tech career Josh Woodward: “It’s exciting to be on the ground floor of something like this,” the Google Chrome project manager said.
Josh Woodward gets some odd responses when he tells his Google co-workers in Silicon Valley that he’s from Oklahoma.
“There’s always a little bit of a reaction,” he said. “The question is typically, ‘How did you get here?’ ”
How Woodward got to the Google Inc. headquarters in Mountain View, Calif., is almost as interesting as where he is now – project manager for Google’s Chrome operating system, which is used to power computers completely oriented toward tasks on the Web. Specifically, Woodward is a manager on the Chrome OS user interface team.
He said designing an entire computer operating system around a Web browser is a challenge because traditional operating systems have trained people to keep the various programs they use stored on their computers.
“My job on the user interface side is to help make sure that users can get to the functions they want to use, like email, quickly,” he said. “We want to reveal to users that there are alternatives to old-world programs online.”
Still, he’s confident that users will begin to embrace Chrome and use it as an operating system, as Google is noticing that more of what average people want to do on their computers is oriented around the Web.
“It’s exciting to be on the ground floor of something like this, which can change the way people look at computing,” Woodward said.
Yet he didn’t always envision a career in tech. Although he helped set up web feeds of sports events at Deer Creek High School in Edmond more than a decade ago – the feeds hit a peak of 70 people, which he called “exciting in the pre-YouTube days” – he went on to get bachelor’s degrees in economics and marketing with a minor in history by the time he graduated from the University of Oklahoma in 2006.
Woodward then earned a master of arts degree in comparative government from St. Anne’s College in Oxford, England, which, oddly enough, is how he connected with Google.
“I got an internship in Google-London, where I worked with small businesses to learn about Google products,” he said.
Although Woodward originally planned to go on and get a doctorate, he decided to see where Google would take him.
He said the Internet giant strongly values tech-related internships when hiring employees, along with a general bent toward creativity and weird interests that has become known as “Googliness.”
“I talked about woodworking and building clocks in my interview,” he said.
Woodward comes back to Oklahoma every two or three months, in part to mentor entrepreneurship and computer science students at OU’s Center for the Creation of Economic Wealth.
Although Oklahoma isn’t the first place people think of when it comes to digital technology, Woodward tells students that getting hired by companies such as Google isn’t just a pipe dream.
They might not even have to travel too far from home. Google recently announced an expansion of its $700 million data center near Pryor, which will add 50 employees to its current roster of 100.
Or students may find themselves taking the more adventurous route traveled by Woodward.
“Silicon Valley seems like a distant concept for Oklahoma students, but it’s really not that far of a stretch,” he said.
Original Print Headline: OU grad carves out path to Google