Every week of his senior year, Nathan Beach ’08 read the issue of Newsweek magazine available to residents of his on-campus apartment building. One week in November, he read an article about an innovative program at Google. For its associate product manager program, the article said, the global Internet and software company actually wanted applicants with little or no traditional job experience. The idea: to imbue in fresh talent the Google approach to business.
Beach knew the daunting statistic: hundreds of thousands of job seekers applying every year to work at Google. “But it looked like the perfect job to me,” he said, “so I applied anyway.” By April, he had a job offer.
Besides his excellent academic record at Calvin, Google noted Beach’s entrepreneurial streak. In middle school he taught himself how to build websites and in high school created ChristNotes.org, a Bible site he still maintains. Throughout high school and college he consulted for nonprofits and small businesses on building and optimizing their sites.
After his Calvin graduation and a summer on the Christian Reformed Church’s Sea-to-Sea Bike Tour, Beach joined two dozen other bright young computer scientists hired into the associate product manager program at Google headquarters in Mountain View, Calif. From the get-go they were given big responsibilities for company products while being coached by experienced product managers.
“I thrived in that environment where so much is entrusted to people who are so young,” he said. “It was all that the Newsweek article described and more.”
Halfway through their program, the associate product managers traveled to company offices in Tokyo, Beijing and Taipei.
“Most of the people who use Google are outside the U.S.,” Beach explained. “In fact, there are more people in China with access to the Internet than in the U.S. So it’s important that we make Google products compelling for them.”
He’s now doing just that as a full product manager with Google Images.
“My job is to help shape the vision and strategy of the product,” Beach said. “Within Google Images there are a lot of things we could do. Which of those do we pursue? I work with all the stakeholders to help decide that and then to develop and launch the new features.”
For example, as a result of his work, last December Google debuted features that make searching images on tablets, such as an iPad, easier and more fun.
“I like working on something that’s used by hundreds of millions of people and that makes their lives better,” he said.
As a product manager, Beach has to be as business savvy as he is computer savvy. To hone that skill set he’ll leave Google in the fall to attend Harvard Business School.
“I’ve really enjoyed mentoring quite a few new product managers,” he said. “I’ll miss that. And I’ll miss working every day with many of the smartest people I’ve ever met. But I guess I’ll meet some more at Harvard, too.”