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Google CFO advocates using technology to change world

21 February 2013

Mr Pichette (right) with Associate Professor Gregory Clancey, Master of the Tembusu College

The world is essentially "broken" and you have to work on big problems that require critical mass, innovation and thinking on the problems themselves to move the wheel. Google's Chief Financial Officer and Senior Vice President Mr Patrick Pichette said this to some 50 NUS students during a fireside chat at NUS University Town on 15 February.

Giving the example of Google's self-driving cars, he said the idea was borne out of the realisation that many drivers are prone to error, resulting in traffic jams or accidents. After a competition, a team was formed to focus on this project and develop workable prototypes.

On judging whether an idea can work, the Google CFO said: "It has got to be a crazy idea. It starts with - is it completely nuts or not? Will a billion or two people use it?" In terms of funding, it does not have to be capital-intensive. The Android operating system is one such idea that took off. It went from being a four-person team to 150 people dedicated to working on the system. Android is now one of the most popular mobile platforms worldwide.

Sharing on "Googlers" (people who work at Google), Mr Pichette said: "When you come and work at Google, you are cut in a certain way." Staff must possess "Googliness" - working hard, being passionate and incredibly committed. As a Googler, according to him, he can change the world and be part of a team that dreams big to make people's lives better. "It's a pretty good gig," he told the students.

The students also got a glimpse of the more personal aspects of Mr Pichette during the Question and Answer session where he shared about his work and life balance, as well as organising one's life around technology.

Juggling his role in the areas of finance, employee welfare and corporate social responsibility, he still finds time to finish his day and unwind with "ducks, pelicans and the occasional skunk" at a river near his home. He told the audience that it is important to find "time for yourself - it is critical for your well-being".