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Google at 20, an Insider’s View


This September 2018 marks Google’s 20th anniversary. Chris LaRosa ’03, now a senior product manager at Google, joined the company as an intern on the technical writing team in 2007. To make the company’s milestone birthday, we asked him to share a little about his path to Google and his work at the company.

Chris LaRosa ’03
Hamilton College (2002)

When I left Hamilton in 2003, I had thoroughly enjoyed majoring in computer science and serving as the editor of The Spectator. I wanted to be a computer science academic or a journalist, but was not sure which. Fortunately I was embarking on a yearlong Watson Fellowship to study how the Internet was changing print journalism, which I figured would buy me time to figure out my path. I had not considered that in five years I would be working for a company that did not yet exist, in a role I didn’t know existed, and that I’d work on a product that would have more users than there are people in the United States.

After returning from my Watson, still unsure of what I wanted to do, I went to grad school. During the summer of 2007, Julie Parent ’03, a software engineering manager at Google, reached out looking for alumni interested in joining the company. That summer I started as an intern. Later that year after graduating, I joined full-time working as a technical account manager on YouTube before transitioning into product management.

After Hamilton:

  • Watson Fellowship
  • Technical Account Manager, Google
  • Product Manager, Music, YouTube
  • Product Manager, Flux Factory
  • Group Product Manager, Twitter
  • Product Manager, Google

In my job as a product manager I work with our Engineering, Design, and Marketing teams to plan where we want our products to be next month, next year, and in five-years’ time — all while we get done everything that needed to be done yesterday. The work is very rewarding when I see people using the tools we built to make everyday life easier and more enjoyable. Watching thousands of people the world over dance and share their own music videos for Pharell’s Happy or Baauer’s Harlem Shake were notable highlights from my time at YouTube. Closer to home, after renovating and decorating my apartment, I thought it would be convenient if my phone had the ability to function like a tape measure — last year I joined a team that added that capability to Google’s Pixel phones.

What I enjoy most about my work — and what Hamilton prepared me well for — is that there is no single right path when we’re building new products. Every day I’m faced with problems where there are many solutions that need to be debated critically. Being able to debate, communicate, defend, and most of all being open to new ideas are the crux of my work and what makes it so enjoyable.

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