From Applied Tech to Big Tech – Maui TechOhana Speaker Shares His journey to Google – Maui Now

Luke Leonhard, Chief of Staff to Google’s Speech team was the guest speaker at the April 29 Maui TechOhana.

The Chief of Staff to Google’s Speech team, Luke Leonhard led an engaging presentation at last week’s Maui TechOhana, presented by Maui Economic Development Board Over 25 tech-minded entrepreneurs logged in to the online meeting to listen how Leonhard’s career path unfolded from applied tech to big tech. 

“The guest speaker debunked the idea that to work at Google you must be ‘Doogie Howser’ smart, go to Stanford University and get a PhD in Computer Science or Electrical Engineering,” according to organizers.

Growing up in Wisconsin, Leonhard’s career path started at the Milwaukee School of Engineering where he got a degree in Business and Computer Systems. This led to an internship followed by a full-time job at a local manufacturing company that made industrial signs and labels.

Leonhard stressed “This is really important part of my story because at the time it was exactly aligned with my interests and it’s important to know that there are really good tech jobs in all sorts of companies.” Leonhard worked at this company for a decade and continued to study getting an MBA from Marquette University.

Drawing the analogy of the road to Hāna, “It wasn’t the fasted path to work for a high tech company but I am grateful for the twists and turns along the way,” said Leonhard. “It led me to whole sorts of interesting journeys and the experience I had before Google informs me how I tackle big tech problems here today.”

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Explaining “Applied Tech”, Leonhard shared that he was less interested about building the tech and more interest in how he could help people use the tech to make their lives ten times better by being more efficient and effective. “I love to be a part of the effectiveness of teams,” he stated.

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Leonhard went from applying Google technology at the manufacturing company to sharing it with other companies through networking events like Maui TechOhana. To his surprise, Google noticed and started flying him to various cities to speak and then was asked to apply for a job with Google Apps.

The presentation included time for Q&A as well as breakout sessions where attendees met in smaller groups to discuss their tech challenges and to network.

“Luke shared his personal insights into what is possible in the current world of work,” said Leslie Wilkins, MEDB President and CEO. “With technology skills, one’s geographic location no longer needs to be a limiting factor to potential career options.”

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“It was so organized. I hopped on the Zoom call after work, from my office and it was very organized with the breakout room and with Luke’s presentation,” said Devin Vinoray. “This was my first MEDB event and I am very thankful for these types of events especially with COVID. Looking forward to future events (virtual or in person).”

John Miller of Mana Pacific, Inc. described the experience as “Probably one of the top three virtual conferences I’ve attended in the last year, which is over two dozen.”

MEDB’s TechOhana meetings, supported by the County of Maui Office of Economic Development, provide an opportunity to share views and thoughts in an open forum with presentations on relevant topics in business, technology and innovation.