Working for Google in the San Francisco Bay Area, leading the Video FX team at YouTube.

About me

Willi G.
Computer Science
Computer Science
BSc
Derwent
1989
United Kingdom

About this profile

Engineering Manager
Google/YouTube
United States
Digital and IT services
Large business (250+ employees)
2015

About the job

What I do

I'm the Technical Lead/Manager for the Video FX group at YouTube. Our main focus is on self-expression tools for our various mobile creation surfaces: Uploads, Live and Stories (still in beta).

Skills I use and how I developed them

On a daily basis, my work is now more about technical leadership. I still use C++, Python and JavaScript when I get the chance. This is on top of a body of knowledge about the theatre, film and TV industry I've amassed through my career.

What I like most

Working with highly intelligent, humble people on challenging and rewarding projects.

What I like least

For the fifteen years before joining Google/YouTube, I was working in the visual effects industry, and I still miss the creative element, which is not as significant in my job here.

What surprised me most

The biggest surprise for me so far was making it through Google's hiring process!

Finding and applying for the job

How I looked for work

I used many tools in my most recent job search, but probably the most significant were https://www.linkedin.com/ and https://www.glassdoor.com/ However, in the end, my personal contacts turned out to be the most important thing, as they have for my last four positions.

How I found out about the job

Personal contacts

The recruitment process

I was originally referred to Google through a friend who has worked here for a few years. A recruiter reached out to me, and after an initial phone screening, I was scheduled for the standard day of interviews. The Google hiring process is pretty well documented, but it mainly consists of 5 45-minute interviews, which in my case (for a mid-senior role) consisted of a combination of white-board coding exercises with discussions about design and management. The results of these interviews were then considered by a hiring committee (consisting of a completely different set of people to the interviewers) who recommended an offer.

My career

My career goals when I graduated

My career goals have always been to combine my love of technical problem solving with that of the arts, particularly film/TV and computer graphics.

My career history

Right after college I tried two things in quick succession: software engineering and video post production at the BBC. I eventually found my passion when I left the second of these to work on a PhD in Computer Graphics. I never finished the PhD, but it led me into computer games, and then visual effects production for feature films.

What has helped my career to progress

Finding a niche (computer graphics) which I both liked and was good at.

Courses taken since graduation

I undertook the BBC's full training programme, which has provided a huge amount of background knowledge I've used over the years. And although I never finished my PhD, I appreciate the skills and knowledge it helped me develop.

How my studies have helped my career

My Computer Science degree from York is the foundation of everything I've achieved since. Although I've not always worked as a software engineer, those problem solving skills have always been useful. I'm also happily surprised at how relevant my knowledge of computer science remains, even over 25 years after graduation.

What surprised me about my career so far

Everything. I never expected growing up in Scotland and the north of England that I would spend most of my career living in San Francisco working on Hollywood movies! In retrospect I can make sense of it all, but really it was a series of happy accidents.

Where I hope to be in 5 years

I still feel like my transition back into software engineering at Google/YouTube after supervising visual effects production at Industrial Light + Magic for over 10 years is still quite new. Right now, I'm loving my team at YouTube, and hope I can continue to lead it through a period of growth as YouTube scales up its efforts in mobile video creation.

My advice to students

My advice to students considering work

You need to find something you both love doing, and have a special aptitude for. And if anything, the second is more important - I've found that if you're good at something, you'll enjoy doing it.

My advice about working in my industry

Start somewhere small and work up to the bigger places. As a small fish in a large pond, it can be quite dispiriting - much better to start somewhere smaller where you can exercise and grow a wide range of skills, even if it might not initially pay as well, you'll be happier in the long run.

Other advice

Two big things...
1. Dream big! I never thought my career would take me where it has, but I kept open to the possibilities and chased every opportunity as hard as possible.
2. The one I really wish I'd understood earlier in my career - the most important asset you have is the people you know and your connections with them.

Contacting me

I'm always happy to give advice on anything I may possibly be qualified to have an opinion on. And actually anything I'm not qualified for either!


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