Innovation, the Internet, and Google: I listen to VP Marissa Mayer

Google has become such a prominent company that it actually has its own verb. Hardly a day goes by when I don’t use Google to learn information or satisfy my curiosity. If you’re like me, you may sometimes take such technology for granted. But after hearing Google’s VP Marissa Mayer speak at Cal Poly SU today, I have a greater appreciation for all the innovation that the Google company has accomplished.

Since Mayer has been working for Google since 1999, she was able to paint the big picture of Google’s history.It all began in Palo Alto, CA, near her alma mater Stanford University. She was the first female engineer hired within the small, start-up company. In nearly 12 years, Google has been striving to improve the organization of the World Wide Web, and to bring its users the most accurate search results possible. Now, it is the most popular search engine worldwide.

How has Google found so much success? Mayer addressed the unique environment of the Google workplace. The lunch area pops with Google’s signature primary colors. Interspersed within the offices are billiards tables, foosball tables, and special podlike chairs for napping. Employees are given “20% Time” or one day per workweek to pursue their own ideas within the company. The photos Mayer shared with the audience made Google seem like a jolly fun place to work at – so fun that some people wonder how Google keeps up its productivity. But Mayer believes that the relaxed, creative atmosphere is the key to Google’s success: she said that 50% of useful ideas stem from regular workdays, and 50% of ideas come from “20% Time,” a testament of how just a little extra creativity can go a long way. Employees were four times more productive when they were given more freedom to explore their own innovations.

Next, Mayer explained the overall process of a Google search. The search query you type in jumps to a Google computer hub, often in another state. At the hub, the work for your search is distributed to the computers with the smallest workload, for efficiency. Then the information must be formatted into a Google page with links, descriptions, and advertisements. The search jumps back to your home computer, hopefully delivering the desired results!

The final part of Mayer’s presentation was a brief introduction to Google’s newest innovations, such as Street View, Chrome, and Translate.

*Street View: Integrated with Google Maps/Google Earth to show photographs of locations all over the world. Type in your address, and you can see your house! Google employees once mounted cameras to their car and drove past your home, snapping away. Then all the photos were stitched together into a full view of your street, your city, the entire country.

*Chrome: Google’s own web browser, prided for its speed and personalizability. If I may utilize my recent knowledge from my Economics class, this is an example of ‘complementary products.’ Google has expanded its products from a search engine to web browsers that can be used to view that search engine – and Mayer highlighted the fact that when Internet browsers are are faster, people search more. Genius!

*Translate: Combines word comparison and voice recognition into a pocket translator. Speak into your phone, and it recognizes English. Then it translates your speech and plays it back in a different language. You can also record someone speaking to you in a foreign language, and Google’s translator will play it back to you in English.

I’m very thankful that I got to listen to Mayer’s informational presentation. I learned about Google and how it has achieved success. But I also learned about the Internet and its many possibilities for the future. Thanks to Cal Poly for putting on the event, and to my high school for organizing the field trip. It was very educational!