Go for pas­sion, Mer­ril­lville alum­nus tells stu­dents

Post Tribune (Sunday) - - News - By Mered­ith Co­lias-Pete Post-Tri­bune

Ryan Ger­mick sees his job cre­at­ing Google Doo­dles as us­ing tech­nol­ogy to bring some hu­man­ity to the masses.

As the prin­ci­pal de­signer for Google Doo­dles, he has helped the com­pany cre­ate il­lus­tra­tions that mark no­table an­niver­saries or his­tor­i­cal fig­ures.

For the sec­ond or less that some­one may see a Doo­dle on the search site, the goal is to reach or maybe in­spire that per­son to learn more.

A 1998 Mer­ril­lville High grad­u­ate, Ger­mick, 38, re­turned to the school on Thurs­day to talk about his ca­reer path and this year’s Google Doo­dle con­test and an­swer ques­tions from stu­dents.

Just after high school — in the dial-up in­ter­net era, be­fore so­cial me­dia — his path to Sil­i­con Val­ley was not pre-set, he told stu­dents.

The key was the path that he made for him­self — ex­plor­ing the world, tend­ing to his own cu­rios­ity and com­ing up with cre­ative so­lu­tions to prob­lems.

While he was liv­ing in In­dia, for ex­am­ple, he said he cre­ated his own web­site to up­date fam­ily on what he was do­ing to avoid steep in­ter­na­tional call­ing rates, he said.

Those skills even­tu­ally got him hired at Google, he said. It was some­thing the stu­dents could do also, Ger­mick told stu­dents.

Em­ploy­ers were just as likely to prize cre­ativ­ity, in­de­pen­dent think­ing and ad­ven­tur­ous risk tak­ers, he said.

Ger­mick, who vis­ited a hand­ful of classes, spoke to packed stu­dent au­di­ences.

He gave a pre­sen­ta­tion that in­cluded his path to Google and sev­eral no­table Doo­dles that of­ten high­lighted lit­tle-known fig­ures like the late In­dian mathe- mati­cian Shakun­tala Devi, known as the “hu­man cal­cu­la­tor.” She made the 1982 Guin­ness Book of World Records for mul­ti­ply­ing two 13-digit num­bers in un­der 30 sec­onds.

Her Google Doo­dle was her face on an old-school cal­cu­la­tor screen next to the word “Google” rep­re­sented in a nu­meric form.

“Ev­ery­body sees Google, and I’ve seen ev­ery sin­gle one of those doo­dles that he’s shown,” said sopho­more Jamee­lah Ali, 15.

She was struck by his mes­sage of bring­ing mean­ing through a bit of tech­nol­ogy and how some­one from Mer­ril­lville could have that kind of job.

“It’s re­ally, re­ally fas­ci­nat­ing,” she said. “When you see some­one like that, you’re just like, ‘That’s crazy.’ Any per­son in your class could ac­tu­ally be like that. It’s cool.”

Grow­ing up, Ger­mick ex­celled at art, tak­ing classes at the Vis­ual and Per­form­ing Arts Cen­ter in Mun­ster. Other no­table in­flu­ences in­cluded painter Bob Ross on PBS.

Watch­ing Ross on PBS “so­lid­i­fied to me a call­ing,” he told stu­dents.

After high school, he at­tended the Par­sons School of De­sign in New York City, study­ing with graphic de­signer Frank Olin­sky, his se­nior ad­viser, who helped cre­ate the MTV logo.

After col­lege, he spent time trav­el­ing, teach­ing English in Ja­pan and also liv­ing in In­dia, he said. Google hired him in 2006.

“I didn’t have a straight path into tech,” he told stu­dents.

The first Google Doo­dle came out in Au­gust 1998 with a blue out­line of the Burn­ing Man ef­figy over the logo’s sec­ond “o.” Com­pany founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin put in on the main page while they were off to the Ne­vada fes­ti­val.

Since then, the web­site has had 2,000 doo­dles world­wide, ac­cord­ing to its web­site.

After Ger­mick’s hire, he went from cre­at­ing icons, like the yel­low stick guy in Google Maps, to work­ing with other il­lus­tra­tors and en­gi­neers to make the Doo­dles a more so­phis­ti­cated pres­ence on the search site.

His first Google Doo­dle marked St. Ge­orge’s Day in April 2008, Ger­mick said. Since then he has worked on sev­eral oth­ers in­clud­ing the 2010 PAC-MAN Doo­dle that was a mini-game folks could play in the screen.

This year, Google again is hold­ing a na­tional con­test ask­ing stu­dents to sub­mit their own doo­dles. More in­for­ma­tion can be found at doo­dles.google.com/d4g.

SUZANNE TEN­NANT/POST-TRI­BUNE

Mer­ril­lville High School grad­u­ate and prin­ci­pal de­signer for Google Doo­dle Ryan Ger­mick speaks to Mer­ril­lville High School stu­dents about his ex­pe­ri­ences work­ing for the tech gi­ant in Sil­i­con Val­ley.

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