Peter Finlan is passionate about technology and is a lead UX Designer at Google – but his career path might surprise you.
Ask Peter about computers and his passion is clear – his language turns to poetry. “The crisp look, the distinct smell of new tech, the two-tone keyboard, the gargantuan monitor sitting on top. It was everything,” is how he describes the first computer he got when he was 10 years old.
“I was instantly hooked and I don’t think my parents saw me for the rest of the year!” he says. “My computer was the only thing that would quiet an otherwise busy mind.”
That was around the same time, in the late 1990s, that Peter first started to code – he was 13 when he built his own website, about surfing in Australia.
In the following years computers became more impressive, powerful and central to our lives. “I was inspired by the digital masterpieces creators across the globe were publishing,” he says.
But if you think Peter was certain about his career or signed up for a computer science degree straight out of high school, think again.
“After high school I took a three-year gap to try different things and find something I was confident I could spend the rest of my life doing,” he says. “Tech was always there, but I wanted to be sure.”
Peter completed a Diploma of Website Development at TAFE NSW in 2009. “I’m a huge advocate for the TAFE system, providing thousands of students alternative pathways into the careers they love,” he says.
However, like many new grads, Peter found it challenging to land his first job with no work experience – so he decided to create his own. “The entrepreneurial side of me kicked in,” he says.
Peter launched a startup creative agency called Pixel Alumni, specialising in website and mobile app design and development, which he ran for three years. The experience enabled Peter to break into the workforce and eventually land his “dream job” at Google Australia.
Now, he is a User Experience (UX) Design Lead in Google’s Chrome Operating System (Chrome OS) team in Sydney. “I work with product, engineering and operations teams to design Google products that are useful and usable, globally,” he explains.
After more than a decade in the industry, Peter – who’s also a dad and a keen surfer – remains as passionate about tech as ever, even when he’s not at work. “I’m an open source software advocate and love spending my spare time designing and building freebies for the creative community,” he says.
Peter’s study and career pathway
Author: Gemma Chilton
Gemma is the Managing Editor of Careers with STEM magazine. She has previously worked as Digital Managing Editor at Australian Geographic and a staff writer at Cosmos science magazine.