Khalil Griffin is a Software Engineer at Google and the Tapia 2020 Student Posters/ ACM Student Research Competition Chair. We spoke to him about his journey to being a computer scientist and why we really need volunteers to help judge the Poster Competition.
Tell me about your background and where you grew up?
I grew up in St. Louis Missouri. My parents met at Washington University in St. Louis. My Mom is an accountant and my Dad is an IT professional. I’m the oldest of three.
How did you become involved in Computer Science?
I was not open to the idea of CS in High School. When I started planning to go to college at Stanford University, my focus was going to be either Physics or Political Science. The nice thing about Stanford is that you don’t apply to a specific school or major, so you have freedom to explore. I attended the Stanford Summer Engineering Academy the month before I started my first year. This helped me learn and build connections, and we required to take a math and a computer science class. I really enjoyed the Computer Science class, in fact I would spend nights doing extensions to the assignment because it would make me proud. I ended up taking an entry CS class at Stanford then the next one and the next one. I got an internship at Google the summer after my freshman year. It was great seeing the real difference between how projects work in class vs industry. In class you focus on meeting a deadline, in industry you need to create good code that will last and last. For most of college I was torn between academia and industry. After three internships at Google everyone was pretty sure I was going to work at Google. It’s funny when I think that if I’d gone to a different college, I might have gone into political science.
What are the key projects you are working on today?
My team secures accounts that might be vulnerable or targeted, so no one besides the owner can access their account.
I am also very passionate about teaching and mentoring. Even when I was a child In 5th grade I met with kindergartners! Today, I mentor other engineers and new employees. I really enjoy helping people advance their goals and careers.
My other key project is that I’m going to be getting married later this year! We are currently working on how to best plan around all of the craziness of 2020!
How did you become involved in the Tapia Conference?
I helped bring Stanford University to Tapia in 2015. I wanted to find a conference and we were able to get the money together to send several students. I’ve gone to all but one of the Tapia conferences ever since.
What are you looking forward to at Tapia this year?
This year has been a real challenge for the planners, students, and faculty. I’m excited we can reach new people who couldn’t travel to Tapia before. I’m looking forward to seeing the resilience and adaptations everyone has made during these very different times. We have built a Tapia like we’ve never seen before.
Why do you think it is important for people to attend and volunteer to judge the Poster Session.?
The poster session is where new researchers are coming and showing their talents. These are undergrads who have never done research or presented before and grad students just starting their research careers. They are the future of computer science research. In the not-too-distant future, these students will be doing the cutting-edge research we need people to do. Attending the Poster Session is a great way to get an early look at these new researchers.
Judging goes to next level. You are able to shape and help them grow. The judges help them understand where they need to improve, and help them grow their confidence. We have more than doubled the number of posters this year, and we really need more industry and faculty attendees to volunteer. If you are interested please sign up at https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1AFlajPUWUXFNJUm67fCDJ8VteEXccERBR-fN5C2lRn0/edit.