Chris Dale, ’93, was born into a house divided. His mother, former Country Day teacher Evelyn Dale, was an artist converted to computer education. His father taught Victorian literature at UC Davis.
“There were Victorian novels on one side, then disks and hard drives on the other,” Dale said.
Dale’s ambitions and career are just as contradictory. As a child, Dale’s dream was to be an artist, like his mother.
Then, in college at Colgate University, Dale majored in English, thinking he might become a poet or English professor.
And after graduation Dale moved to New York City for a year to work as a paralegal for a big corporate law firm, but decided to work toward a master’s degree at the University of Cambridge after “the wake-up call that being an attorney would never work out for me.”
He considered staying on to get a doctorate in English literature, but decided against it.
“It wasn’t a lifestyle I was willing to invest the next five years of my life in,” he said.
Dale changed his calling yet again when he started working in the press relations department of Google six years ago.
The combination of writing and technology in Dale’s Google job reflects his divided past. But both schools of thought are perfect arenas for his enthusiasm and curiosity.
As he showed me around the Google campus in Mountain View a few weeks ago, Dale’s excitement was evident—his heels bounced as he walked, and he continually turned back to point out landmarks along the way.
The campus design scheme—everything from the wiring to the lights—is composed completely of the Google colors: yellow, red, blue and green.
Dotting the campus are Google Bikes (communal bikes for employees), Android statues and lawn chairs.
Dale said even the design of the campus was made to inspire innovation.
For instance, all of the food served is complimentary for employees. The philosophy behind this is that great ideas come over lunch.
In addition, Google has a dry-cleaning service, massages, educational classes, a day care service, multiple gyms, an outdoor volleyball court, a long and swirly silver slide and a Tyrannosaurus rex skeleton replica decorated with pink flamingos. Dale described these amenities enthusiastically, but added that not all the services are free.
After leaving the main cafeteria, Dale led the way to a garden and explained, while leaning over the wooden fence, how beautiful and relaxing it was to sit there on a busy day.
It turns out that, besides working in an unexpected career, Dale is also surprisingly interested in attaining serenity in the ever-busy world of press relations.
But his nerdy-chic appearance (with tortoise-shell patterned glasses, dark jeans, white Adidas tennis shoes and pink pinstripe shirt with rolled-up sleeves) made him look the part of a Google employee.
He tried to schedule a test drive in the Google self-driving cars, but there was no opening at that time of day.
Needless to say, Dale is happy where he is, even though he never expected to find himself at a place like Google.
“I kind of stumbled into this industry, but it’s hard to come to the Bay Area and not get involved in technology at some point,” he said with a laugh.
“What’s attractive (to me) is how technology is the single greatest catalyzer in our lifetimes—just look at the possibilities that technology brings!”
Dale, who now lives in San Francisco with his wife and two sons, was recruited via LinkedIn, a social network for professionals. One day he was clearing out his inbox and saw an email with the heading “Google Hiring.” He was about to delete it, but then decided to read it, a choice that, after a six-month hiring process, landed him in the press relations department of Google’s YouTube project.
“I’d always looked at Google’s (press relations) work and really liked it,” Dale said. “There’s a Google voice that’s unlike any other corporate company’s voice. It’s fun, friendly, casual and hugely ambitious in a humble way.”
Also, he said, the Google press relations department reports to the legal department unlike at most companies, where press relations is a part of marketing. According to Dale, this gives Google employees more freedom.
“(The system) allows us to be autonomous in the decisions we make,” Dale said.
“We can balance the needs of the user with the needs of the business instead of just being dictated what press release to write and when.”
Now, Dale runs the communications and public affairs/policy division of the Google Glass project. Google Glass is essentially a wearable, holographic phone which projects a computer “screen” in front of a pair of glasses.
“The future of computing is going to be wearable,” said Dale, who has had Glass without frames for 10 months and will get a new pair with frames when his prescription lenses are made.
“Glass simply asks, ‘Is the way that we use computers the right way, or is there a better way to interact with technology?’”
This type of questioning is why Sue Nellis, Dale’s middle-school history teacher, is not surprised that he ended up at Google.
“He was somebody who wanted to take a different path and a different way of looking at things,” she said.
Dale’s mother, Evelyn, agrees. “He’s a guy who marches to a different tune,” she said, remembering how he used to wear mismatched socks on each foot.
Dale’s history teacher Daniel Neukom often called him “Crazy Chris.”
“Chris was always eager, excited and enthusiastic. He was always bursting with energy,” Neukom said.
Dale still remembers Neukom telling him that he had a “joie de vivre,” or enjoyment of life.
He also remembers how the school taught him to be confident, curious and free thinking, characteristics that he utilizes in his work daily.
“Country Day gave me an opportunity to play soccer and do all these things that led to intellectual curiosity and confidence,” Dale said. “You could make your world what you wanted it to be.”