Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Google on his resume

PUBLICATION: The Ottawa Citizen
DATE: 2005.06.21
EDITION: Final
SECTION: Business
PAGE: D1 / Front
BYLINE: Chris Lackner
SOURCE: The Ottawa Citizen
ILLUSTRATION: Colour Photo: Bruno Schlumberger, The Ottawa Citizen / Whilehis friends flip burgers and work retail, 18-year-old Larry Gadea of Kanata will spend his summer vacation in California -- working for search-engine giant Google Inc.
NOTE: How I'll Spend My Summer Vacation

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Google on his resume

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While his friends work in retail stores and fast-food restaurants this summer, 18-year-old Larry Gadea will be designing software for Google Inc. in California.

The self-taught computer programmer from Kanata has been developing games and software since he was 10. The technology giant recently sought him out after he created a modification to Google Desktop Search and posted it on the Internet. The modification, which expanded the search engine's ability to find files on a hard drive, had almost 20,000 unique downloads in its first day online.

When Mr. Gadea was contacted by Google, he thought they might ask him to stop experimenting with their program. Instead, they wanted him on the payroll.

"Google came to me and said the modification was great, so why don't you write us some more," Mr. Gadea said while seated in a computer lab in Kanata's A.Y. Jackson Secondary School. "Having Google on my resume will change everything for me."

In a few weeks, Google will fly Mr. Gadea to Mountain View, California, and put him up in a posh hotel from July 4 to Aug. 26. Mr. Gadea will join a team of Google program designers who are years ahead of him in terms of age, experience and education. A handful of university interns will also be employed by Google this summer, but Mr. Gadea will be the only one fresh out of high school.

Google won't allow him to disclose his salary, but Mr. Gadea will be making much more than his peers back home. "All my friends think it's amazing," he said. "They keep joking around that I'm going to be the next Bill Gates."

Mr. Gadea said he began tinkering with computers out of necessity. His family's computer wasn't advanced enough to run the games he wanted to play as child, so he had to create his own. Starting with a basic programming manual from a library, he began his education.

By age 13, he was designing programs to make his own life a little easier.

"I hated long division in school, so I decided to create a program that would immediately show all the steps for me if I plugged in an equation."

Mr. Gadea landed his first contract with a small American company, called Brevo Inc., at the age of 15. "The first time I was offered a job there was a 10- second delay when I told the employer I was 15. I could hear him ask someone on the other end, 'Are we allowed to hire 15-year-olds?'"

Mr. Gadea's modification to Google's search engine can be found on his website, www.trivex.net. He generally posts his programming work online for free until it garners interest from a company. "I like starting my projects as free and then later adding a price if people like it."

One of his clients is his own school, where he developed a user-friendly system that allows teachers to create a midterm progress report for each student -- touching on everything from attendance problems to learning difficulties and classroom behaviour.

"Parents were complaining that by the time they got a final report card it was too late to change their kids' attitudes towards learning," Mr. Gadea said.

His program has already been adopted by Earl of March Secondary School.

Mr. Gadia developed the system for free, but he hopes to convince the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board to implement it in all of its schools -- for a fair price, of course.

Mr. Gadea said some students have given him a hard time for designing the program, and "one guy offered me $20 to change his attendance record. But I'm not one to give into bribes and corruption."

He is currently involved in a number of projects, including a contract with Ottawa Valley Tree Experts to create a wireless, automated invoice system between the company's main office and its field employees.

Including unfulfilled contracts, Mr. Gadea has made more than $20,000 since he turned 15.

Mr. Gadea's parents, who immigrated to Canada from Romania in 1993, are a little apprehensive of his coming stint in California.

"My parents are worried it will turn into a full-time job and I won't be go to university," Mr. Gadea said.

His mother, Emilia Gadea, said the family encouraged his interest in computers during elementary school. But the Google job is a big adjustment for them.

"This is the first time he is living on his own, and we're a little bit nervous," Mrs. Gadea said. "But we're very proud of him."

Mr. Gadea will begin pursuing a software engineering degree at Carleton University in September. He was also accepted at the University of Waterloo, but Mr. Gadea said he decided to stay in Ottawa because of his business contacts here and because it gives him a chance to pitch his software to the school board.

But if he performs well at Google, Mr. Gadea said, the company might bring him back every summer. In the long run, he hopes to own and operate his own technology company. But for now, the Golden State awaits.

"Every minute I'm there this summer I'll be applying myself and learning something new," he said. "I guess I'll also have to visit the beach a couple times, too."

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