By Jess Dankenbring, ’17

After graduating with a major in math and a minor in computer science, Taylor Applebaum, ’13, spent her summer interning at Google Chicago. While many recent graduates would follow an internship with a full-time job, Applebaum returned to the classroom at UR in the fall to continue to learn more and build her computer science skills.

Those additional classes paid off when she was offered jobs at Google, Facebook, and Amazon in fall 2013. Applebaum chose Google and is now working on a speech-processing team.

"My team works on everything related to speech detection," Applebaum says. "An example of this is the 'Ok Google' detection that launches search in many Google applications. Google posted an external blog post that announced Android wearables, and my starter project is related to speech detection in the watch."

Beyond her coursework, it was her research and the mentorship provided by faculty that set her on her path. Her familiarity with machine learning developed from research with Doug Szajda and Barry Lawson, both professors in the Mathematics and Computer Science Department. While working as a Grainger Research Fellow, her goal was to develop software that could detect malicious JavaScript in real time, meaning it could determine whether a website could be harmful to a computer as the page is rendering.

“These machine learning concepts are highly relevant in the field of speech processing, so my familiarity with them has helped immensely as I ramp up on my current project,” Applebaum says. “This project was my first exposure to writing software outside of the classroom setting. Developing this skill was huge because it is what I do every day now.”

Even when completing research that was unrelated to her current work, Applebaum found that her exposure to research was helpful.

"Research at Richmond, whether it was in microbiology or abstract algebra, taught me to deal with ambiguity and determine what questions needed to be asked to overcome obstacles," she says.

Her research also prepared her to interact with a dynamic team of professionals despite her being one of the newer and younger team members. Applebaum worked closely with professors at UR and the discrepancy in experience didn’t hold her back.

“I have a weekly recurring lunch with a group of 15 or so engineers and project managers that have also graduated in the last two years; one of them is Keefer Taylor, ’13,” Applebaum says. “Other than getting to work on awesome problems, my favorite thing about Google is the people.  It is a group of really interesting, fun, and genuine people with pretty diverse experiences.”

Through meetings, code reviews (a process in which engineers edit each other’s code), and chats in front of a white board where she can ask questions and get feedback from others on her team, Applebaum is able to work independently and yet collaborate with coworkers.

“For me, this is a great balance,” Applebaum says. “I have the chance to really own what I am working on without doing it in isolation.”

Applebaum has only been with Google for a few months, but there’s no doubt that she sees a future in computer science and technology.

“Whatever role I’m in here, I’m trying to learn as much as I can,” Applebaum says. “I think I’ll gravitate towards what I enjoy, what I’m good at, and interesting problems. Then that will dictate where I am in a few years.”