My Path to Google: Hee Jung Ryu, Senior Software Engineer, Google Research

Welcome to the 16th installment of our blog series “My Path to Google.” These are real stories from Googlers, interns, and alumni highlighting how they got to Google, what their roles are like, and even some tips on how to prepare for interviews.

Today’s post is all about Hee Jung Ryu. Read on!

Can you tell us a bit about yourself?

I grew up in South Korea, in a district called Ilsan at the Northeast corner of Seoul. I also lived in a town called Vienna, Virginia, in the U.S. for one year when I was thirteen years old, basically to learn English.

I started college at Hanyang University in Seoul, South Korea, but transferred to Cornell University in the U.S. in my sophomore year. I graduated from Cornell with a Bachelor’s specializing in artificial intelligence and Master’s degrees in computer science focused on computer vision and distributed computing, with minors in mechanical engineering concentrating in robotics. I also worked at a robotics lab—albeit briefly—as an undergrad.

I think of myself as a collector of new experiences: scuba diving and surfing (despite my fear of deep water), skydiving, airplane piloting, ziplining, snowboarding, and more! New experiences get me excited and keep me awed and humble, because I realize that there is so much in this world that I want to learn about.

What’s your role at Google?

My official title at work is senior software engineer, and I’m on the Google Research team. I research artificial intelligence (A.I.), specifically at the intersection of Deep Learning and Computer Vision. I also explore the topic of “fairness” in machine learning.

What inspires you to come in every day?

My past five-and-a-half years at Google flew by so quickly because every day at work has been full of exciting projects and conversations. For me, the best part of working at Google is the respect and freedom given to engineers and research scientists. We are always empowered to choose or create our own projects. For example, in my role, I’ve been able to research the topic of building more inclusive machine learning systems (see my research Improving Smiling Detection with Gender and Race Diversity). What could be more exciting than working on something that you are passionate about?

I’ve also had the opportunity to turn one of my ideas, an electronic screen protector, into a reality, which I presented at the 2017 NIPS (Neural Information Processing Systems) conference. In addition, Google has provided me with an abundance of resources, from hardware and software to access to experts in various fields, waiting to kindly share their passion and knowledge with me because I’m part of their Google family.

Can you tell us about your decision to enter the process?

More than anything, the following experience led me to choose Google over other companies and offers: A female lead recruiter from Google came to Cornell’s campus during a fall recruitment season. She had such an energy and charisma, which inspired me and convinced me that Google was the place for me.

How did the recruitment process go for you?

Through Cornell’s on-campus recruiting process, I applied for a job at Google and got an on-campus interview. At the same time, a Googler reached out to me through LinkedIn, offering to refer me to Google, which I agreed to, as well.

What do you wish you’d known when you started the process?

I would have discussed more of my extracurricular activities and interests during the interview process in order to emphasize my passion for pursuing new ideas and experiences.

Can you tell us more about the resources you used to prep?

I reviewed my university course materials on data structures and algorithms and also interviewed with other companies before doing the interview with Google, so I could practice and get more experience interviewing.

What tips you’d like to share with aspiring Googlers?

Don’t be afraid to teach yourself something new. I think that being able to teach yourself about a new field quickly can help you succeed in the fast-paced, constantly changing world of technology, especially when you are at the forefront of a research subject, like A.I.. There’s rarely someone else who can teach you what you want to know because we’re all exploring and discovering new aspects of the technology at the same time. So you have to be the one to trailblaze and truly grow by teaching yourself and others along the way.

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