Ricardo built his career around putting users first

Welcome to the latest edition of “My Path to Google,” where we talk to Googlers, interns and alumni about how they got to Google, what they do in their roles and how they prepared for their interviews.

Today, Ricardo Prada shares how his passion for helping users has led to a career building technology to positively impact the world.

What do you do at Google?

I lead the AI User Experience (AIUX) team in Google Research. Working alongside top research scientists, I study changes in society and science to create and bring product concepts to life. Outside of my core role, I also help out with our company-wide efforts to support the Latino community.

Can you tell us a bit more about your background?

I was born in Colombia and moved to California with my family when I was five. My dad was an engineer, my mom was a math teacher and I was a nerdy kid who loved science fiction and technology. I graduated from high school early and went straight to a community college, where I discovered my passion for applying psychology to technology and engineering.

How did you ultimately end up at Google?

I was a UX Design intern at Google while studying for my PhD at George Mason University in Virginia. After graduation, I worked for the aerospace company Boeing — and while I was there, I reconnected with my former team at Google. During one of our conversations, we started chatting about Gmail and I shared how I’d design Gmail labels based on my experiences in UX. We stayed in touch, and I eventually decided to return to Google.

What were you up to before your current role?

I’ve always been intentional about my career path and had a passion for working on technology that will have a positive impact on the world. I worked at X for almost eight years, where I led design for Project Chauffeur — Google’s self-driving car program, now known as Waymo — and was the first UX tester for many of X’s early-stage projects. I’m proud to have helped dozens of rockstar scientists and designers create principled and unexpected solutions to the world's biggest problems, from self-driving cars to medical devices.

Ricardo smiles on the rooftop of Google’s New York City office, with the lower Manhattan night skyline in the background.

What gets you most excited about your role?

In UX, my job is to understand our users — how are we going to make their lives better? For me, talking to people, listening to their problems and figuring out how to solve them has been super rewarding. I’m also part of the Latinx Leadership Council at Google, which has given me the opportunity to create even more impact. I’m proud to represent Colombia and help Google empower the Latino community, such as increasing representation in our use cases and workforce.

What inspires you to log on every day?

It’s really important to me to stay useful and not get bored. I'm coming close to 15 years at Google. Whenever I start thinking about my next move, someone tells me, "Go to this building and open this door." I'll go and think, "Whoa, I didn't know we were doing this!" Google is an incredible place to get really broad experiences, and that's what keeps me going.

What advice would you share with your past self?

Tell people what drives your decisions. At Google, we always say to focus on the user and all else will follow. I learned this early on and molded my work around it. Once you establish your values, everything will fall into place. You’ll attract people and projects that are aligned with those values.