Sunday, September 2, 2007

Meng in the News: 陈一鸣幽默风趣 虔信佛教

Story about me in the Chinese World Journal (世界日报):

陈一鸣幽默风趣 虔信佛教 
座右铭:生命太重要,不能太认真 

【本报讯】陈一鸣在人才济济的网络巨擘Google公司,能够纵横自如,除了工程师专才,幽默风趣的个性显然也帮助他建立重要的人际关系。

他的个人网站即妙趣横生,不厌其详的介绍自己的名字来自「一鸣惊人」的典故,虽然他自谦可能名不副实。但是,陈一鸣与超过一百位世界政商名流在Google合照,并在公司走廊公布周知的奇特事实,经纽约时报报导后,已经使他不鸣则已,一鸣惊人。

陈一鸣来自新加坡,曾在新加坡政府顶尖的肯特岗数码实验室担任高级工程师,后来到加州圣塔芭芭拉大学研究所深造,并获得计算机硕士学位,2000年加入Google。

他表示朋友都叫他「Meng」,并说明这是当地一只著名的人猿的名字。

身为软件工程师,他自我介绍「我是工程师」时,有人问「你是什么工程师」,他经常支支吾吾的说:「哦,我是个…好工程师。」

他把自己的学历、履历和得奖纪录都公布在网站上,「以便有人想送我10亿元,或是邀请我当某个小国的独裁者」。

他的座右铭是:生命太重要了,千万不能太认真。

陈一鸣是个虔诚的佛教徒,1995年就设立了一个佛教网站,与大家分享他的心得和经验。

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Meng in the News: "Who's With Gwyneth? The Google Guy".

Front page story in the New York Times about me.  Also syndicated in many other places, including to newspapers in China and Taiwan.   Link to story.





Monday, June 25, 2007

Meng in the News: 南大毕业生陈一鸣捐款设奖学金

Story in 联合早报 about my philanthropy.




June 25, 2007

回馈社会,先从母校开始 南大毕业生陈一鸣捐款设奖学金


1994年,陈一鸣(37岁)毕业自南洋理工大学电脑工程系。现在,他是美国网站搜索公司谷歌(Google)的电脑软件工程师。

每年捐献一万元

  陈一鸣是第一个在谷歌任职的新加坡人。去年,为了回馈母校的教育之恩,他决定每年捐献一万元给南大,以作为每年资助两名成绩优秀学生的奖学金。这份奖学金以他和太太(在南大认识)的姓为名,称为“陈张奖学金”。

  已在美国定居,每年只回国一次,为什么陈一鸣还会心系南大,决定捐款给母校?

  对于这个问题,他想了一想说,最初到美国矽谷发展,只是凭着对电脑科技的热忱。进入公司之后,他才发现谷歌的工程师,不但是出色的软件程序编写者,而且许多都是慈善家。在矽谷工作了7年,他看到很多人靠科技致富,而这些人总是不忘回馈社会,捐款帮助有经济困难的人。

  在谷歌,这股回馈社会的信念更深。他说:“我们都很年轻、是理想主义者。两者结合后,我们都认为自己有改变世界、拯救世界的能力和责任。”

  天天在这样的环境下工作,耳濡目染,身为虔诚佛教徒的陈一鸣也开始反省是否能够为社会作出更多贡献。去年,本着饮水思源的心意,他做出了每年捐献一万元栽培在校年轻校友的决定。陈一鸣对于这份奖学金,有一个要求,那就是申请者除了成绩优异外,也应具备创意和慈悲之心,有为人类作出贡献的长远目标。

  问他是否也能在新加坡感染到回馈社会的风气?他反问记者:“你印象中的新加坡大慈善家是谁?是李光前还是陈笃生?他们都是已经过世的先人。这就是问题所在。在矽谷,我认识的慈善家都还活着,还有几个人是跟我年纪相仿的年轻人。”

  他因此希望有能力,而且能年复一年地为成绩优秀的学生颁发这份奖学金。陈一鸣也希望,这份奖学金可以和美国“富布赖特奖学金”(Fulbright Scholarship)一样,随着获颁奖学金而来的荣誉,发展成人人争夺的奖学金。原因不是为了虚荣或成就感,而是希望奖学金能抛砖引玉,启发奖学金得主或欲申请奖学金者认真思考,要如何培养自己对人类的关怀,如何为社会作出更大的贡献。

  陈一鸣有一个生活哲学,就是真诚的对待和协助每天所见到的每一个人,而他也认为行善并不一定是要给予金钱或其他有形之物。
陈一鸣打趣的说:“或许我是越老越天真吧……”

越来越多大学毕业生
捐款母校帮助“后浪”

