Driven by Curiosity
Marian is driven by curiosity. When she was 5–6 years old, it was first sparked by the plumbers and electricians that came to repair her home. Marian would follow them around the house and constantly ask them questions to figure out how things worked. One time there was a leak, and the plumber had to ask her to be quiet because he had to listen to the invisible flow of water through the pipes to determine the problem; a similarity that she would later share as an aspiring network engineer .
Marian’s father also had a big part in nurturing her curiosity. When Marian had shown promise in her math and science classes, her father further encouraged her by building her a home chemistry lab. Marian would joke that her father praised her efforts even after many failed experiments that ended up with explosions and fires. This mad scientist would go on to graduate from Princeton then receive her doctorate at USC for quantitative analysis and social psychology.
In 1982, Marian was hired as a systems engineer at AT&T Bell Labs where she worked on internet protocol technology and became fascinated with digital telecommunication. During that time, phone wire reigned supreme and IP was considered a ‘toy’ or a fad, making it a non-priority for AT&T. However, Marian’s curiosity got the best of her and shortly after she was experimenting with packetizing voice and treating it as data over IP. AT&T eventually realized their mistakes and began to support Marian’s curious endeavors. Her accomplishments at Bell Labs would establish the fundamentals for what we now call Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP). Marian went on to invent and advance many phone and internet network services such as text-based systems used in crisis fundraisers and TV shows.
Now, Marian is Google’s Vice President of Engineering overlooking the Research Center for Responsible AI and Human Centered Technology. She is an inductee of the National Inventors Hall of Fame, winner of back-to-back Edison Patent Awards, a critical member of Project Loon that had brought internet technology to rural areas around the world, and holds over 200 patents. Marian has managed over 2000 engineers and computer scientists during her time as Senior Vice President at AT&T and is widely considered a pioneer in advanced research and innovation that designed and developed one of the world’s largest wireless and broadband network. Just a small example of what nurtured curiosity can do for you.