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Art Meets Science: Tom Conrad’s Journey from Apple to Pandora to Snapchat

Conrad discussed his lifelong career in software and how he was drawn to the field for its creativity as much as its technical side. | Short Read
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IMAGE:  Michigan Engineering alumni Board Chair Tia Sutton, Tom Conrad, CSE Chair Brian Noble, and Michigan Engineering Dean Alec Gallimore.

Alumnus Tom Conrad (BSE CE 1992) recently visited campus as the 2018 CSE Alumni Merit Award recipient. Conrad, a software designer with a long career with major industry figures, delivered a lecture on finding his passion in the software world. The talk, titled “Art Meets Science: My Journey from Apple to Pandora to Snapchat,” offered advice to the audience on how to find fulfillment in CS and gave a look at how he followed his passion throughout his many career moves.

Conrad has spent the last 25 years as an engineering, product, and design leader for both consumer and enterprise software companies. Currently, he serves on the Board of Directors at Sonos, the smart speaker company. Mr. Conrad was most recently the Vice President of Product at Snap Inc where he led the company’s product design efforts. Prior to Snap, Mr. Conrad was part of the team that created Pandora and he spent a decade there serving as Chief Technology Officer and EVP of Product. Mr. Conrad started his career at Apple as an engineer on the Finder and System Software teams.

Conrad discussed his lifelong career in software and how he was drawn to the field for its creativity as much as its technical side. His career moves were often inspired by his interest in finding art in computer science, he said.

“I started making software when I was 18 years old, and it’s hard to believe I’ve been doing this for 30 years. It’s time for me to put my energy outside of tech, into music, food, photography and things closer to art than entrepreneurship” Conrad recently told TechCrunch about his departure from Snap. “It’s easy to put these things off forever but I didn’t want to wake up 10 years from now and not have explored these other passions of mine.”

Conrad delivered his talk on October 5 as part of the department’s Homecoming celebration.

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