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  • >>Presenter: So Philip joined Google last month and is working with Peter Norvig building

  • tools to improve the teaching of programming and computer science. He's received degrees

  • from MIT and a PhD from Stanford just recently. So I'll turn it over to Philip.

  • >>Philip Guo: Great, thanks Jaclyn. Everyone can hear me from the back right? There's no

  • clapping involved here. [Laughs]

  • >>Philip: Guo: Okay, anyway. I'm gonna just basically in this hour my goal is to be just

  • maximally useful to like everyone in this room. If it ends up with me talking for most

  • of the hour that's great, if you're all talking and asking questions that's also great because,

  • yeah, whatever I can do to be most useful to you today that's basically my goal for

  • the hour. So, the only notes I really have is this [inaudible] sheet and I'm just gonna

  • read off the Meta stuff and then I'm just gonna start going. So, basically the format

  • is I just have this one thing of HTML here and these are the 20, you know, lessons I

  • summarize in my PhD book and this is gonna be completely non linear so whatever people

  • are, you know, whatever the conversation diverges towards, you know, just for the sake of the

  • recording, the fact there, I'll just highlight that. So, this could be any one of these 2

  • to 20 combos, we can just talk about them. So, whatever direction stuff is going in,

  • again, this is very exciting cause I have no idea what's gonna happen. So, just to start

  • with, like I said, this is not a typical tech talk. There was a little surprise there it

  • was on the tech talk calendar or something cause I actually gave a tech talk here last,

  • uh, last year about my research and it was a very standard scheme like, "Here's my research,

  • here's the slides" and then I get a talk and, you know, you say that people can interrupt

  • with questions but people usually don't interrupt with questions and you give a talk for a half

  • an hour, 45 minutes and then some people ask you questions later and you respond to some

  • you can't answer. So I'm sure all of you, mostly intern students, have heard quite a

  • few people speak in this [inaudible] and it's like I'm gonna show off what I did and then

  • maybe ask some questions and then they're like did you consider doing this and we're

  • like no we didn't. [Laughter]

  • >>Philip Guo: So, this will not be like this. This is, I'm highly interruptible so like,

  • there should be mics going around or something but like, seriously, totally interrupt me

  • anytime. Is there an interruption right now? [Pause]

  • >>Philip Guo: There should be other mics everywhere else. Anyways, so, um, I'm here as a peer

  • and not as any kind of authority figure or anything. So I was in this audience, exactly,

  • last summer. I was an intern here. It was the final, almost the final year of my PhD

  • and I was an intern here at Mountain View and Jaclyn and others organized a bunch of

  • these great talks from Google leaders, right? So, there were vice presidents, research directors,

  • everyone talking, you know, to interns about how great Google is and about leadership and

  • about career building and everything and I thought it was some really interesting talks

  • but I always felt that I would like to hear more from people who are in my same position.

  • So, I, I, you know, when I first got here, one of the things I really wanted to do was,

  • since it was in the summer and there was a bunch of interns there and I had just been

  • in the audience one year earlier and I wanted to give a certain kind of talk like that.

  • So, um, so, this is kind of the talk that I would have maybe wanted to hear when I was

  • an intern here. So I'm gonna have to do a cheesy quick show of hands, this is the only

  • interactive thing I promise, so how many people here are full time? Oh, we've got quite a

  • few people full time, okay, cool. And how many are interns?

  • [Laughs] >>Philip Guo: Good. Okay, awesome. And out

  • of the interns, how many are currently undergrads or masters students, undergrads and master's

  • students? Very good. And how many are doing their PhD right now? Oh, wow, we've got quite

  • a lot. Okay, perfect. And these will get slightly more embarrassing, so who has just finished

  • their first year? [Laughter]

  • >>Philip Guo: Okay, you see where this is leading. First year of PhD, sorry, first year

  • of PhD finished? Okay, good, then second year? Just finished two years? Okay and then just

  • finished 3? Okay, faces are looking more and more [inaudible]

