|Digital and IT services|
|Large business (250+ employees)|
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A day in the life of a Engineering Manager in the United States
Working for Google in the San Francisco Bay Area, leading the Video FX team at YouTube.
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
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!
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 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.
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.
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!
If you like the look of Willi’s profile, the next steps are down to you! You can send Willi a message to find out more about their career journey. If you feel you would benefit from more in-depth conversations, ask Willi to be your mentor.