Tae E. Kim, a longtime Google employee who has worked on Google Maps and product outreach in East Asia, is now the New Business Development Senior Manager for Google’s Chrome project. Mr. Kim is one of the speakers who will be sharing his experience with high school students at the Korea Daily’s SPARK speaker series on Saturday, May 31 at CGV LA in Koreatown.
This interview was conducted by JSR editor Julia Bok.
1. You were born in South Korea and raised in suburban Boston. How do you think your parents being from a different country and culture affected you when growing up? What are the advantages and disadvantages of having Korean immigrant parents?
My parents immigrated to the US when I was four years old. At the time, I was aware of my Korean heritage but was less aware of the implications of it. In retrospect, there was a clear advantage in being able to observe my parents’ work ethic, which had a clear and lasting impact on my own ambitions. A clear disadvantage at the time was that while other kids got to watch cartoons on Saturday mornings, I had to attend Korean school for four hours – but that later became an advantage as well!
2. When did you realize your passion for Internet-related things and technology?
When I was 10 years old, my father brought home a Dell 386DX desktop computer and tasked me to learn how to use it in order to then teach him to how use it. I immediately wanted to learn everything I could about it, while breaking and fixing it many times over in the process.
3. Was Cornell University your dream school? Was working for Google your dream job? Did you fulfill your dreams by working for Google or is there any other job you wish you could have?
My aspirations span beyond attending a school or joining an organization. I see attending Cornell and joining Google as pivotal decisions in my life that have guided me to what has been a very fun and exciting career. As long as I’m doing exciting things in technology and continuing to learn, I consider myself to be on the right trajectory.
4. What was your motivation behind promoting web-based technologies in Asia?
While building and managing Google teams in Asia for two years, I began to notice that cities like Seoul had the infrastructure required to provide fast, reliable internet access while areas across rural China did not. This made me want to level the playing field so that everyone could leverage the power of the Internet regardless of where they live.
5. How did it feel when you left America for East Asia to build and manage Google’s Web Search Quality teams? What are the biggest differences or similarities you noticed between working in America and working in Asia?
Deciding to pack my entire life up into a few boxes to leave the Bay Area for an international assignment was difficult, but once I embraced the opportunity, it became very clear that I had made the right decision. The biggest difference [between the cultures] is that in Asia, people often seek permission before trying something bold, whereas in Silicon Valley, risk-taking is more encouraged.
6. What was it like being the Webmaster for the Asia Pacific Center for Justice and Peace?
Being an undergraduate web development intern at the APCJP was an excellent opportunity for me to build my technical skill set, despite being professionally inexperienced. It also gave me an opportunity to learn about conflict resolution across South and East Asia, which was something I knew nothing about at the time.
7. What would be your greatest piece of advice to people working in different countries? What would be your advice to students interested in careers that have to do with the web and technology?
Be open, adaptable, and teachable. Wherever you are geographically or whatever stage you’re at in your career, there’s one certainty and it is that things will change — sometimes very quickly. Embracing change and acknowledging that there is always something new to be learned will make you better at whatever you do.
8. What do you consider your most challenging moment? What do you consider your proudest accomplishment?
The most challenging moment would be [when I had] to land a job after moving to the Bay Area as a new grad with no network. My proudest accomplishment may be getting through the Google interview process!
9. How does it feel to be the Senior Business Development Manager on the Chrome team at Google? What do you look forward to most in your new position?
It’s a great move for me at this stage in my career in that it gets me much closer to a very important product for Google while giving me the opportunity to structure more complex deals in order to bring cutting-edge products to market.
10. What is your most memorable moment in your years with Google?
Being at Google in its earlier years was, in retrospect, pretty cool. It wasn’t all that uncommon to run into the founders, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, and I remember my first desk was a wooden plank sitting on top of a construction work stand. The company has come quite a ways since then!