Pachara Boriboon ('08) is Going Places with Google

 

Holding three degrees in computer science and a MBA from UCLA, young Thai Pachara Boriboon ('08) can work for any company, though she prefers Google because of its start-up feeling and culture.

Google's New Business Development manager, better known as Diana Skaar, recently visited Thailand to take a chance meeting with partners and engage with developers. Here she talked to Database about her life and work at Google's headquarters.

At kindergarten, Skaar had some learning difficulties due to her Thai language background, and from that point on her parents only spoke to her in English, but she could listen to them speak Thai. Because of that, Skaar wished she know more Thai. Her mother took her to a Thai temple and she took a Thai language course at university.

Skaar has three degrees from UCLA in Computer Science and a Master's in Computer Science as well as a MBA from UCLA Anderson. She used to be a software engineer, and did coding at a start-up company in LA for six years.

During the dot-com bubble she worked full time as a technical lead at a start-up company. Skaar then went on to do web development. When websites started to develop complications, her computer science background really helped out.

Skaar used to be a web developer and database administrator, coding in many languages including HTML and Java script. "I do coding for everything, from the back to the front end, because in a start-up company; you have to know everything," she said.

Her parents actually wanted her to be a doctor, so she studied biochemistry and trained herself to make web pages. She learned HTML, Java, Flash and animation whenever she had time.

When she started studying computer science, Skaar realised that she really liked computer programming and she often spent time after class doing programs.

From 1997-1999, during the dot-com boom, Skaar worked 20-30 hours a week at part-time jobs where she could make a lot of money.

"I remember one three-day weekend, we had a project to build a Pacman video game from assembly language, which is a machine-level language. I spent three whole days programming the assembly language," said the 31-year old manager.

The young lady wanted people to take her seriously. Skaar looks young, but she has high aspirations, which is why she went back to school and only applied to UCLA because they have duo degree programs. She spent three years studying two programs.

IBM provided her first work experience and the second internship was at Google. Skaar said that there were a couple of phone interviews before landing the internship at Google.

When she got her internship, Skaar's goal was to do a very good job with a belief that there was no guarantee that she was going to get a full-time job.

Recalling when she was interning at Google, Skaar said it suited her approach. "I came from a start-up company, and one thing that impressed me is that while Google is a big company, they still retain a start-up feeling. If you have an idea, you can do it," she said.

"Google has a culture where they encourage staff to spend like one day a week to just play around with technology and work on something that they think is completely different, or cool. That's why new products are always coming up.

"If you think that something is really cool, you could leverage Google's resources to build it. At Google, it's all about the trust that you manage your time, as long as you get your job done, you are free to take on any projects that you want. Most employees are also excited about the side projects that they work on, to play around with," she added.

Skaar chose Google because of its culture. "I feel like I'm free, I can take an idea and run with it," she said.
Having worked for three years with Google, the manager of Google's New Business Development thinks that at the end of day, she loves the products. "I want to work with a company whose products I'm passionate about, I use Gmail, YouTube, Google search, etc."

Skaar's mentor is Methan Smith, the vice president of Google's New Business Development, who Skaar said is very smart. "She's very good at bringing people to work together. I see her as a mentor. I love watching her and I thought this is the lady I want to work with," Skaar said.

"My experience is that you can work for a good company or a bad company, but in terms of day-to-day environment, if you can work with a good manager, at least you gain the benefit of being able to have that mentor and learn from them," she said.

With a background that is half technical and half business, Skaar is in an idealposition with the New Business Development department in which her main duties are to find new business opportunities, find partners to work with and negotiate deals.

One of the new business developments that she has been working is Google book search, which is only available in the US. It is a tool that allows users to search specific phrases and will return books that contain that phrase. It's good for research. Google has a very large scanning project in which they scan every page of a book, and when users search on the net, they will be linked to the source of the books. Google shows a snippet, and users know it that whether it's from Amazon, or from which library.

"The idea is that certain information is stored in books, but people don't know about it. Now with Google's book search, all such information is at your fingertips," the manager explained, noting that Google has partnered with a number of publishers and libraries. Skaar's team will explain to them the purpose of the project, and how it will benefit users. "Now, you can easily find out about the books, search for information from anyone that we're partnered with," she said.

One of Google's goals is to localise its products in more than 40 languages, and Thai is one of those, she said, while showing an application on her smart phone, developed by the third party using translated API.

Skaar is currently focusing on Southeast Asia, looking to meet partners, especially in Thailand.

"We want to do a lot of things here in Thailand, with a lot of priority and resource. I told the partners, as a Thai I want to help here. It's hard for someone from the headquarters to be here if they are not Thai; they don't really understand the culture, they don't understand the language. It's easier for me to know who the players are," she said.

 

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