Faces of Gmail: Petra Cross

Last month we kicked off “Faces of Gmail,” a series where we’ll introduce you to some of the members of the Gmail team. For our first post, we spoke with Manu Cornet, an engineer in Paris who made some of our favorite themes. This month we’re back in Mountain View with Petra Cross, a globe-trotting gal who builds tools to help make the Gmail engineering team more efficient.

What do you do on the Gmail team and how long have you been at Google?
I have been a software engineer at Google for over six years. I spent my first three and a half years with the search team developing a framework for evaluating the relevance of search results. Since then, I’ve been focusing on internal Gmail infrastructure and building tools that help make other Gmail engineers more productive.

What did you do before joining Google?
After I got my computer science degree from Santa Clara University, I worked for a year at a small Silicon Valley semiconductor start-up. Before I came to California, I studied CS in Slovakia. I’m always doing many things at the same time. While I was in school, I created and sold little black and white drawings, taught English classes at a local elementary school, worked as a talk-show host at a local TV station, modeled, and also sang competitively in a choir. I miss singing the most. Today, besides working on Gmail, I’m focusing on photography and my husband Bradford.

What are the three Gmail features you wouldn’t be able to live without?
Ah, there are so many features I would miss if they went away:

  1. Priority Inbox helps me point my attention to emails I might want to respond to first.
  2. I use chat a lot to communicate with my co-workers and friends. I also love Gmail’s ability to call phones.
  3. I like how Gmail organizes emails into conversation view, instead of putting each email into a separate line in the inbox. It makes it a lot easier to see the entire context of the discussion.

What do you do when you’re not working on Gmail?
I visit my parents in Europe few times a year. To trick my husband into joining me on every trip to visit his in-laws, I try to wrap the trip into a fun package that includes more countries. And so, in the last three years, we’ve visited Belgium, Netherlands, U.K., Czech Republic, Spain, Italy, Austria, Jordan (we visited Petra!), Lebanon, Egypt, and we also got married in a 13th century castle in Slovakia.

Besides traveling, I’m quite domesticated and I’m constantly decorating our San Francisco home. To my mom’s disappointment, I almost stopped cooking since I joined Google (blame the free Google food!) and started spending most of my days on a computer. I’ve been blogging a lot lately and also spending a lot of time photographing people. I can’t imagine what my life would look like without technology. I can’t even sit still on a beach for five minutes. Seriously.

How do you procrastinate?
I don’t procrastinate. I make conscious decisions to not do certain things at this very moment. Like right now, I am responding to your questions instead of coding. :)

What would your last meal be?
Crepes with Nutella and chestnut puree, and a lot of whipped cream. The whipped cream has to be hand-whipped, not from a can. Crepes need to be perfectly browned on both sides. I’m up for a crepe-off any time!

Photos by Cody Bratt, Google Talk team