Photo of awardee

Jim Miller

Vice President of Worldwide Operations, Google Inc.

For exemplifying sustained lifelong learning and global impact as a Purdue engineer, for service to Purdue, and for sustained leadership in engineering-intensive industries

Jim Miller's career, as described by those who nominated him for the Distinguished Engineering Alumni/Alumnae Award, reads like a history of high-technology. After his position as production manager at Intel during the introduction of the Pentium chip, he went to, where he participated in the meteoric rise of e-commerce. He then moved to Cisco as global telecommunications on the Internet surged. From Cisco he went to First Solar during a surge in green technologies. Today, as Vice President of Worldwide Operations at Google, he is helping to lead a company whose very name is used to describe how people around the world search online and use cloud computing.

As a rare engineer who has raised the bar for other exceptional achievers, Miller's drive — fueled by curiosity — began early.

"Ever since I was a child, I had a fascination for how things work. I was perpetually taking things apart and putting them back together. And, yes, occasionally I had a few parts left over," Miller says. "I've also had a passion for technology, science and math. Engineering was a natural fit for me. It allowed me to apply science, math and deductive reasoning to solve many problems, large and small."

That fascination and passion brought him to Purdue in the early 1980s to study aeronautics and astronautics.

Miller recalls experiencing an epiphany while dealing with difficult problem sets during a senior-year course in orbital mechanics.

"They involved solving rigorous mathematical algorithms — usually by hand," he recalls. "Well, misery loves company, so my three buddies and I spent many a Friday evening, late into the night, holed up in Cary Quad solving those problems — usually by dividing and conquering.

"Frankly, I really can't remember much about those problem sets anymore, but I have many fond memories of the jokes and stories that we swapped while laboring over those problems. The epiphany moment for me was realizing that work is all about working on really tough problems with people that you love to spend time with. I've used that learning to this day as a guidepost for my career, and I believe that it has served me well."

Hopeful that he has not yet marked his pinnacle achievement, Miller says that so far he feels his greatest personal achievement has been mentoring young managers and employees.

"Professionally, the achievement that I'm proudest of is the work that I've done at Google in supporting and developing our efforts in computational genomics and cancer research."

Taught by experience, Miller says he now sees clearly what was not clear as an undergraduate: "Too often we get hyper-focused on the goal. That could be completing a course in school, getting that particular job, getting the next promotion, etc. Somewhere along the way, you realize that life is not really about goal attainment. The biggest goal is enjoying the journey itself."

Career Highlights

2010-present Vice President of Worldwide Operations, Google Inc.
2009–2010 Executive Vice President, Sanmina-SCI Corp.
2008–2009 Principal and Cofounder, Sierra Crest Consulting
2008 Executive Vice President, First Solar
2002–2008 Vice President of Product Operations, VP of Manufacturing Technology, and VP of Midrange Plant, Cisco
1999–2001 Vice President, Supply Chain,
1997-1999 Director of Customer Premises Equipment, Teledesic LLC
1993–1996 Production Manager, Intel Corp.
1993 MS, Mechanical Engineering, MIT
1993 MS, Management, MIT Sloan School of Management
1986 BSAAE, Purdue University