Penn State DuBois IST graduate launches career at Google

Eric Gmerek

Penn State DuBois IST program graduate Eric Gmerek at his new workplace, the Googleplex, Google's main headquarters in Mountain View, California.

Credit: Penn State

DUBOIS, Pa. -- Google. It's a global company with a name so well known that in common vernacular it's often used as a verb. "Google it" is a phrase that has ended many an argument over everything from baseball statistics, to pop culture trivia, because the internet search engine that became a household name puts limitless information at the fingertips of nearly anyone. So, it's no small accomplishment that a recent graduate of the Penn State DuBois Information Sciences and Technology program has landed a job with the technology leader right out of college.

In August 2014, Houtzdale, Pennsylvania, native Eric Gmerek started his job as an information technology resident at Google's main headquarters in Mountain View, California. Gmerek now works to maintain Google's internal systems and employee work stations, and offers tech support to other employees at the Mountain View facility known as the Googleplex. 

"One thing many people may not understand is that computers break for everyone, even tech-savvy Google employees," Gmerek said. "It's my job to solve the problems that pop up as quickly as possible, and to make sure everyone keeps working happily."

Being the one vested with the responsibility to keep computers running for a company with a name that is now synonymous with the Internet may seem overwhelming. Gmerek, however, said he came prepared.

"Landing a job with such a massive company, I was a bit nervous at first about how my skills would stack up to the challenge, especially being fresh out of college," he said. "However, after speaking to some of the more seasoned employees and my peers at Google, I realized just how much the Penn State DuBois IST program really taught me. I left the program knowing at least the basics about everything related to modern IT, and that's exactly what employers want -- a jack-of-all-trades who can be inserted into any situation and know how to handle themselves."

Gmerek went on to explain just how a comprehensive curriculum and hands-on learning experience in his degree program gave him the right knowledge base. "The broad spectrum of topics and the freedom to explore each one is what makes the DuBois IST program so uniquely awesome," he said. "In my time there, I did everything from programming to server-side networking and hardware repair. If it has to do with an IT system, you will learn about it, touch it, break it, and fix it again."

IST program leader and senior instructor Jason Long established a training network a few years ago on which system problems could be accurately simulated. Students can then tackle real-world problems in information systems without having to create actual malfunctions that would ruin their valuable equipment. Gmerek credited this network with providing the highest quality in real-world learning.

"The IT labs on campus are separate from the rest of the Penn State network, so Jason is able to create real problems and allow students full freedom to tinker and learn however they feel comfortable. I got a hands-on approach that mimics the raw experience you get with on-the-job training, which in my opinion is more valuable than any letter grade," Gmerek said. "You also get a lot of experience working in teams. Team collaboration is a massive part of modern IT, and grasping those skills early on will definitely benefit you in the future."

Long credited Gmerek's work ethic and enthusiasm for helping the young graduate to find success. Long remembered that during his time at Penn State DuBois, Gmerek seized every opportunity to work hard and learn.

"While Eric was an IST student at the Penn State DuBois campus, he managed the IT Club’s Helpdesk, also known as the ITCH," said Long. "The purpose of the ITCH was to support Penn State DuBois student, faculty and staff personal computers, as a free service. Eric did a fantastic job. I could list all of his accomplishments at the ITCH, but I won’t because the list would be too long. All I would say is that Eric was a full-time student, working a job on the side, and did an extraordinary job at the ITCH. I am sure that Google will benefit from Eric with all he has learned and accomplished with the Penn State DuBois campus’ IST degree."

Gmerek is the second graduate of the Penn State DuBois IST program to land a job at Google. Alumna Jessica Noland was hired by the company following an internship she completed at Google's Pittsburgh office in the summer of 2013. She now works at Google's New York City headquarters.

"Moving across the country and working for Google is a huge step for me personally, but I'm extremely excited to be pursuing such a unique and fantastic opportunity so soon in my career," Gmerek said. "To have not only one, but two students from Penn State DuBois working for this company speaks volumes for the IST program. I can safely say that those skills and that environment are what got me where I am."