Island woman loves engineering, ends up working for Google

Steve Sharratt
Published on March 13, 2016

Google systems engineer Leesa Noujiem addressed Montague Rotary Wednesday and said a visit to her homeland wouldn’t be complete without an outing at Brookvale with children Marc and Clara.

©THE GUARDIAN/Steve Sharratt

Rotarians keen to hear about hometown girl’s success at one of largest companies in world

MONTAGUE –  Leesa MacLeod’s employer didn’t even exist when she graduated from high school over 25 years ago.

But 10 years later, when the 1987 Governor General Award winner at Montague Regional High School was working towards a PhD in electrical engineering, a global technology corporation was just getting started.

“It’s a wonderful place to work,’’ said MacLeod to the town Rotary Club Wednesday. “And I’m so glad I work for Google and I went into engineering.”

Now a mother of two children, MacLeod, now Noujeim, was the guest speaker at the service club which coincided with a visit to her parents, John and Carol MacLeod, of Valleyfield.

FACT BOX – Google perks

“I’m not a public speaker,’’ she said. “I usually work in a lab coat in front of a computer.”

Rotarians were keen to hear about a hometown girl’s success at one of the largest companies in the world.

MacLeod took engineering at UNB before completing her doctorate at the University of Toronto. In 2007, she was snapped up by Google and has been a computer designer ever since in the San Francisco Bay, Calif., office.

“It’s taken a lot of work but we’ve been able to build relatively cheap computers at a large scale to respond to the millions and millions of queries every day,’’ said MacLeod. “People have gotten used to trustworthy answers, and people don’t even think how much it has become a tool in their lives.”

Google’s mission is to organize the world’s information, and MacLeod said she now works with Google Access which is focusing on ways to improve communication for people in the world who have little or no access to the Internet.

“Maybe they have little or no access to the Internet and we are figuring out ways to help them’’ she said. “We have a Project Link in Uganda right now that is installing fibre infrastructure in partnership with business and we are also involved in something called Project Loon which is to deploy a large fleet of balloons in the atmosphere that can provide phone coverage.”

Rotarians were told the balloon Wi-Fi project is still a work in progress but would assist in connecting in places with difficult access to build infrastructure or with intemperate political conditions.

“I like working at Google because I can have an impact,’’ she said. “It’s a place for people who love math and science and a passion for technology.”

New projects vary from a self-driving car to reduce fatalities to robot controlled devices are all part of the massive drawing board for the company that employs 20,000 alone in California.

“We are a blackboard for other people to write on,’’ she said. “And I’m so happy with my job because there’s no shift work, I work my own hours, and it doesn’t matter how long I sit in a chair…it’s based on how many ideas I come up with.”

MacLeod, who works at the Mountain View headquarters, said her workplace is like a university campus with nerf gun arsenals for fun, a daily lunch provided and sports centres to let off steam.

“I think they provide all these perks to keep employees at top performance and it works,’’ she said. “When we all go to lunch we talk shop and take it back to our work station.”

She lives only four hours from Lake Tahoe, one of the most popular skiing slopes in North America, but MacLeod admits she’s hoping for a little cold this Friday so she can take her kids to Brookvale.

“We prefer Brookvale,’’ she laughed. “It’s more our kind of slopes.”

Google perks

1 - Nerf gun arsenals

2 - Nutritious free daily lunch

3 - Sports Centres