confident, captivating his listeners with wit and technological jargon. “Some people still use IEICE,” he said, “and God help them.” Once a computer science major, Voytko told the tech-savvy students what he experienced through working for SRI International and eventually obtaining his dream job on the Google Docs team.
Voytko first spoke of his experiences at Sarnoff, a software engineering firm that recently merged with a larger organization known as SRI International. Two major projects he worked on during his time with Sarnoff were self-driving robots and simulated training machines, both primarily intended for military use. While soldiers used to operate robots via joystick, these autonomous machines don’t require continuous instruction, creating a safer environment with less distraction.
The simulated training apparatus includes goggles, a gun and a computer in a backpack. The soldier sees targets through the goggles, but the images are actually digital projections from the computer he carries. These simulations are much more efficient than wasting real ammunition and shooting at stationary targets, Voytko said.
Once he started working with Google, Voytko began to notice the many perks associated with his new job. “Free delicious food” and a “fun workspace” were among his favorites. Voytko also mentioned how humbling it was to work with people who are “smarter than (him) … funnier than (him).” Voytko certainly proved his own humorous persona and technological expertise throughout his presentation.
His skills are far from flawless, Voytko said, and he mentioned a few of his own challenges. He urged students to recognize their areas of weakness, and to continually work to improve, particularly considering the rapid changes in their field of work. “I try not to be ignorant about my ignorance,” he said. Voytko spoke about the longevity of each project for which he is responsible on the Google Docs team. “I’m working on the same thing now that I was a year and a half ago,” he said, in contrast to the semester-long responsibilities he had at the College.
Voytko wrapped it up by offering some advice on the interviewing process. He stressed the importance of preparation. and suggested that you first find out how a company conducts interviews, perhaps by running a Google search. After doing just that, Voytko discovered the types of problems he would be expected to solve. Next, he said, you have to “practice, practice, practice.” Voytko himself practiced problems over and over for about a month leading up to the big day. When the time came, he was ready. Voytko landed his dream job, and he encouraged students to believe that they could, too.