A Q&A with three Lake Mary High School grads hard at work in the top tech companies that are changing the world
Facebook, Google, NASA. It’s fair to say that everyone is familiar with these three globally impactful tech giants. Facebook changed the way we communicate, Google changed the way we access information, and NASA changed the way we look at the universe and our existence on Earth. And, all three companies continue to make cutting-edge advancements for future generations.
Meet three Lake Mary High grads who work at these leading companies and are part of the global engine of change that propels us every day. In this Q&A, learn about what they do, what keeps them motivated, and how they landed gigs at the world’s top tech companies.
Chase Hu Facebook | c/o 2008
Q: What do you do at Facebook?
A: I lead the data science team for Internet.org that focuses on bringing people online across the world. I help determine the goals of our engineering team and use data to see where the opportunities are to bring people online. In my role, I really enjoy having the chance to lead and mentor the team.
Q: Explain what Internet.org is exactly.
A: Internet.org is about connectivity. At Facebook, we believe connectivity is a human right. There are a couple of barriers that prevent people from coming online, like affordability, awareness, and accessibility to a reliable network. So Internet.org works to explore different solutions to each of these barriers.
Q: What projects are you working on as part of the Internet.org team?
A: One thing I work on is called Free Basics. We partner with telecom companies in developing countries where mobile data is expensive and give people access to basic websites for free – including news, local information, and communications tools like Facebook.
Q: Do you have a particular experience that keeps you motivated in your work?
A: As part of my work, travel is encouraged, and we research different markets. I visited the Philippines last summer and decided to do some of my own personal research. I asked some street children in Manila if they would show me how they use the internet. They would beg for money on the streets and then go to an internet café to watch videos and research things they were interested in. It opened up their world beyond the streets of Manila, and every kid had a dream, whether it was to be a nurse, police officer, or flight attendant. It validated my work and the real benefit that the internet can have on someone’s life if it can be accessed for free or at a lower cost.
Q: What did you study and how did it lead to working at Facebook?
A: I got my bachelor’s degree in economics and my master’s degree in applied math at Harvard. There, I developed an interest in economic development and tried microfinance for a little while in college. I wanted to make a lasting impact in my work and do something of meaning, so I looked for ambitious projects happening in the world right now that pushed economic development at a high level. That’s what drew me to Internet.org. Another thing I like about Facebook is how much responsibility is placed on the individual person. You present your own work. The company helps you, but does not tell you what to do. It can be scary and yet empowering.
Amar Vedi Google | c/o 2007
Q: Describe what you do at Google.
A: I’m a program design and marketing specialist in People Operations. There are three broad areas in my role: program design, marketing campaign execution, and talent management.On a typical day I’m developing compelling marketing campaigns with creatives, determining the strategic vision for my program, and setting my team up for success in their roles.
Q: It sounds like you have a full plate. What do you enjoy about working at Google?
A: There’s a lot of freedom, and it stems from trust. At Google, they trust that you’ll do what’s right and that you’re good at what you do. Of course the perks and benefits are cool and very attractive, but Google enables you and allows you to do your best work. There is always an opportunity to be a leader, which I love.
Q: You work among some of the best and the brightest. What keeps you motivated?
A: My mantra is to always deliver more than expected. It helps my colleagues gain back some of their time, and there is so much you can do with your time. Every day is an opportunity to get better.
Q: Tell me about your path from LMHS up to this point in your career.
A: I’ve now been at Google for two-and-a-half years, and how I got here was more serendipitous than planned. At LMHS, I loved my history classes, especially because of my teachers Ms. Blackwelder and Ms. McDougall. They had high expectations and were very positive. It gave me a lot of confidence, so I went to the University of Florida and majored in history and studied economics and political science. At UF, I became a teacher’s assistant and really enjoyed teaching. I became passionate about education policy and social justice. Then I joined Teach For America and taught high-school math in Charlotte, North Carolina, for two years. I was going on three years with TFA when I was recruited by Google.
Q: Have you maintained close connections to LMHS?
A: Definitely. My parents live in Lake Mary, and I manage my nonprofit organization, Generation Om, remotely, which was born out of my last year of high school at LMHS. I help provide scholarships for Indian Americans in Central Florida.
Marine Gu NASA | c/o 2007
Q: What is your job at NASA?
A: I work at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, as a mechanisms operations support officer and flight controller for the International Space Station. My team is in charge on the ground for the humans in space. We maintain the ISS – yes, that includes the space toilet! – and do things like changing parts on schedule and dealing with issues that happen unexpectedly. We also train astronauts for the maintenance they’ll perform while they’re on orbit
Q: What is it like working on something that is literally out of this world?
A: Sometimes I have to take a step back, and I’m just in awe of it. I’m playing a part in this big mission to further mankind’s exploration. I enjoy it every day. It’s a lot of hard work and extremely challenging. Lots of people at NASA are willing to help guide you along.
Q: Is working for NASA something you’ve always wanted to do?
A: As a child, I didn’t have a dream to work at NASA. I did not know I could. I did not have the awareness that it was possible. At LMHS, I always enjoyed the more technical subjects, and I especially loved physics and my teachers Mr. DeSanto and Mr. Davis. Their classes were life-changing. At Case Western Reserve University, I got my bachelor’s and master’s degrees in mechanical engineering and participated in a co-op program that allowed me to work at NASA as a student and continue my degree. It’s a great thing to be able to graduate with real job experience. I’ve been at Johnson Space Center for about five years, but have been a full-time employee for the last three years.
Q: What is the training like for your role?
A: I was recently certified as flight controller for the ISS. Getting certified in this position can take more than 800 hours in classes, training, study, simulations, and evaluations. With the certification, I get to send commands to space. Basically, I push a button and something moves in space. It sounds simple, but it’s a big deal, and it’s very important that I understand the gravity of the decisions I’m making for the whole team and the six people onboard the ISS.
Q: What’s the next step in your career at NASA?
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A: It’s hard to ever get complacent at NASA. There is always training and new developments. Our work is not only furthering our knowledge about microgravity, but it’s testing the limits of our technologies, and that is when innovation happens. It’s fun and challenging to be a part of solving complicated problems.