CSE’s Distinguished Alumnus: the “Fearless” Sameer Samat (BS 2000)

Jun 8, 2022
Sameer Samat is CSE's 2022 Distinguished Alumnus

By Kimberley Clementi

Sameer Samat (BS 2000), a vice president at Google who oversees the Android and Google Play products that reach billions of users, was selected as this year’s distinguished alumnus of UC San Diego’s Department of Computer Science and Engineering.

Samat, who has a 14-year tenure with Google and two successful startups under his belt, was honored this spring at the fourth annual CSE Research Open House that drew more than 300 faculty, students and CSE community members.

“My story with UC San Diego and my career achievements are deeply connected. And I’m forever grateful for the education and experience I had during my time there,” he said.

Samat came to Muir College in 1996 to study computer science. During his junior year, he and two of his classmates began a software company, Source Bank. Samat fondly recalls going to class during the day and working all night and into the morning to build their novel software – a search engine for open-source code.

Eventually, Samat and his UC San Diego classmates sold Source Bank and started a second company, Mohomine. As the three partners considered how to raise money from venture capitalists, they reached out to their CSE professors for support and the necessary letters of recommendation.

I still remember Professor {Bill} Griswold’s letter. He had one line where he said, ‘Sameer is fearless.’ I certainly don’t think I’m fearless,” says Samat. “But looking back at the odds of our start-up being successful, I think it does take a certain amount of naiveness and belief that you can do anything. Sometimes that combination is mistaken for fearlessness.”

Mohomine was a success, but just barely survived the dot-com crash. In 2003, the company was acquired by Kofax, where Samat joined as Chief Technology Officer and continued in various executive roles over the next five years.

In 2008, Samat, ever the entrepreneur, moved to the Bay Area to begin his third start-up. That’s when he heard from a friend at Google, inviting him to visit the multinational tech giant’s campus. Once there, the recruitment pitch was irresistible: your next co-founder is probably here at Google.

“So, some 14 years later, here I am,” says Samat with a laugh, leaving unspoken his current title at Google – Vice President of Product Management overseeing the Android operating system and Google Play Store. Android, the largest mobile operating system in the world, unlocks educational, social and economic opportunities for more than 3 billion consumers.

Remarking on his career progression, Samat credits his time at UC San Diego as deeply influential to his chosen path and profoundly tied to his success.

“I’ve learned that my computer science education here was far more than a technical degree. I consider a CS degree a degree in problem solving. It’s a structured way to think about all kinds of business and engineering challenges. And I would never have accomplished everything that I have without it.”

Imparting Wisdom to CSE Students 

Samat speaks to students at CSE's Research Open House 

In-synch with Samat’s summary of computer science, creative problem solving was on full display throughout the CSE Research Open House. Students, alumni and industry leaders attended sessions on a variety of ground-breaking research topics and toured the department’s state-of-the-art labs.

Keynote speaker alumna Chandra Krintz (PhD ’01), a professor of computer science at UC Santa Barbara and Chief Scientist at AppScale Systems Inc., presented an overview of UC Santa Barbara Smart Farm. Smart Farm utilizes a combination of technologies to automate and inform precision agricultural solutions and farm operations.

On a day designed to inspire students and the CSE community, Samat slipped one additional nugget of wisdom into his comments: “I want you to know that sometimes not knowing all the ways something can fail is a virtue because there is no replacement for just going and building things. Your plans may change a hundred times as you learn and get thrashed around, but in the end, you’ve built something.”