ANU graduate, Dr Elena Kelareva is a Product Manager at Google and the mastermind behind the Google Maps that appear on thousands of websites.
Born in Russia, Elena moved to Australia when she was 9 years old. With influence from her mother, her love for computer science flourished when she discovered the creative side of the discipline.
“I first became interested in computer science because my mum was a Software Engineer and when my sister and I were in primary school she would write games for us.
“I always thought computer science was a really fun but I was never serious about it until I was in secondary school. That was when I decided to do a computer science subject and discovered that I loved it.
“It was more creative and real than any other subject I’d done up until that point - apart from creative writing and art. Computer science allows you to create things that people can use and that’s one of the reasons why I studied it at university.”
Elena completed a Bachelor of Science in Computer Science and Mathematical Physics at the University of Melbourne and then spent 5 years working as a Software Engineer at OMC International.
In 2010, the reputation of the Australian National University and the high quality of computer science research, led her to undertake her PhD in Computer Science (Optimisation) with Professor Sylvie Thiebaux supervising.
“Compared to other universities, ANU has a reputation of having high quality computer science education and from a PhD perspective in particular, computer science research.”
Her thesis focused on optimising ship schedules to minimise shipping costs for bulk cargo, allowing more cargo to be loaded onto ships safely.
The research was incorporated into a commercial software system which is now in use at Port Hedland, the world’s largest bulk export port.
“A comparison of our results against human schedulers estimated that our approach could reduce shipping costs at Port Hedland by up to $20.4 million per year, or increase exporters' revenue by up to $153 million per year.”
While studying at ANU Elena received the NASSCOM Student Innovation Award for IT-Enabled Business Innovation and a NITCA PhD Scholarship.
In 2011 she was a finalist for the Google Anita Borg Memorial Scholarship for Women.
“One of the things that stood out to me about studying at ANU was the support for women in computer science. Emails about scholarships for women were sent regularly and promoted widely. Female faculty members and people in general were really encouraging,” she said.
In 2012, she secured a Software Engineer Internship at Google where she implemented a new feature for the Android app for Google Drive.
Four years later, Elena is now a Product Manager at Google where she works on Google Maps APIs.
"The Google Maps APIs are what lets third party developers use Google Maps in their own applications.
"Every time you see a Google map on a third party website, like a real estate site or a hotel site, that site is using the Google Maps API.
“So I lead the team that builds the Google Maps on websites other than the actual Google Maps website. I also design features and develop product strategies for the Maps APIs,” she said.