“Whitfield highlighted the importance of the individual to society. My work on Google Search in Myanmar is an example of that. I hope to continue finding and acting on opportunities to make a positive impact on communities around the world.”
Shane joined Whitfield in 7th grade and graduated in 2011. At Washington University in St. Louis, he studied chemical engineering, computer science, and nanotechnology in the McKelvey School of Engineering. He graduated in 2015 with two Bachelor of Science degrees, summa cum laude, and a Master of Science in Computer Science. Shane's research in computational chemistry was published at the International Conference on Machine Learning and in the Journal of Chemical Physics. After interning at Microsoft in Seattle for two summers, Shane joined Google in early 2016, where he now works as a Senior Software Engineer in Internationalization Engineering. His work focuses on scaling technology to the next billion users. His team at Google is based in Mountain View, California and Zürich, Switzerland.
How did Whitfield prepare you for college and beyond?
Whitfield taught me many skills that have helped me excel at college and advance quickly in the workplace: communication, time management, writing, organization, teamwork, and critical thinking. Thanks to the high-level math and science classes at Whitfield, I jumped straight into advanced engineering classes at Washington University, where I was routinely able to handle 18 or more credits per semester. I was awarded the Varney Prize in Physics and was named Outstanding Junior in Computer Science. At Google, where critical thinking is a prerequisite, I'm met with increasingly challenging projects. I've taken on influential responsibilities in standards committees, an environment where writing and communication skills are of the utmost importance.
What skills do you use in your career that you began forming at Whitfield?
I feel very strongly that it is crucial for engineers to think globally, especially when working at a company as far-reaching as Google. Engineering isn't just about math and science; it's also about the bigger picture, how one's work impacts people living all around the world. My well-rounded education at Whitfield, including six years of English, History, and Foreign Language, helped me develop this sense of global thinking.
One experience that really made me appreciate my Whitfield education emerged in 2017.
At Google, I have worked closely with character and font encodings in the Myanmar script. Outside Myanmar, most online communication worldwide uses the standard Unicode encoding, allowing for ease of information sharing, natural language processing, and content moderation. However, until recently, most users in Myanmar communicated using the non-standard Zawgyi encoding.
I recalled the Whitfield unit on genocide when hearing about the thousands of Rohingya people fleeing oppression in Myanmar. At the time, Zawgyi users were less able to discover non-Zawgyi perspectives, and Zawgyi content evaded hate speech moderation. Together, these effects created information bubbles that allowed for undetected hate speech to thrive in the absence of alternate perspectives, a finding later echoed by the Human Rights Council of the United Nations. In my work at Google, I have advocated for broader Unicode adoption in Myanmar, and today, we continue to see more and more Google users adopting Unicode on their devices.
Whitfield highlighted the importance of the individual to society. My work on the Zawgyi-to-Unicode transition in Myanmar is an example of that. I hope to continue finding and acting on opportunities to make a positive impact on communities around the world.
What were your primary interests and activities while you were at Whitfield?
Outside of core academics at Whitfield, I was involved in music, tech club, the Aeneid (online magazine), and the Iliad (yearbook). I played saxophone in band for all six years, including jazz band and pep band (I continued into college, and now I perform with the Google Wind Ensemble). Trash Can Band during Spirit Week was one of my most memorable extracurricular experiences at Whitfield. The technical skills I practiced in tech club and the Aeneid are helping me in my career and in my side projects, including Octave Online (www.octave-online.net), the web site I created for scientific computing in the cloud, and Card Creatr Studio (cardcreatr.sffc.xyz), software I wrote for board and card game prototyping.
Describe your career.