  越来越多本地大学毕业生捐款给母校,以帮助有需要的学生。

  本报一月间报道,本地大学通过电话劝捐方式呼吁校友捐款,引起一些校友的不满。这些大学毕业生认为,这种募款的方式很商业化。除了不满电话另一端募捐学生像传来推销员般劝捐的口气之外,他们对大学缺乏归属感,也是致使他们不愿捐献的原因。

  虽然校方主动拨电向校友募捐的方式引起了一些争议,但这种主动争取的努力,似乎也取得了不错的效果。

两大学募款皆反应良好

 新加坡国立大学受询时表示,校友对两年前开始的“常年募款活动”(Annual Giving)反应越来越好。截至本月底的财政年,共有2359名校友捐出130万7400元,比前年1452名学生共捐出的96万700元多出35%。其中,以拨电方式募款的成效颇大,每三个被联络上的校友当中,就有一人表示愿意捐款。

  南大基金发展处主任陈美月当时受访时同样表示:“整体而言,南大校友对这项电话捐款计划反应良好。”她也指出,过去两年,南大校友捐款者人数增加了约21倍。

  另一方面,南大最新期刊《Impact》在创刊号中报道,2005年开始的“毕业生募款活动”(Graduation Giving)获得越来月多毕业班学生的响应。前年,只有8%的毕业班学生选择在募款活动中捐款。去年,比率增加将近3倍,达到21%,也就是每5个即将毕业的学生中,就有一人同意捐款。

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Meng in the News: Googleplex: Geek Paradise

This story made the front page of the Digital Life section. Part 1 of the Straits Times story about Google and myself.  Part 2 is just about me.



Straits Times – Digital Life - Feb 27, 2007

Google PLEX: GEEK PARADISE

Where work seems like play

Everything from free hair cuts, lap pools to subsidised massage to creative churn keep staff working happily on Google grounds. THAM YUEN-C checks out its neural networks

 
Your browser may not support display of this image.Your browser may not support display of this image.
   
 
THE PLACE TO BE: A replica of Space Ship One.

Your browser may not support display of this image.

Your browser may not support display of this image.Google has some post apocalyptic plans.

Or at least some Googlers - as employees like to be known - do.

I saw them on the ground floor of building 43 at the search giant's Mountain View headquarters in California.

There were diagrams and flowcharts, depicting how the fictional computer network, Skynet, would destroy the world, and how Google would eventually index the whole world.

The scenarios were scribbled all over a 3m-long whiteboard.

When the writings and squiggles fill up the whole board, also known as the idea board, a ceremony complete with beer and food is held to wipe it clean and make way for other plans that anyone can contribute to.

The earlier diagrams are also captured in pictures before that, but for fun and not for any documentation purposes. Because the plans would have already served their purpose of creating cerebral churn.

This board, and the intellectual capital that percolates from staff cubicle to boardroom to millions of users the world over - encapsulates how Google keeps itself ahead of the competition.

By getting employees to think - a lot and creatively - and involving everyone at every level in the company's fortunes.

On my whirlwind visit to Google on Valentine's day, I didn't get to taste the lobster served by Charlie's Place on that day, or any of the legendary gourmet food at the other 10 staff cafes there. Nor did I get a haircut or a subsidised massage.

But I did get to see some of the things that have propelled Google to the top of the list of Fortune Magazine's 100 Best Companies To Work For in 2007.

A veritable geek's paradise, the company made an obscene amount - US$10.6 billion (S$16.3 billion) - in revenue last year. And, going by the staff perks that it sheds liberally around its campus-like grounds, it likes to share.

There was the No Name cafe, the IT place to chill out at the search giant's 500,000 sq ft (46,451 sq m) campus at 1600 Amphitheatre Parkway, the wave pool watched by a full-time lifeguard, yellow motorised scooters scattered around the campus and offices for staff to zip around on, and the beach volleyball pit where Google's founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin are said to play ball when taking a break from work.

Such perks, deeply enmeshed within the company's culture, are the means to keeping the 10,000-strong workforce happy and creative. And what has helped drive the company's stock from its public offer price of US$85 to the US$475.85 reached last week.

Mr Joe Kraus, who oversees the development of collaborative products at Google, explains it this way: "Smart, technical people want to spend as much time doing smart technical things and nothing else. And they get energy from being at their computer and zoning in."

So providing yummy eats at the cafes, is one way for them to "focus on their work".

Indeed. The search giant spends an estimated US$100,000 a day on free food alone.

Have food will work

Many Googlers will attest to the fact that the gastric juices get the creative juices to last the distance.

One of them is Singaporean Vincent Koh, who has been working as a test engineer at Google since 2003. (See page 6, Fitting Into The Work Culture.)

