Google Software Engineer Shares Insights

Dr. David Petrou P’34
Google Software Engineer, Dr. David Petrou P’34

Poly’s “How I Got Here” guest speaker series continued this fall with Dr. David Petrou P’34, whose LinkedIn profile describes him as “a Distinguished Software Engineer at Google, leading teams deploying machine intelligence directly on devices like Pixel and across Android generally, using privacy-preserving technologies such as Federated Learning. David believes in enhancing people’s capabilities through AI-powered augmentation. Based in NYC, he was a founding member of Google Goggles and Google Glass, and has a PhD from Carnegie Mellon.”

As he conducted a roundtable discussion with Upper School students, Dr. Petrou could probably understand the interests of Andy Fu ‘23, Marisa Triola ’24,  Kyle Williams ’23, and Brianna Kwan ’23. As a third grader, Petrou said he had begged his parents for a computer. After almost 16 years with Google, Petrou says he has a “front row seat on the future of technology.”

Opeyemi Laniyonu, Poly’s Director of Annual Giving, served as moderator.

The discussion began with Dr. Petrou sharing his own career journey. Dr. Petrou said that his father was an inventor and he received a great deal of encouragement from his parents. He explained that he was hired at Google to work on one project, but allowed to follow another that interested him. His curiosity led to the area of computer vision and one of the projects he worked on was Google Goggles. He also described for the students how the Google C++ Style Guide is used.

As a manager of 140 people at Google, Dr. Petrou said, he “carves out time” and tries “to connect ideas with people and projects.” He asked the students if they had questions. One asked him what he thought of the metaverse. “It’s about recognizing this shift,” he said. “Technology has a role to play, but there should be balance.” He spoke about machine learning and how computer science can be used to help solve problems we deal with such as climate change.

How I Got Here speaker series with Dr. David Petrou P’34 round table photo

A student asked about the ethics of the metaverse. Dr. Petrou told students to consider, “Your data and who has access.” He added, “There are actors out there who want access to your data.”

“I really enjoyed hearing Dr. Petrou’s presentation,” said Marisa Triola, who participated in the AI Scholars Program this summer. “The advice that he provided to us helped me understand his path and education, and it also inspired me to create more computer science projects for fun.”

“I was most intrigued by the work that he did at Google,” Triola said. “He explained how he worked on Google search results, and how the search engine chooses an answer to display from those results. I found this amazing because this is a technology that I often use, and have wondered about.  I also was very interested by what he said about the metaverse, as despite it seeming amazing, there are still many concerns and issues to be solved if it were to become a possibility.”

Kyle Williams, who is a member of Poly’s new Varsity Robotics Team, said, “I’ve known that my future career is going to involve technology somehow for quite some time due to my parents, and Dr. Petrou only helped me affirm that. Projects like identifying real-world objects with your phone or mapping out all the destinations a book mentions are the ones that make me fall in love with computers all over again, and I thought it was very cool that he was involved in starting both of those projects at Google.”

“How I Got Here” discussions with professionals such as Dr. Petrou, prompt the imaginations of our students and offer them an insider’s view of the diverse career paths of Poly parents, alumni, and board members.

How I Got Here speaker series with Dr. David Petrou P’34 group photo
(Left to Right) Dr. David Petrou P’34, Kyle Williams ’23, Marisa Triola ’24,  Brianna Kwan ’23, and Andy Fu ‘23.