Graduating to Google: TU alumni begin careers in computer science

his summer, Abigail LaBounty began her career at a company where the number of coworkers surpasses the population of her hometown in Warner, Okla. LaBounty completed her bachelor’s degree in computer science in May, and with three Google internships on her résumé, she’s ready to take on the role of a site reliability engineer at the company’s headquarters in San Francisco.

LaBounty completed Google internships in Mountain View, Calif., New York City and Zurich, Switzerland, home to the internet search engines’ largest engineering office outside of the United States. Each opportunity previewed what it’s like to work at a worldwide technology powerhouse known for taking care of its employees.

“There’s a lot of cooperation, and you’re given the resources you need to make the best product you can,” LaBounty said. “Everyone is really supportive, especially to interns, and it makes for a great work environment.”

GoogleTraining is an important part of employment at Google, and projects often are assigned to teams of engineers, rather than individuals. Vibrant, colorful offices inspire employees who are never more than 250 feet from some kind of food. Cafés, espresso machines and micro-kitchens stocked with snacks are never out of reach. LaBounty said the Mountain View office features a rock climbing wall and amusement park spinning tea cups. In Zurich, Google offers an aquarium and water lounge, and many of the locations have intramural sports teams, ping pong tables and fitness classes.

Working as an engineer at Google is quite the contrast from LaBounty’s original plan to go to medical school and become a psychologist, but she learned she enjoyed computer science as a student at the Oklahoma School of Science and Mathematics in Oklahoma City.

“I knew TU had a good computer science program, and the way it’s built on a fundamental system of logic really clicked with me,” she said. “I immediately understood it and wanted to learn more.”

LaBounty will join a growing club of TU alumni now employed at Google. Rodrigo Chandia (MS ’00, PhD ’09) began working in the Atlanta office in 2010 and has since moved to the Cambridge, Mass., location as a software engineer. He said many of the computing competitions and department extracurricular activities he experienced at TU primed him for his current position — developing new features in the Google application for hotel information.

“When people search for ‘hotels in Tulsa,’ I care that those hotels and the prices are shown in a useful way,” Chandia said. “We know in the long run, helping users makes Google better for everyone.”

He is proud of the work ethic his company represents and enjoys the camaraderie of his co-workers. With support from colleagues, he has worked on four project areas including Google Search, Google Maps and the Android Maps app.

“I can rely on them to help me do things even when I am unfamiliar with the code,” Chandia said. “When you are surrounded by very bright people, you are encouraged to produce great results like everyone else.”

Conor Fellin (BS ’15) has worked at Google in Mountain View for one year. His job involves catching fraudulent traffic on Google’s ad networks.

“TU’s chapter of the Association for Computing Machinery does a lot to prepare students for programming outside of classrooms and networking within the computer industry,” he said.

TU’s reputation as a reliable producer of respected Google engineers continues to emerge. Doctoral student Marie Vasek has received one of the company’s most prestigious awards, the Google Anita Borg Memorial Scholarship. The $10,000 award is granted to women in the computer science industry.

“Once a TU computer science graduate gets a foot in the door at a company like Google, it tends to open up a pipeline between our program and the company — they appreciate the professional and technical skills of our students,” said John Hale, Tandy Professor of Bioinformatics and Computational Biology.