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.
|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."
|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.
Back 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.