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Alumni Interview Series: Owen Kunhardt – Software Engineer, Google

Belated Happy New Year to everyone in the department! We hope you've been having a pleasant break. Next up in our Alumni Interview Series is Owen Kunhardt. Also a member of the Class of 2021, Owen is now a software engineer and community lead at Google. Read on to hear from him about his path and perspective on his field.

Thanks for taking the time to speak with us! What are you working on these days?:

I am currently a software engineer at Google. I primarily work on developing and testing new features and maintaining existing ones related to video playbacks on the YouTube Android App. Furthermore, I also am a global lead for a large community within Google to help Early Career Googlers meet and grow.

Thinking in terms of your current projects - school or work - can you tell us a little about how studying at Hunter helped you get there?:

Professor Susan Epstein was a great influence on me, and her lab and courses were critical in preparing me for the internships I did during my undergrad and the position I am in now. She taught me a lot about, but not limited to, artificial intelligence, conducting research, and writing. Additionally, serving as an undergraduate teaching assistant for a variety of courses offered in the Hunter CS Department also helped prepare me for where I am now.

What do you find exciting about your field right now?:

I find the recent advances in generative models the most exciting, particularly DALL-E 2, ChatGPT, and laMDA. They are impressive and scary. As good as they are, they are far from foolproof. It will be interesting to see how these technologies evolve and the moral debates surrounding them.

What do you see yourself doing downline? Say, 5 years from now: will you be working more deeply in the area you are now, or branching out to something else?:

I think down the road, I would like to transition to a team at Google that works on taking the research done at other parts of Google and turning it into a product that is useful for everyone. I am also interested in getting a master’s degree at the intersection of artificial intelligence and neuroscience from a university in Europe in the near future, which will likely influence what I end up wanting to work on.

Serious stuff aside, what do you miss about your time at Hunter?:

I miss being a teaching assistant the most, helping students better understand the subject they are learning and reinforcing my own knowledge of it. I also miss working with my friends to solve difficult practice problems on whatever subject we were all learning together at Hunter.

Is there an album/artist/genre of music that you like to listen to when you code, or some other tool/practice that helps you get in the zone?:

I like to listen to classical music or soundtracks, in particular, violin concertos. Recently, my favorite has been the Brahms Violin Concerto. I personally find lyrics too distracting when I am trying to solve problems.