Christine McGavran is currently a Principal Software Engineer at Google, leading the integration of Google’s mapping services with vehicles. She joined Google in May 2016, inspired by Google’s vision to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.
Before Google, Christine worked at Apple Maps and at Dash Navigation. At Apple, she led a team developing navigation features for the original release of Apple Maps, and eventually managed engineering for of all of Apple’s mapping client frameworks. At Dash, her first foray into digital mapping, she worked with founders of the domain to develop various navigation, routing, traffic, and user interface features.
Christine spent most of her earlier career on game development and was Development Director for SimCity 3000, the top-selling game of 1999. Christine graduated from Dartmouth College with a degree in Computer Science.
With groups creating programs to encourage females to consider STEM, what is the biggest barrier to entry that is still prevalent today?
The treatment of women in the field right now is the greatest barrier to entry. Young women looking for positive role models often see women or minorities in STEM positions being treated unfairly, being harassed, facing difficulty advancing in their careers, or who simply do not like their jobs. Young people hearing those stories will consider other career options, no matter how many robotics competitions they won in high school.
I’ve been extremely lucky throughout my career to receive the support of several amazing sponsors who encouraged me along this path, helped match me to opportunities, and supported me through various hurdles I’ve encountered. Unfortunately, I’ve also met too many talented women who lacked this type of support, or were actively and unfairly blocked along their paths.
It is critical that the industry make efforts not simply in recruitment, but also -- and perhaps especially at this “me, too” juncture -- in retention. In addition to a sea change that needs to come to this and all industries ensuring women and minorities have an equal place at the table, the STEM industry should and can do more to improve culture and opportunities for all, and hold our organizations (and individual members therein) accountable for bad behavior.
What or who inspires you?
In CS the two people who most inspire me are Maria Klawe and Megan Smith.
Maria Klawe,has been leading an amazing initiative to redefine CS education at Harvey Mudd. She has shifted the demographics of their program by not accepting the status quo and pushing fundamental changes like restructuring entry-level CS classes to emphasize collaboration. I highly recommend this recent interview with her in Wired, which talks both about her efforts and her challenge to the industry.
Megan Smith was the Chief Technology Officer of the United States under President Obama, where she drove meaningful change to modernized our country’s systems to solve real problems, with support of a passionate and diverse team of industry technologists. I have had the good fortune to watch her speak twice, and met her recently. I’m inspired by her continued passion and breadth of work, from private industry (Google), to public service, and now to grassroots efforts.
What is your proudest moment/accomplishment?
I hope my proudest professional moment is yet to come. I’m incredibly excited by the work I’m doing at Google, and inspired by those around me.
Of the work I’ve landed, I’m most proud of SimCity 3000. I was able to learn from the best (especially Will Wright), as I dug into that project. I got my hands dirty managing the team, architecting systems, building simulations (I took on traffic), and leading much of the game design. It’s been amazing to watch and talk to those who have since played and loved the game we built, including this rather extreme example of someone who spent four years of his life figuring out how to beat it.