Thursday, August 22, 2019

Trinity hosts common-hour discussion with Todd Markelz ‘01


John Murphy ’15

Last Thursday, Feb. 7, Trinity College hosted Google’s Global Manager of Web Studio Todd Markelz ’01. Markelz spoke as part of the Common Hour series, and discussed his experience at Trinity and his journey to his current job at Google. Markelz hails from Homer, Alaska, and graduated from the College with a bachelor’s degree in Computer Science. At Trinity, Markelz was arguably the best runner to grace the college’s track program since the formation of its athletic department. He was the Men’s cross country and indoor and outdoor track and field co-captain. He amassed various athletic accolades throughout his time at Trinity including a five-time NESCAC All-Academic selection, a then college record in the 3,000 meter run, and was named top male scholar athlete his Junior and Senior year. Markelz also led Trinity’s cross country team to its first ever NCAA Division III National Championship appearance and finished 28th at the National Championships to earn All-American honors.

Markelz received the Blanket Award for earning at least nine varsity letters in his Trinity athletic career. He attributes his “almost-addictive running habit” to his success in the computer science field, as he felt running was a perfect way for him to blow off steam accumulated by the duress of coding. Upon graduation, Markelz immediately hit the job market seeking work in a field that at the time was the untapped market of the future: webpage design. His first job was as a web developer at Cornell University supporting the Einaudi Center for International Studies. In 2004, Markelz saw an article about Google in Wired magazine. At the time, Google had just filled for an IPO and its business strategy focused solely on the search engine. In fact, all the article outlined was the free food that was available at the company. Markelz loved his job at Cornell, and had not thought about leaving. However, the Wired article had sparked something in his mind about moving to California, and in the end, Markelz “did what everyone tells 

something in his mind about moving to California, and in the end, Markelz “did what everyone tells you not to do, and [he] sent a resume to” Markelz acknowledged the improbability of his actions, but emphasized that he truly loved his job at Cornell, which explained for his passive approach to Google. Markelz knew he only had an outside chance to work at Google, and felt gradually less confident about his job prospects as the weeks flew by. For all he knew, his resume was floating around in cyberspace. Three months later he received an email from Google confirming that his application had made it past the first round of the hiring process. It had been so long since Markelz sent in his resume, that initially, both he and his wife thought the email was spam. The job recruiter informed Markelz that he liked what he saw on his resume, and wanted to know if he was still interested in the position. Markelz, humbled by the recruiter’s small praise, agreed to continue to the next round. The first step to getting a job at Google is to pass a technical assignment. Markelz explained that his test was a to “build a webpage that was catered to Google’s taste in 48 hours.” Markelz passed this technical test with flying colors as coding is one of his core strengths. The next step was a phone screening.

This screening is essentially a Skype interview where the interviewer asks questions regarding the company’s history and core philosophies. Markelz had studied for these questions, but when the time came for the actual interview, he struggled with some questions and thought this was the end of his Google journey. When one is able to pass the technical phone screening, they are flown out to Mountain View, California for the final stage of the hiring process; a series of 8 to 9 interviews, lasting approximately an hour each. Markelz said his first interview at the headquarters symbolized the true culture of Google. Markelz, who “mistakenly wore a suit and tie” to his interview, was when his interviewer walked in to the room wearing flip-flops and khaki shorts. They strolled the Google campus for a tour and stopped when the interviewer spotted a billboard composed of panels of various colors, shapes, and sizes. “Memorize this,” his interviewer said. Shocked by these instructions, Markelz tried to consume as much information as he could before he returned to the interviewer’s office. When they got back, the interviewer gave Todd a packet of colored pencils and asked him to draw the figure he saw on the intersection of the second row and the third column. Markelz had no idea what was on that grid and had to make up a drawing based on his imagination.

Of course Markelz was completely wrong, but, as he found out later, “this was not a test of memorization, rather a test of fortitude and grace under pressure.” Markelz passed and joined one of the most elite divisions in the technical realm as an assistant web designer, building websites for some of Google’s early consumer products. In 2010, he became the global manager of Google Web Studio, a team of information architects, web designers, and web developers, dedicated to building simple yet effective web sites to market Google products and services in over sixty countries around the world. Markelz credits the flexibility and laid-back culture of Google as the reason why he thinks he works for the best company in the world. As for the future, Markelz is happy where he is, and plans to enjoy life in Mountain View with his wife Nicole, and two young sons, Evan and Oliver.

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