What is the definition of hell? Chicago's O'Hare airport after it shuts down. You'd be surprised how a little bit of rain affects so many lives. I didn't expect to eat breakfast at a Denny's in Arlington Heights this morning anymore than I expected writing this blog from the Doubletree next door.
This is what I get for three straight 12-hour days of coverage at Web 2.0 Expo? Aaargh. All right, enough whining. Last night, while waiting in line with a thousand other people to get the first flight out of town the airport could muster for me, I happened to stand in front of a guy wearing a Google T-shirt.
Naturally, I asked if he'd just come from Web 2.0. In fact, he was two weeks away from starting his career for the search giant. And now, a shout-out to Ilya. Hope you get to Toronto soon, buddy.
Ilya is a 25-year old programmer who will be working on Google's Global File System and Bigtable, pretty much programming back-end storage stuff for the company. He'll be based out of the company's Seattle office, where incidentally, a lot of the Apps guys work (Gmail and such).
What are the chances we'd meet with so many other people running to get into the customer service line? Karma, baby.
He spoke fluently about any number of high-tech topics I threw at him in the 3-plus hours (10:30 p.m. or so until 2 a.m., no kidding) we waited in line, and what impressed me is that even though he hadn't heard of some of the things I asked about (What is Twitter?!), within 10 seconds of me explaining it, he picked right up on the consciousness stream.
Just like Vic Gundotra, and any of the executives I met last December at Google, he was sharp as a tack. So now I'm doing a reversal on my private view that the so-called Google brain drain was hurting the company. As long as they keep reloading with smart guys like Ilya, the company is going to be just fine.
I wish I could tell you more about exactly what Ilya is doing for the company, but it goes beyond my knowledge base. In short, he will be trying to rev storage processing cycles to new speeds and efficiency, working on ways to better automate the company's monumentally immense storage stuff.
I asked what he was doing in his 20 percent time, but he didn't want to tip his hand on that one, with good reason. Apparently, one Google programmer friend of his was on a team that won an award for something they built on their 20 percent time.
I asked if the cash prize was $50,000 or something like that. It turned out to be $350,000 -- and he was one of the lower rungs on the ladder. This vision of Google programmers working their way through a maze to get that big hunk of cheese will stay with me. With incentives like that, Google won't likely run out of sharp tacks soon.
Ilya is also trying to correct where he went wrong three years ago when he came out of college and turned down a position at Google to work for a storage startup. Google would have given him 4,000 shares, which he estimates would be worth over $1.5 million. Ouch.
Meanwhile, please let my luggage be waiting for me in Hartford when I touch down at 4:30 this afternoon. Moreover, no more flights through the Windy City for me. You can all have them.