  • [Laughter] >>Philip Guo: Just finished 4? Um, just finished

  • 5? Okay, I'm not gonna ask about the rest. [Laughter]

  • >>Philip Guo: Okay, cool, so I just wanted to calibrate because everyone probably gets

  • different stuff out of it depending on what level you're at. Oh, actually, out of the

  • people here who are not currently doing PhD, how many of you might consider doing one in

  • the future? Oh wow, that's quite a lot. Okay, great, awesome. Cool, so I'm just gonna give

  • a bit of background about my PhD project and we'll just take it from there. So, just a

  • little background on myself, I did my PhD in computer science, it took about 6 years

  • to finish and I did not know I was, you know, I did not have the green light to graduate

  • until about 3 months before I graduated. I mean, I was working all the way to the end

  • and once I got the green light everything was good. I just scheduled to defend and then

  • write dissertation and everything checked out. But up until January 2012 I did not know

  • that I was gonna graduate and my date was still uncertain and I'm very lucky that everything

  • worked out very well in the last 6 months. So, toward the end of my PhD right when I

  • was around hopefully getting the green light I thought that, you know, that my dissertation

  • at most 5 people would get because it's basically that I convince this committee and maybe one

  • or two other suckers who I sucker into reading it. The papers I wrote, maybe like 50 might

  • read those total, right, that's like a reasonable number. But I wanted to, you know, I wanted

  • to have something that would be lasting beyond my PhD for this particular research. So, I

  • thought about the fact that, I looked at, throughout my PhD I've done a lot of writings

  • on my website about the expense of going to grad school and I've been reading a lot about

  • it and one thing that did not exist was a comprehensive account of one person's PhD

  • expense. There have been, say like professors that write about, oh, like, there's like,

  • I'm sure you all know that there's a few professors that have written about PhD advice and stuff.

  • Like top ten tips to getting into grad school or advice for getting your dissertation etcetera

  • or whatever and there's like a small set of that. So on one end there were people in authority

  • who were writing, in fact, wistfully about their experience and like, "Oh you guys should

  • work hard" and do well and stuff like I did and then the other end there were the super

  • whiner trend, so there were the PhD comics types of like grad students who might have

  • dropped out and they're like, "Oh my life sucks and I'm gonna rant about it" so if you

  • look up like PhD life or whatever, on Google you these 2 polar options; you get people

  • who are offering stately advice, you know, professors, research leaders, you know, perhaps

  • some of the people you've been hearing talk here and other places, you know, why are PhDs

  • good and so forth. And then on the very other extreme you have people who are

  • [Pause] >>Philip Guo: Is this working? Okay, good,

  • was the other one going in and out? Yeah, okay, sorry about that. So on the other end

  • you have, maybe it's my moving with the mic is that it? Okay, I'll try to hold it super

  • still; actually let me just put it on the podium here. Does this work better? Yeah,

  • I have to like lean in, it's weird, okay, I will try not to oscillate the mic too much.

  • [Laughter] >>Philip Guo: So, on the other end you have

  • people who are, you know, who are still going through their PhD that may be having issues

  • and such and I felt that neither side were able to write as sort of, you know, objectively

  • about their experiences. Also, there's this format thing, there's never a kind of full

  • account of their experience. So I decided, you know, that I wanted to be the one to write

  • about this. So I started accumulating notes about 6 months ago, you know, about the 6

  • years of my PhD and how it progressed and collecting old emails and notes that I had

  • taken and old papers and drafts and everything and after I finished my defense on, you know,

  • at the end of April I sat down for 2 months and I did this writing project. It took about

  • one month to write and then I showed it to some people, got some iteration, got some

  • drafts, took about another month to revise. And I released it online on my website and

  • I wasn't like intending to make money off this or anything and it just like, it was

  • just like a thing I was wanting to do. And I released it on my website, you know, put

  • it all up there and I was just like planning to email some friends and just get people

  • I know to read it and such. But, it actually got on to certain social media sites and then

  • kind of kept on spreading and by about like 2 or 3 weeks time there had been like 50 thousand

  • or so downloaded and I was getting a stream of dozens of emails a day about it from all

  • sorts of people, maybe even the most unexpected people. One, I have some of the sample emails

  • listed. One of my friends who was in grad school, she actually accepted full time here

  • but she's not here yet, but she said, "Thanks for writing this because I showed it to my

  • Grandma and she like loved reading it because she had always been bugging me about you know,

  • what is doing a PhD like? And now I don't have to explain it to her cause you just did."

