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University Advancement | December 2018  


Google UX engineer establishes new computer science award

Google user experience engineer Alex Finlayson presents the Finlayson Innovation in User Experience Award to computer science student Deborah Mepaiyeda.

Google user experience engineer Alex Finlayson, Computer Science ’06, presents the Finlayson Innovation in User Experience Award to computer science student Deborah Mepaiyeda.


As a senior user experience engineer with the internet titan Google, Ryerson alumnus Alex Finlayson, Computer Science ’06, recently established an award for up and coming computer science students.

Finlayson has had quite a career path. While a student in Ryerson University’s computer science program, he had a co-op placement with the 3D design software company Alias Wavefront (since acquired by Autodesk). He was offered a job with the company before he even graduated.

Just three years later, he received three job offers — all in California. He started at Apple, working on a “top secret” project that eventually became known as the iPad, before heading over to Google-owned Nest Labs, the company best known for its popular smart home devices. Today, he’s a senior user experience (UX) engineer with Google, working alongside some of the world’s top tech talent in the company’s Mountain View headquarters.

Recognizing his good fortune, Finlayson wanted to give back to his alma mater. With matching funds coming from Google’s employee-giving program, he recently established the Finlayson Innovation in User Experience Award. The award recognizes Ryerson computer science students with a demonstrated ability in building innovative experiences using existing technology in new ways. There was one student recipient this year, and there will be two each year in the future.

The first recipient is fourth-year computer science student Deborah Mepaiyeda, who’s currently in a co-op placement with RBC. “I’m so grateful for the award,” she says. “It really enhances a student’s self-esteem and helps them out financially. It also helps motivate us and encourages us to keep going.”

She’s also thankful she got the chance to meet Finlayson at the recent Faculty of Science awards ceremony. “It was nice to meet him in person and connect with him. And it was encouraging to see someone from Computer Science now working in the U.S. Even the fact that he lives in California and came to Toronto for the awards ceremony is another thing I’m grateful for.” Mepaiyeda hopes to launch her own start-up one day.

The award will certainly inspire other students with dreams of launching start-ups or influencing the world through user-centred design. Finlayson hopes it also leads to the next generation of innovative UX. “I'm not sure if this is the perfect award, but it doesn't need to be,” he says. “It will have impact on people’s lives, and I believe it will benefit Deborah's experience at Ryerson.”

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