Taylor Trimble: Feathering the Nest
Written by Kermit Pattison
Taylor Trimble likes an audience. In college, he used his engineering skills to stage light shows and concerts. Now the 23-year-old former CSE student, who attended 2010-14, and majored in computer engineering connects with customers right where they live by writing software for Google’s Nest in-home products.
In high school, Trimble became interested in both technology and art—and found a good combination of the two in theater. He also worked with his high school marching band as an audio engineer. He considered a career in lighting design, but his parents pressured him to pursue a more marketable skill when he enrolled in the University of Minnesota, so he started out by majoring in electrical engineering.
He sought research experience but had trouble finding the right opportunity. Then he walked into the office of Marvin Marshak, a professor of physics and the director of undergraduate research. Marshak discovered that Trimble had an interest in programming and offered him $100 to develop an iPhone app.
"That [undergraduate research] pretty much changed my life. I got really into iPhone programming,” Trimble said.
He taught himself programming through online tutorials and books. He built numerous programs, which included an iPhone calculator and another app that drew Bezier curves. He switched majors to computer engineering and took classes in programming, embedded devices,
He still found a way to connect his technology to his other passion— performance. He joined a student club called Tesla Works and played a leading role in organizing the CSE Winter Light Show in the fall of 2011. “I’ve always been a person for big shows,” he said. “An audience is really important for me.”
Trimble’s programming skills helped him secure an internship with National Instruments Corporation in Austin, Texas, between his sophomore and junior years. The following summer he got an internship with Nest Labs in Silicon Valley. This opportunity drew upon the University's alumni network. Grant Erickson (EE '96, M.S. '98) was one of the early employees at Nest, and helped recruit Trimble.
Such internships provide valuable real-world experience, credentials, and often become a pipeline for recruitment. So it was with Trimble. At the end of the summer, Nest tried to convince him to drop out of school and work full-time. Trimble faced a dilemma well known to many tech wunderkinds—return to school or chase a career opportunity? His family became alarmed at the possibility that he would not finish his degree.
“It was literally traumatic for my mother,” Trimble said.
Trimble returned to the University for his final year, but had a job offer at Nest waiting for him the following spring. Midway through his senior year, there was exciting news. Tech giant Google announced its purchase of Nest.
A few months later, Trimble returned to the company as an embedded systems engineer. He writes software programs for products such as the Nest thermostat, smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, and web camera.
He no longer manipulates lights and sounds to make people gasp, cry, cringe, or laugh. But in a sense he is still playing to the crowd. “I certainly do have an audience—a much larger one!” he said.