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From South Mason to Silicon Valley: Students Talk With Paul Jacobs '03

Paul Jacobs

On Friday, Jan. 20, Paul Jacobs '03 addressed two groups of students about his journey from Priory to product management at Google. He spoke with Junior School students in the morning, and juniors and seniors in the afternoon.

Jacobs yearbook photos
Paul's 7th grade and senior photos

During his High School talk, Paul discussed his time at Priory and how it has influenced his career. A "super nerdy" incoming 7th grader from a Catholic grade school, he said he found Priory to be a place where he could express himself naturally with accepting classmates ... "and no girls." He said his biggest lesson at Priory was about empathy — something he referenced back to a lot as he walked the students through his career path. While at Priory, he made a point of attending community service trips and volutneering outside of school. He also related it back to his experience acting in school productions. "When you're acting, you're literally putting yourself into someone else's shoes," he said. "It forces you into other perspectives, and helps you see how empathy pulls you out of your bubble."

guys and dolls
Paul performs in the winter musical, "Guys and Dolls," his senior year.

This lesson was particularly important to him after Sept. 11 and after taking Father Michael's comparative religions class. He said the discussions of other religions and field trips to their holy places made a big impression on him. "After that class, I decided I needed to go out, see as much as I could, and learn as much as I could about other cultures," he said.

When he graduated from Priory and left for Notre Dame, he decided to join the Air Force ROTC program. He studied Aerospace Engineering, and he was assigned to work for the Space & Missle Systems Center on missle detection technology before moving to NASA to work on landing technology in the Mars Science Laboratory. He worked on the system that put the Curiosity rover on Mars, and on the night of his talk, a satellite was being launched from Cape Canaveral that he had worked on as well. His last stateside assignment was in the Pentagon in the National Air Reconaissance Office, working on IT for satellites and airplanes.

Before leaving the military, however, he volunteered for a 6 month deployment in Afghanistan. "It was an incredible experience," he said. He oversaw the NATO Civil Engineering team and their projects building infrastructure for the various teams on the ground.

AfghanistanBack from Afghanistan, he enrolled in the MBA program at Duke University, which put him in touch with lots of international students and again exposed him to new perspectives. His MBA helped him develop new skills that weren't covered in engineering school, he said. His time at Google started as an internship and after their intensive hiring process he was brough on as a product manager for the G-Suite of tools, focusing on customer acquisition. He discussed a variety of ongoing Google projects with the students, and the process of looking for solutions to problems and launching new products.

He circled back to his time at Priory by talking again about the influence his classmates and teachers had on him. "I learned how to communicate, and how to relate to people," he said. "Priory is where I learned who I was, and who I am." He also stressed the importance of the network of alumni he has access to as a graduate. "Who you meet and who you stay in touch with is one of the most important things at any institution you're involved in," he said.

Thanks to Paul for flying back from San Francisco for this event! We're always happy to welcome alumni back to campus to work with the current students.

Special thanks computer science teacher Mr. Andrew Erker '11 for coordinating these discussions.

“Listen carefully, my son, to the master’s instructions, and attend to them with the ear of your heart.”

Prologue, 1

“This is advice from a father who loves you; welcome it, and faithfully put it into practice.”

Prologue, 1

“First of all, every time you begin a good work, you must pray to him most earnestly to bring it to perfection.”

Prologue, 4

“If you desire true and eternal life, keep your tongue free from vicious talk and your lips from all deceit; turn away from evil and do good; let peace be your quest and aim. (Ps 33[34]:13)”

Prologue, 17

“Clothed then with faith and the performance of good works, let us set out on this way, with the Gospel for our guide, that we may deserve to see him who has called us to his kingdom (1 Thess 2:12).”

Prologue, 21

“If we wish to dwell in the tent of this kingdom, we will never arrive unless we run there by doing good deeds.”

Prologue, 22

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Prologue, 41

“Therefore, we intend to establish a school for the Lord’s service.”

Prologue, 45

“The good of all concerned, however, may prompt us to a little strictness in order to amend faults and to safeguard love.”

Prologue, 47

“The reason why we have said all should be called for counsel is that the Lord often reveals what is better to the younger.”

Chapter 3, 3

“Your way of acting should be different from the world’s way; the love of Christ must come before all else.”

Chapter 4, 20-21

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Chapter 4, 27-28

“Place your hope in God alone.”

Chapter 4, 41

“Respect the elders and love the young.”

Chapter 4, 70-71

“Pray for your enemies out of love for Christ. “

Chapter 4, 72

“If you have a dispute with someone, make peace with him before the sun goes down.”

Chapter 4, 73

“The first step of humility is unhesitating obedience, which comes naturally to those who cherish Christ above all.”

Chapter 5, 1-2

“Speaking and teaching are the master’s task; the disciple is to be silent and listen.”

Chapter 6, 6

“The first step of humility, then, is that a man keeps the fear of God always before his eyes (PS 35[36]:2) and never forgets it.”

Chapter 7, 10

“Let us consider, then, how we ought to behave in the presence of God and his angels, and let us stand to sing the psalms in such a way that our minds are in harmony with our voices.”

Chapter 19, 6-7

“On arising for the Work of God, they will quietly encourage each other, for the sleepy like to make excuses.”

Chapter 22, 8

“Every age and level of understanding should receive appropriate treatment.”

Chapter 30, 1

“Above all, let him be humble. If goods are not available to meet a request, he will offer a kind word in reply, for it is written: A kind word is better than the best gift (Sir 18:17).”

Chapter 31, 13-14

“Let all the rest serve one another in love.”

Chapter 35, 6

“Indeed, nothing is to be preferred to the Work of God.”

Chapter 43, 3

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Chapter 48, 1

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Chapter 49, 1

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Chapter 53, 1

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Chapter 53, 2

“(B)ecause wherever we may be, we are in the service of the same Lord and doing battle for the same King.”

Chapter 61, 10

They should each try to be the first to show respect to the other (Rom 12:10).”

Chapter 63, 17

“We wish this rule to be read often in the community, so that none of the brothers can offer the excuse of ignorance.”

Chapter 66, 8

“Trusting in God’s help, he must in love obey.”

Chapter 68, 5

Never to do another what you do not want done to yourself (Tob 4:16).”

Chapter 70, 7

“No one is to pursue what he judges better for himself, but instead, what he judges better for someone else.”

Chapter 72, 7

“Let them prefer nothing whatever to Christ, and may he bring us all together to everlasting life.”

Chapter 72, 11-12

“What page, what passage of the inspired books of the Old and New Testaments is not the truest of guides for human life?”

Chapter 73, 3

“What book of the holy catholic Fathers does not resoundingly summon us along the true way to reach the Creator?”

Chapter 73, 4


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