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Janny is a Software Engineer at Google, working on video quality signals for Google News and Discover.

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"Don't feel like the career you start working towards now is the on you'll have to stick to for the rest of your life: this is just a starting point. There's so much of the world you have yet to experience, and you'll have many chances to do new things."

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Janny Zhang
Class of 2015


Some HKN folks whom I worked with to build EECS department programs with <3


My career roadmap has been all over the place.

I completely bombed this piano competition I entered in 9th grade (LOL). I disliked practice (my parents made me do it), but I hated the thought of me doing poorly as a result of my laziness more, so I started motivating myself to be better.

My parents encouraged me to take a 2-day workshop looking into possible careers. Both my parents had studied engineering, and I liked the concept of “being a problem-solver,” so I thought I’d look into that route. (English & US History were still my favorite subjects).

I joined the robotics team as one of the few girls. All the guys flooded the mechanical/ electrical subteams, so I looked into other subteams and started with business and marketing. As I became more comfortable, I took on more leadership and technical roles, primarily in computer aided design (CAD) and assembly.

I learned how to lead and work with people through various groups I joined/ started: mostly Project Linus, Yearbook, and the math club. I loved graphic design, drawing, and business (Yearbook and social media for PL); math was just neat and interesting (though I wasn’t the best at it).

Re: majors: I didn’t want anything fiscally risky, and I never joined the electrical/ programming robotics subteams, so I figured I’d learn electrical engineering & computer science (EECS) in college. I also knew I’d never learn those outside class, whereas my natural interests would lead me to humanities in free time.

At UC Berkeley, the 2016 presidential election got me very interested in how social media amplifies human sentiments (my background in marketing/ social media came into play here). From then on, I became interested in misinformation. I would later help start a lab to study it.

I took phenomenal humanities courses (human rights, political economy, design innovation, landscape architecture, legal anthropology) which gave me a better understanding of the human condition and where I fit into that equation. I also taught many diverse students, learning how systemic inequality plays into the world of tech.

I’m a software engineer at Google, improving video quality in Google News and Discover (information quality is the flip side to misinformation.) My job’s potential impact is what intrigues me: what our algorithms recommend shapes our users' views of the world, which is not a responsibility I take lightly. (Onward!)



Here are my extracurriculars relevant to this pathway


  • VP of Business & Marketing + doing-what-needs-doing member of Project 691 Robotics; I learned a lot about working relationships.

  • Editor in Chief for Yearbook, that was super fun and stressful!

  • Event Manager for Project Linus, the MaBW’s were always great.

  • Founder of Math Club, we watched so many Numberphile videos.

  • Participant in UCLA High School Summer Research Program.


  • Frictional Braking System Designer for the UCB Hyperloop Team: though, I still don’t know why they trusted a EECS major with a MechE job?

  • VP/various roles for Eta Kappa Nu (HKN) Mu Chapter, the national Electrical and Computer Engineering honors society. We did a lot of things to support the EECS community, like starting an Ethics in Tech speaker series and offering tutoring hours on weekdays.

  • Full-stack Software Engineering Intern at GoFundMe, that was pretty fun.

  • Undergraduate Student Instructor for EE16A/B, the intro to electrical engineering classes at UC Berkeley. I wrote study guides & taught discussion sections of up to 40 people at a time.

  • Doing misinformation research at UC Berkeley under professor Ranade; we did data analysis and released a Medium article with our findings.


What I'm currently doing/hope to do

At Google, I currently engineer algorithms which determine whether video publishers are considered authorities on certain topics in certain regions. That entails a lot of data wrangling (taking publisher data, aggregating it and creating a single authority score per channel) and doing live experiments (trialing new user experiences for user subgroups to see which experience is the best). Eventually though, I’d like to merge my engineering work into education, activism, or journalism. After all, software engineering itself isn’t my passion -- it’s just a tool I can use in my pursuit of working on bigger, societal problems like misinformation, climate change, mental health, and education. As such, I spend a few hours each week reading & facilitating discussions with my friends on the history of important issues that face America today and (occasionally) sitting in on city council meetings.


How to maximize my time in high school?

  • Advice #1: Get comfortable being uncomfortable. You’re going to have a rough time whenever you learn something new, and that’s exactly the feeling you need to be used to regardless of what you want to do. This is a particularly important attitude for doing CS or engineering, since new inventions come out all the time; you will never know everything you wish you knew.

  • Advice #2: Try to build a strong academic foundation. Unfortunately, engineering programs are really competitive. High grades are definitely helpful to get your foot in the door, especially in STEM classes. Also, college classes move wicked fast (expect that you will Not be prepared); the more math basics you know by heart, the easier it’ll be to keep up. You also learn a lot through related extracurriculars.

  • Find humanities purposes for your engineering. No career exists in isolation from the rest of the world, and engineering is no exception. Unless you only do academic research, engineering is fundamentally about building solutions for problems faced by people. Good engineering programs will recognize students who understand that their engineering is done for a purpose, and whose extracurriculars reflect that. Many bad products are made by engineers who don’t care about the humanities.

  • Push yourself up, not down. Pursuing engineering is difficult, and a number of people (myself included) feel a strong sense of imposter syndrome. In that case, remember: acknowledging your strengths and weaknesses is one thing, but self-deprecation is another. Apply the problem-solving mindset to yourself: what are helpful behaviors and habits, and what isn’t? Take on a growth mindset: everyone is capable of learning and becoming better.

  • It’s fine to not know what you want to do. Don’t feel like the career you start working towards now is the one you’ll have to stick to for the rest of your life: this is just a starting point. There’s so much of the world that you have yet to experience, and you’ll have many chances to do new things. I thought for sure I was going to work on hard climate change tech until the infosphere took over my brain.

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