With hundreds of millions of users and one of the most iconic – and quirkily mercurial – logos, Google is among the world’s most familiar companies. Yet while many of us turn to Google search for information daily, few know its behind-the-scenes intricacies as well as Daniel Hoag ‘03. A software engineer at Google’s headquarters in Mountain View, Calif., he has dabbled in several of the company’s key initiatives.
While he earned an undergraduate degree in computer engineering, Hoag wasn’t certain from the outset which direction he wanted to pursue in the field. Following graduation, he relocated to Baltimore for a job with leading global security company Northrop Grumman. He participated in the company’s Professional Development Program, which afforded him a taste of many different aspects of the industry, such as systems engineering and hardware. That’s when he discovered his penchant for software. During his tenure with Northrop Grumman, Hoag applied his newfound area of specialization to satellite data processing.
Hoag’s interests have never been limited to computers, though. At NC State he minored in Japanese language, and spent his junior year studying at Japan’s Hiroshima Shudo University.
“I originally chose Japanese because I loved foreign languages in high school but wanted something very different from French and Latin,” he said. “And NC State had some great Japanese study abroad programs. While studying abroad, I sort of fell in love with the language and many parts of the culture.”
After college, Hoag kept his Japanese language skills sharp as a hobby. This skillset came in handy when, in 2008, the Charlotte native left the East Coast for the West and took a job at Google. One of his first assignments there focused on improving the quality of Google’s Japanese search. During his time working on this, as well as on local business search, Hoag pushed out major changes to the search algorithm that affected billions and billions of queries.
“I only broke Google search once the whole time,” he said with a wink.
Hoag also put his language skills to use when a prominent Japanese news magazine did a special feature on Google, as he translated for two computer industry legends: UNIX® creator Ken Thompson and Python creator Guido Van Rossum.
In addition to working on Google search, Hoag “got to experience the craziness of a Google X project.” X, Google’s semi-secret research and development facility, is home to advancements such as driverless cars. There Hoag was part of the team developing Google Glass – an augmented reality head-mounted display.
Since then, Hoag has spent his time at Google identifying new ways of measuring Google Ads conversions. One of his current challenges is writing software that processes a tremendous amount of data. He routinely uses tens of thousands of computers to accomplish his tasks – and he’s trying to figure out how to scale even larger.
In his free time Hoag enjoys traveling, hiking, and exploring the San Francisco Bay Area’s exceptional culinary offerings. He has remained connected with the Park Scholarships program by serving on its Regional Selection Committee, and returned to NC State in April for sPark, the Park Scholarships’ biannual leadership and networking symposium. There he contributed to a panel discussion on the topic of women in science and engineering.
“Being surrounded by other Park Scholars – great role models and friends,” said Hoag, is one of his greatest memories of his college experience. “I continue to be amazed at the wide range of things Park Scholars do in life.”