Garcia Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering
Luis Garcia ’00
International Business Product Manager, Google Inc.
The accidental mechanical engineer
When I came to Princeton, I held clear expectations of my undergraduate major. I knew I wanted to learn how to learn. I also knew choosing a major was decidedly different from choosing a career (and choosing the former in no way implied choosing the latter). Finally, I knew I wanted to preserve the breadth of my education, no matter what my specialization. I was drawn to engineering because I appreciated that a technical education would help structure my thinking around some vague and hairy problems. Engineering is a field of study for problem solvers, and I had an insatiable appetite for chasing down solutions.
Within the engineering program, my attention gradually focused on mechanical and aerospace engineering (MAE)not because I longed for a career building cars or planes, but because MAE seemed the broadest of the engineering disciplines. In the most general sense, mechanical engineering involves the design and construction of systems that move. As a major, MAE was the perfect blend of science, design, and the team-based pursuit of solutions to very real-world problems. I enthusiastically chose MAE as a major because I was convinced early on that the lessons would extend far beyond the course work of my four years at Princeton.
I currently work as a business manager in Google’s international product management organization. Our goal is to deliver the best user experience to Google users worldwide through building locally relevant products and establishing international offices. My work at Google has taken me to China, Brazil, Mexico, Argentina, the UK, and Ireland.
Working at Google is not something I could have predicted on the day of my Princeton graduation. I was very fortunate to receive a Paul and Daisy Soros Fellowship to pursue graduate studies immediately after college. I enrolled at Stanford in the fall of 2000 as a graduate student in mechanical engineering. My main goal for graduate school was to conduct graduate-level research while continuing to expand my exposure to emerging technologies, industry, and the interplay between the two. I spent some time at Stanford learning about microscale engineering—the development of compact technologies small enough to fit on the surface of a credit card. In addition to mechanical engineering, I also pursued a second master’s degree in management science—a hybrid business and technology program.
I knew I wanted to supplement my technical training with real-life work experience as a business professional when I graduated from Stanford in 2003. I joined a boutique management consulting firm focused on serving clients in consumer industries—food, beverage, and apparel. I deliberately sought the consumer industries because I wanted to learn firsthand how to address business problems without an obvious technical solution. I wanted to learn more about consumers, branding, loyalty, retention, and positioning. Mostly, I wanted to apply my analytical training and thinking to an entirely new set of problems.
I joined Google after working for a few years in management consulting. Google is a consumer-oriented technical company, so it was the perfect next step for me given my academic background and consumer-oriented business experience. The international products group within Google posed a whole new challenge—how does a relatively young organization address a global audience?
My Princeton studies have prepared me for a successful career in three key ways. First, I have been encouraged to keep a broad and open perspective and have the confidence to pursue new roles or industries. Second, I have developed the confidence to ask the basic questions up front and start my work by identifying and testing the fundamental assumptions or principles. Lastly, my Princeton experience has cultivated in me a motivation for lifelong learning and an appetite for addressing the world’s changing problems.