Who says summer jobs have to be boring? For some people, especially in the geospatial industry summer jobs can take you to exciting places. Take Jen Fitzpatrick, the VP of Google Geo, Local & Maps as an example. Jen, 38 joined Google as one of the company’s first female engineers in the summer of 1999 and has been there since. She holds a bachelor's degree in symbolic systems and a master's degree in computer science from Stanford University and has specialised in theoretical computer science.
During her time at the company Jen has led software development for products and teams such as AdWords, Google News, Product Search, corporate engineering and the Google Search Appliance. She is a co-founding member of Google's user experience team and in her current role she leads the product and engineering efforts for Google’s local products including local search, Google Places and Place pages.
Jen’s work at Google has very likely been focused on furthering the integration between search results with geospatial data. This includes the provision of realtime traffic information, routing and Streetview services and internal mapping capabilities. For the general user Google has simplified the integration between Google Maps and Google Drive applications and now provides a much-improved GIS-like My Maps application. In terms of imagery which is provided on it’s mapping applications, Google now provides regularly updated Nasa Landsat 8 satellite imagery which is sharper, brighter and more vibrant than anything which came before.
It’s clear from the above that the search industry relies on constant innovation and change. There are, for example, suggestions that Google is redirecting support for Google Earth to other areas of the business and rolling some of it’s capabilities into products such as Google maps. Perhaps this reflects the growing realisation among users and companies that search result information has a locational component and that new services and tools are required to empower the modern user.
17 years into her summer job at Google it will be interesting to see what exciting things people like Jen Fitzpatrick will do next.