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Ryder Ziola (BCS'06)

A day in the life

Ryder Ziola (BCS'06)

The most distinguishing aspect of working at Google is the quality of the people that you’re working with. Pretty much without exception, everyone there is the good kind of nerd and everyone I work with is really generous with their time, insights and all their knowledge. It’s an atmosphere of driven people doing exciting things.

FCS Alumnus makes sure google maps will get you where you’re going.

Ryder Ziola (BCSC’06) works at the google offices in Seattle, where he and his team are engaged in developing new functionalities and optimizations for the google maps app for android.  

Nobody has seen a paper map in years. Long past are the days when one risked life and limb to fumble with an oversized roadmap in the car. We now entrust our phones to do the tasks, barking out instructions with every turn.

Dalhousie Computer Science alumnus, Ryder Ziola, is aiding this navigation revolution as a Google developer for android devices. “I’m a software engineer,” he says. “And I work on Google maps for android, specifically the turn by turn navigation part.”

At the end of March of this year, Ziola gave a couple of talks to Dalhousie computer science students as part of a Google recruitment trip. He discussed some current work being done on the app as well as a few persistent problems that they had encountered, with the hope that some students may find the problems enticing enough to consider tackling.

Working at Google

The Seattle Google engineering offices are the third largest in the world. Situated on Lake Washington in the heart of Downtown Seattle, the offices host a number of amenities that merge a traditional office environment with the unconventionality that Google offices are famous for.

“Down in California it’s a very suburban office park,” Ziola explains. “There are slides and ping pong tables and that kind of thing. The offices in Seattle are a little bit ‘classier.’ They’re really nice, but it’s much more of a comfortable toned down environment.”

Despite being toned down, it’s still not quite all work and no play. If you’re looking for a Seattle Google engineer on their break, you might want to take a look at Lake Washington. Part of the office complex is a gym that is stocked with kayaks and paddleboards, which engineering are free to check out for an excursion on the water.

And of course, don’t forget a ride in the Google street view car. “From the outside you have these bright primary colors and it sort of has this amusement park kind of feel,” he recounts. “But then on the inside it’s just computers everywhere. Not as friendly on the inside.”

“The most distinguishing aspect of working at Google,” Ziola says, “is the quality of the people that you’re working with. Pretty much without exception, everyone there is the good kind of nerd and everyone I work with is really generous with their time, insights and all their knowledge. It’s an atmosphere of driven people doing exciting things.”

The student connection

“I actually came to Dal for the architecture program,” Ziola admits. When he realized he didn’t know what he wanted to do, he began looking into other programs. “I’ve always liked building things,” he says, “And computers are great for that. It’s the easiest way you can grab 100 components, shove them all together and build things really fast. And there’s just so much you can build with it!” After graduating from Dalhousie, Ziola interned at Microsoft as a researcher. He also worked at Intel and Singapore Management University before beginning his current position at Google. “Internships are great,” Ziola explains. “Internships are better than real jobs for learning because you go and have a defined project for a short period of time and get to do the high learning part of the job and then go leave and do something else. It’s a great way to get a taste for different parts of the industry and the amount that I’ve learned from doing them is huge.” Currently, Ziola acts as an alumni mentor in the Faculty of Computer Science’s mentorship program. “There are a lot of fundamental things about the mechanics of how the industry works that you don’t know when you’re in school,” he says. “Even just explaining what kinds of jobs actually exist at companies can help.” Even on the west coast, Ziola is still feeling the Dal connection. “Dal people show up everywhere,” he says. “We’re always keeping an eye out for each other!”