  • [Laughter] >>Philip Guo: So, I got those emails to other

  • emails from like professors, from current students, from perspective students and so

  • on. So, I felt like it kind of really struck a nerve with quite a few different types of

  • audiences and, so, that's why I'm here today talking to all of you. And I don't think it's

  • a great use of time for me to rehash the contents of my book because it took me several months

  • to distill down 6 years into, it's only like a hundred pages, it's very short. Like, for

  • people that have read it you probably read it in like 3 or 4 hours or something, it's

  • actually quite short. But I don't think it's very useful to distill that down to like 20

  • or 30 minutes. So I am just, I would just be thrilled if there were questions or there's

  • just things we could launch off talking about. That'd be great. So, otherwise I'm just gonna

  • go down the list. Um, yes, in the front.

  • [Inaudible]

  • >>Philip Guo: That's a good question. Um-- [Inaudible]

  • >>Philip Guo: Yes definitely, yeah, definitely. So the question was did I take on any under

  • graduate minions while I was doing my PhD? Is that the question? Um, so early on in my

  • PhD I was, you know, I was on this big group project that people who have read it read

  • about and there was one or two undergraduates who were working with us also but the project

  • was so disorganized that like, it was like the blind leading the blind, like I was a

  • first year student and then my advisor wanted me to lead some undergraduates to do stuff

  • and it was not a great experience for either party. And later on in my PhD I kind of, I

  • managed to do, I managed to pick projects that were very self contained so I did everything

  • myself. So I don't actually have the experience working with undergraduates personally. Sure.

  • [Inaudible]

  • >>Philip Guo: Good. That was a good question, so the questions about the role of teaching

  • because the book was all about research so I purposely made it very focused on, cause

  • like you can talk about all sorts of different things, you can talk about, like, what I do

  • in terms of teaching or extracurricular or, you know, other stuff but I doubt that anyone

  • cares about my personal life, right? People care about the process of doing the PhD and

  • getting research out. So, the question of teaching, so in our department we had 2 classes

  • that you had, you had the TA, 2 classes, minimal because I was on fellowship, I could do what

  • it was called full TA ship so I could only do a half TA ship which means they pay you

  • half but you actually do all the work. [Laughter]

  • >>Philip Guo: So it was actually the worst deal ever. So I ended up TA-ing 3 classes

  • and, for me, teaching was not a huge, the primary teaching for classes was not a huge

  • part of my experience. It didn't take up a ton of time and it wasn't a huge, it wasn't

  • a huge burden or a huge bonus cause, this varies by department but in our department

  • at least the teaching assistants, we didn't really teach like we just kind of maintained

  • the course and held in office hours and graded the work and so there wasn't really a big

  • teaching but there are some people who actually, if they actually like teaching more they would

  • try to teach a summer course. In that case they would actually get credit for teaching

  • 2 courses and they would actually lead the course and give lectures. So, for people who

  • like teaching that was a probably better way to go. That said, though, the teaching experience

  • I had throughout grad school which were more gratifying, were the things I just did on

  • my own. So I have two experiences on that, one is I went to, um, I did some python tutoring

  • at a local, at a local startup that they contacted me cause, you know, I'd kind of been writing

  • about python in my blog a few years ago and then they contacted me and they said that

  • some other scientist and non technical people wanted to learn some basic python just so

  • they could just get a feel for the programming. So I went there for about 10 weeks, once a

  • week, and I would just write on the whiteboard and do introductory python stuff. And the

  • other thing, which is even more cool, is that just last year this guy contacted me, he was

