Meet Kevin Khaw, M.S. Engineering Management ’05 and B.S. Computer Engineering ’02. Khaw loves building web applications and tinkering with embedded systems. He’s worked at Google for the last nine years and currently manages a team in Google’s cloud computing group.
What’s your career path been like? What opportunities and decisions led to your current position at Google?
Growing up in Malaysia, I was fortunate enough to be surrounded by technology at an early age. The whole concept of the Internet fascinated me. I was determined to be part of a movement that promotes the democratization of information and ease of communication around the world.
As a WMU engineering student, I worked as both a computer repair technician and a local area network technician. After graduation, I helped manage technology and operations of the computer aided engineering lab right before the grand opening of the Parkview campus.
After graduating, I packed my bags and headed to California without a job waiting for me. I founded two startups which I call “nonprofits” because I made no profits! I also worked for a small financial software company before ending up at Google.
What are you passionate about in your work?
Feeling empowered to make a difference, solve difficult problems, and learn from the best and brightest in every field. Google’s mission is clear and simple. “Organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful”. It captures the essence of Google’s culture to constantly innovate and push technological boundaries. Cloud computing is poised to change information technology as we know it and I’m happy to be part of the next wave of technological innovation on the internet.
We hear a lot about the culture at Google. What’s it like firsthand?
Everything is true! Well… most of it. Walk around Googleplex and you’d likely feel more a college vibe than working at a large corporation. Definitely a great place to be if you are an engineer. I’m mostly here for the opportunity to work on stuff that touches billions of people -- but it is hard to not take note of the amazing company benefits. Free food at first-class cafes, gyms, laundry rooms, massage rooms, haircuts, car washes, dry cleaning, commuting shuttles, bowling alleys, nap pods, talks by authors and celebrities, climbing walls -- just about anything an employee might want. Google goes out of its way to take care of its employees and I’m very thankful to be part of this great company for the last nine years.
How did your experience at WMU’s College of Engineering and Applied Sciences shape your success?
It provided me with a great foundation and opportunity to pursue my dreams. Many of my professors played a huge role in my life and I still remember them like it was yesterday. Dr. Lyth, Dr. Mallak, Dr. White, Dr. Kaminski, Dr. Kerstetter, Dr. Trenary, Dr. Bafna, Dr. Houshyar, Dr. Grantner, Dr. Bazuin, Dr. Abdel-Qader, Dr. Asumadu, Dr. Atashbar, Dr. Johnson, and Dr. Severance (my amazing senior project advisor) to name a few.
As a student, I constantly tried to help improve courses I attended. Everything from suggestions on how to improve the syllabus, to writing new course materials, and even filling in for Dr. Gartner's ECE 3500 labs and classes when he was on sabbatical. Students, don’t wait for your lectures or next course. You are equally as responsible for your education and the Internet is a great place to expand that knowledge.
Moving from Kohrman Hall to Parkview Campus was equally fun. I visited the Parkview Campus several times during the construction phase and spent most my time planning the technology roll-out there. The experience of managing a team and technology at Parkview as a graduate student gave me the confidence that I could do anything if I put my mind to it.
What do you remember most vividly about your time as a Bronco engineering student?
Where do I start?! Adapting to the weather and U.S. culturally was fun and interesting at the same time. I had lots of great mentors, met a lot of wonderful people along the way, and formed amazing friendships over the years. Many of them I still keep in touch with after all these years.
I was fortunate enough to meet many staff, faculty and students across WMU when I was working at the Office of Information Technology. It opened up my eyes to people of different backgrounds and experiences. We take diversity very seriously at Google and being exposed to so much diversity growing up helped me view the world very differently.
One moment I’ll never forget was a day in the fall when I bumped into the late Dr. Floyd near the library. He stopped and asked me what I was doing with all the computer equipment. At first, I was a little lost for words when the president took time to ask me about my day. We chatted for a few minutes and he thanked me for helping keep the university’s computers going before heading off to his meeting. He taught me to be humble and to respect everyone around you regardless of background and who they are. A great university president who will be missed.
I haven’t been back to Kalamazoo since 2005 and hope to be back one day.
What’s the most incredible thing that’s happened to you since graduating?
My lovely family and the opportunity to work at Google. Aside from that, the opportunity to give back to WMU. I strongly believe that we (staff, faculty, students and alumni) should band together to make WMU a better university. I’d love for us to have an even stronger alumni network with better connections to students. If you are interested in engineering management, you’ll find me in ME 6000 where I video conference about my experiences and managing a team at Google.
What is something people don’t know about you?
I was an extra on “The Internship” but my scenes never made it to the movie. Looks like I’ll have to stick to being an engineer for a couple more years.