Our far-flung Mac team

Monday, October 23, 2006 at 10:35 AM

Posted by: Greg Robbins, Software Engineer

Eight years ago, I moved from Silicon Valley to Seattle, leaving the heart of the Mac software development world for a vibrant city surrounded by tall mountains. I thought this meant that most of the interesting opportunities to be a Mac developer were left behind as well. But then a year ago, friends from Google mentioned that Google wanted to devote more attention to writing Mac software. More importantly, there was an office near Seattle set up for engineering (one of many), because Google knew that not all the best developers wanted to move to Mountain View. When I met some of the developers, I was happy to see Google's unique work culture had survived the northward migration intact.

Today, our Seattle-area engineering office in Kirkland is growing rapidly. In the two years since the office opened, we've grown to more than 150, and Kirkland drives the development of an impressive list of software products, including Google Video and Google Talk. The range of projects and expertise among the Googlers here makes it a fascinating environment.

True, most of the Mac programmers are in the Mountain View office. But I'm in Washington State, while others are in New York and elsewhere on the east coast. Finding a way to effectively collaborate across 3,000 miles and 3 time zones has been an enjoyable challenge. We have state-of-the-art tools, like video conferencing and Writely. But our daily development discussions take place in an internal group chat room that we set up for Mac developers. It's become a 24-hour meeting room and watering hole, a forum for us to seek programming assistance, exchange Mac industry news, and speculate on the upcoming features in Mac OS X Leopard. In debating how to turn our strengths into unique and exciting Mac applications, we've become a tight-knit group of colleagues.

Though I had worked in large and small companies prior to joining Google, the rapid pace of development here still amazed me. Within weeks, I was helping the Mac developers working on Google Earth get it talking with Sketchup, making Google Video player keep itself up to date, and turning a photo uploader that had been an impressive, experimental 20% project into a polished, easy way for Mac users to take advantage of Picasa Web Albums. Of course, even more cool applications are underway.

While I've made many friends among the Seattle-area developers (and I love the food here, too), I feel like I'm part of a wider team of incredibly smart and experienced Mac developers with shared goals -- but diverse weather.