  • a local entrepreneur here and he contacted me and he said that he was looking for someone

  • to teach him programming because he wanted to learn web programming and he's been at

  • this business for decades. He's a very successful business person but since he's in the tech

  • world he wanted to actually learn to code. So I thought that was really admirable and

  • really cool. So I actually ended up spending about 6 to 9 months with him. We did Skype,

  • mostly just screen share on Skype, peer programming for about 6, I have an article on my website

  • about this experience, it was an awesome experience. And he basically went from not knowing anything

  • to being able to build a non trivial, Facebook, social type of application. It was really

  • cool seeing him build everything and my role was basically as a tutor, so, you know, he

  • would just do everything, I would just send him documentation of like, oh look into this

  • library, and then he would struggle with it and then we would debug together and get him

  • over the hump, so that one on one was really, really spectacular. But, in terms of institutional

  • teaching, that wasn't a big part of my experience. That was a super long answer.

  • [Laughs] >>Philip Guo: Bianca can just field the questions,

  • yeah, you can. Microphone? [Pause]

  • [Inaudible]

  • >>Philip Guo: So, there seems to be what time?

  • [Inaudible] >>Philip Guo: Uh-huh.

  • [Inaudible]

  • >>Philip Guo: Good, good. Oh yes, yes, yes, where is this one? Yes, perfect.

  • [Laughter] >>Philip Guo: Thank you. Yes, knowing when

  • to quit. This does not mean quitting the PhD program

  • [Laughter] >>Philip Guo: but quitting individual projects.

  • Quitting the PhD program is also valid. Yeah, so what am I, so my first undergrad research

  • supervisor when I was an undergrad, when I visited, when I visited MIT later on in grad

  • school looking for a place, one of the things he told me was that knowing when to quit was

  • one of the most important things he learned in grad school cause he also had a very similar

  • experience as I did. He spent his first 3 years working on stuff that like totally didn't

  • work out and he just made a switch around in the middle and then switch and his last

  • 3 years he did something else that was way more promising and now he's a full professor

  • at MIT. And somebody else, other people have this story too, so I don't know whether there's

  • like a great answer to that. It's, I think one thing is you can't quit too early for

  • two reasons, one is that you kind of, it's kind of like there's a losing face type thing

  • especially if you're a Jr student and you try something for a few months and you're

  • like, "Oh, I'm just gonna quit" then it doesn't look very good to, you know, your senior colleagues.

  • And, also, quitting too early may be bad because you might just have not accumulated the skills

  • to get over that hump. Um, that's a very hard question. I think, I think maybe it, maybe

  • part of it is just if you can find something else that's better, I guess, that's like,

  • that's also very precarious because I basically quit stuff without having the next thing that

  • I wanted to do but I just got very lucky in that. So I don't really, does anyone else

  • have a better answer? This is just outsourcing. [Laughter]

  • [Pause] >>Philip Guo: Better answer for knowing when

  • to quit. I know it's very important I just have no idea. Let me think, so I think that

  • like mid way is a good point. So, this is a somewhat good answer,

  • [Laughter] >>Philip Guo: it's like when do you know what

  • the middle is when you're serving through, right? So, I think if you're averaging, in

  • the US, if you're averaging a 6 year program then by your 3rd year, like switching advisors

  • or switching groups, I think that usually by your 3rd year you should really figure

  • out if you wanna stay with your defaults, you know, your, like that, stay with your

  • defaults or if the defaults are bad you wanna switch. But, it's very hard to switch later

  • on I would say. So, what year are you now?

  • [Inaudible]

  • >>Philip Guo: Okay. So this is exactly the time.

  • [Laughter] >>Philip Guo: Yeah, exactly the time you should

  • be thinking about that, yeah. Yeah, so I think that, you can't be quitting too late or too

  • early. And questions, or, here, yeah.

  • >>male #1: So as an undergrad [inaudible]

  • >>Philip Guo: Good, good. So, um, to repeat the question, So there's this thing called

  • like the PhD club which is the very simple fact that there is way too many more PhDs