Monday, June 25, 2007

Google ACM Meeting

On Thursday I arrived in Zurich, where I met up with other European ACM ICPC world finalists. We were gathered there to hear what Google had to offer in terms of relations with the ACM.

Last year we had a similar event, although it was combined with the European Code Jam. This year it was just us and we were further split into two smaller groups with the Russians having had their own meeting a week before. The idea was for the word of working for Google out there and to see how Google could help out with improving the ACM with things such as sponsorship.

I was there with my team of Timothy Stranex, Migael Strydom and Tamara von Glehn. At dinner the four of us met a Googler from Mountain View working in university relations - Davidson Young. After dinner we took a walk along the lake, where the atmosphere was very different to when I was there in winter.

The following morning we woke up early for breakfast where we had further discussions. We then took a bus to the Google office. One thing we had to keep very secret while I was working for them was that they were preparing to move to a new, much bigger office. Towards the end of my internship they were turning conference rooms into office rooms it was getting so cramped. The new building has the potential to hold over 600 people. Contrast that with the approximate number of 200 when I left in February.

The new office was really cool. If you look at the photo below you'll see just one of the many reasons it's so cool. Another is that they now get sushi on Thursdays, although there's always such a rush that it runs out very quickly. They also now have dark chocolate, something there was quite a fight for while I was there. The one thing may people didn't like when they saw the old and new office is that the new one is very open planned. Today I found out that that was only an experiment and they will be building more walls to make office rooms.

After a tour of the office, we went up to the 7th floor where Nick (my recruiter) started off the presentations with some talk on Google and why we were there. Then Aaron Aarcos, one of the guys I met while working in Zurich, gave a tech talk on AdWords. I attended a much more in depth talk on it while working for them so I knew all the stuff he said.

After his talk we took a short break during which I had to try the brand new coffee machine. We then split up with the contestants having a quiz in groups which Tamara's group won - apparently they had a Wii in there group and yet they still managed to win. Us coaches got together with Nick, Aaron and a couple other Googlers mainly dealing with university relations and discussed the interactions between ACM and Google.

We discussed many things ranging from helping out at high school level to starting a new contest. The idea of a new contest came from the Code Jam being too short and the group mostly preferring marathon contests. So we might soon be seeing something along the lines of a 72 hour open-to-all contest. I've also been trying to get Google to help out with getting some of our neighbours such as Zimbabwe, Namibia, Botswana and the rest to join our ACM regional event. They discussed the possibility of having internships as a part of university degrees and better advertising of specific positions available at Google.

When that was done we went across to a nearby tapas restaurant where discussions continued. The team was starting to get really nervous by now as they had their interviews at 16:00. I tried getting them to mingle with the Googlers as they are the ones that did the interviewing, but I think they failed that part.

When I arrived at the office, there were two Codesearch t-shirts waiting for me. Codesearch was the project I worked on for the most part of my internship ( Unfortunately the group I was working with were in Mountain View for a conference so I didn't get to see them. Below are a couple photos of the t-shirts (front then back). We also all got a world finalists 2007 t-shirt, but that one wasn't so special so no photo here. :P

After lunch we back to the 7th floor of the office for a tech talk by Gerhard Wesp on the C++ standards and some new features they're trying to add. He uses his 20% time to work on the C++ standards and has submitted a paper on adding networking streams that would work similarly to io streams. Some of the features he discussed a move operator (like copy, but source is in a "dead" state) and concepts which are too complicated to describe briefly (search for conceptgcc). There were many other smaller things he went through that frankly should already be there. It was an excellent talk!

After the talk we had a little free time before the interviewees were taken to the old office and the rest of us back to the hotel for more free time. I played some foosball with the Egyptian coach, Mohamed Taha, and two other guys from somewhere I'm not sure of - we won of course. :) We left shortly after. When I got back to the hotel I went straight off to do a little shopping.

I met up with Migael and Tamara on the bus as it was getting ready to leave for the zoo where we were having dinner. They didn't appear very confident about the interview. When we arrived at the zoo, we first went into their man-made Madagascar rain forest in a greenhouse. I had been there before in winter, but it was much warmer now in summer. It was around 35°, but the worst was the 100% humidity. We split into two groups and each got a guide which took us on a tour around the rain forest telling us many interesting stories such as when the animals get drunk from eating this massive fermenting fruit.

I think we were all glad when we left that place and got a breath of fresh air. It was real hot inside! We went inside the zoo where tables were waiting for us. We sat down and had dinner while having more interesting discussions. With all the people there coming from all over Europe and some from America, some of them hadn't seen many animals before. So they were quite excited to not only see the animals, but also eat with them around us. Below is a photo of one of the waiters who was very anxious to find the person who asked him for tea. :P

After dinner a small group of us followed one guy who said he knew this bar. He obviously did not as he took some time to find it. When we finally found a bar, we went inside and ordered. They took forever. I don't know how they make any money. When we finally got our drinks we chatted some more. I was chatting with the Egyptian coach, the Brazilian coach and Spanish contestant. We chatted a lot about the differences between our countries and it was interesting trying to gauge the difference in safety between Egypt, Brazil and South Africa. After the bar some of them still wanted to go to a disco, but I joined the group that bummed out. I heard afterwards that they stayed out till about 05:00, so I'm glad I skipped.

All in all, the event was very enjoyable. It was a great opportunity to meet the community we compete against in a relaxed state with no competitions happening and not too many people around.

1 comment:

  1. Nice write-up! I'm so glad you enjoyed the visit Marco - and hope that the interviews went well...keep in touch!

    Jenny Brown
    Engineering Campus Recruiter, EMEA
    Google UK Limited
    +44 (0) 207 881-4417