"I usually stay at work until after dinner because they provide such good food here. My fridge at home is quite empty," he said.

For the one-third of Google's employees based outside the Unite States in cities like Beijing and Hong Kong, sustenance comes in the form of catered food.

And while the company, which evolved from a university research project in 1998, now has a market cap of US$145 billion, it has retained much of its start-up, entrepreneurial culture.

Engineers at Google work in colourful, open workspaces in small groups. The company has a flat hierarchy, and most Google name cards describe which department someone is from rather than his rank.

No matter what the job, you swear that you could almost touch the neural connections that Googlers make in their daily discourses - it's that palpable.

And it is this interplay of innovative culture and tension that the company believes has helped it stay in the race after eight years.

"In my three months here, I haven't yet met anybody that's dumb, and that's very unusual," said Mr Kraus, who was one of the founders of Jotspot, a developer of wiki technology that has since been bought over by Google, and the Excite search engine.

What is best, said Singaporean Tan Chade-Meng, who works as a developer there, is that the smart people are also nice. (See A Singaporean At Google).

"Smart people don't tend to be nice, but here, everyone is very pleasant. Even though everyone is so brilliant, there is a certain sense of humility," said Mr Tan.

With such a brilliant workforce that includes big names like Vinton Cerf, known as one of the founding fathers of the Internet, and Larry Brilliant, who led the World Health Organisation programme to eradicate smallpox, it is no wonder that Google manages to attract legions of engineers, marketing and administrative people who graduated at the top of their class.

"It's a lot of fun to work here. There's a lot of creativity and the work culture is really unique," said Mr Koh.

To be sure, Googlers are highly competitive too, the two Singaporeans said. There is as much camaraderie as there is the individual striving to shine, said

Mr Tan who joined the company seven years ago. Yet, for the software engineer there is no other place he would rather be.

"Some days I feel like I'm in heaven. Millions of people love your product, your mother can use what you've built, and there's free food," he said.






Straits Times-Digital Life-Feb 27, 2007

Google PLEX: GEEK PARADISE

A Singaporean at Google

Your browser may not support display of this image.Your browser may not support display of this image.

FAST MOVER: Mr Tan, on one of the yellow motorised scooters for Google staff to use, works as a software developer writing code for the search engine.

Your browser may not support display of this image.

Your browser may not support display of this image.Getting called a "fellow" at Google is something coveted by many, but reserved only for a select few. The title is only conferred to the top engineers who have made outstanding contributions to the company and, eight years on, the company only has four engineering fellows.

Yet, Singaporean Tan Chade-Meng, 36, managed to earn a fellow-title - through sheer creativity.

The developer at Google might not yet be an engineering fellow in the traditional Google sense, but he has become the company's Jolly Good Fellow.

Which is, as his name card says, something nobody can deny.

"When I needed new name cards I just submitted the request to my manager and he approved it," quipped Mr Tan of the title on his name card.

It is both this creative streak and his programming prowess that have seen him through the projects he has worked on for the search leader, including developing the mobile search engine and also adapting Google's search for use with the Chinese language.

In his seven years at Google, the engineer, who is the first Singaporean hired by the company, has also taken on other portfolios.

One of which he really enjoys, is becoming a Google ambassador of sorts.

Because of a very "Singaporean" trait of always wanting to "take pictures",

Mr Tan managed to get a snapshot taken with former United States president Jimmy Carter when he visited Google's office years ago.

That picture kicked off a picture gallery aptly titled All The Presidents' Meng, and also his role as a Google host.

Now, Mr Tan gets to play tour guide to visitors to the campus.

It was a lot more than he bargained for when he first joined the company after graduating with straight As from a master's course in computer science from the University of California in Santa Barbara (UCSB).

That is why the father-of-one is not in a hurry to return home to Singapore with his wife and US-born daughter.

"I have the opportunity to tackle very challenging problems and also work on products that millions of people rely on daily, and they love us. To top it all off, I get to meet some famous people occasionally," said Mr Tan.

Q&A with Mr Tan Chade-Meng

How did you get your job at Google?

"I sent in my resume to Google and then I was called for an interview."

What was the toughest part of the interview?

"As an engineer, it was having to solve difficult technical problems, on the spot, with very little time."

Any tips for someone who wants to work there?

"Always pursue your own passion. If you're doing something you're passionate about, then you're likely to be very motivated and to become outstanding."

Any drawbacks about working there?

"There is too much temptation to be overworked. When you're solving big problems that make a difference for millions of users worldwide, and your co-workers are all brilliant and hardworking, it's very hard to resist the temptation of working much harder than you really should.