ANU graduate makes the big time working for the ‘world’s most attractive employer’

Posted 12 Jan 2017

Story by Australian National University

Product Manager, Google

At 15 years of age Ben Greenwood had already started not one, but two start-ups in his home country of South Africa.

His fascination with technology continued to evolve but he knew he needed to equip himself with the knowledge and framework that studying an engineering degree at The Australian National University would give him.

Ben is now a Product Manager based at Google’s Sydney office where he has worked since he graduated from ANU in 2013. He often travels between Tokyo and the US managing new products with Google’s international teams.

Reputation and international recognition were key factors when Ben was looking for a university to pursue his studies and give him the knowledge he needed to start his career.

“Reputation is really important for prospective students, particularly for international students, and ANU ticked all the boxes for me.”

Ben lived on campus for three and a half years and encourages other students to do the same. He stresses the importance for students to build as many skills as possible and to be involved in the student groups on campus.

“Living on campus gives you endless opportunities.

“I was involved in sport events, art and musical theatre. I was also the Race Director of Inward Bound, a member of the Residence Committee and the President of the Musical Association.

“Inward Bound allowed me to create memories I’ll never forget. You get dropped off in the bush in the middle of nowhere at 1am and you have to run 100km with your group of four.

“You get maps and coordinates of end points and then you need to work with your team to find out the best route.

“All of these opportunities and studying at ANU helped me develop leadership and teamwork skills, and taught me how to make tough decisions under pressure.

“All of which I have been able to apply in my current role at Google,” he said.

Studying at ANU helped Ben secure his job at Google after he met a Google employee at an ANU campus event. The Google employee then referred him for a position.

“The support I received from the College and ANU was incredible. They helped me manage my studies so I could undertake the internship at the same time.

“There are a lot of core skills and knowledge that are imparted through the core curriculum in the engineering degree but there are also group projects, exposure to industry mentors and guest lectures that round off the experience as a student. This helps you take your next steps after you graduate.

“Google interviews are very different so the confidence that I built and the knowledge I acquired from studying at ANU helped me eloquently express myself throughout the interview process.

“Everyone who studies at ANU is a smart person and the experiences, knowledge and skills you learn at ANU are some of the things that set ANU graduates apart from graduates of other universities,” he said.

Ben also worked at the Australian National Data Service while he was studying which enabled him to gain more skills while studying and living on campus.

“I had an amazing opportunity at the Australian National Data Service where I helped institutions better manage research data.

“A massive benefit was that I got to work on campus and work with a lot of smart people in a targeted, emerging scientific field. This gave me a lot of opportunities to work with public sector institutions and other universities. I got a lot of exposure, networking opportunities and other opportunities that were great stepping stones for my life after university.”

Ben now works with a large team across many fields building products for Google Maps.

“I specifically work on Google Maps and as a Product Manager I work closely with the engineers, user design team, research team, finance, legal and marketing teams.

“Product Managers are there to see an idea through to the launch of a product.

“I’ve worked on Google Maps and have started working on APIs. I’ve built a new version of Google Maps for web that was optimised for developing markets and places where the internet connectivity isn’t great.

“I got to do a lot of hands on research in other countries and really got to understand the challenges that the next billion people coming online are experiencing with products.

“ANU has been a major influencer on me and has helped me in many ways.

“I wouldn’t be where I am today without my ANU experience,” he said.