Penn College grad ‘designs’ a success story at Google
WILLIAMSPORT — Like many in his generation, Matthew M. Staub relied on a portable CD player to enjoy music during his teen years. Unlike most, Staub’s Discman did more than blast tunes. It helped boost his passion for electronics.
Today, Staub puts that passion to work for a worldwide powerhouse: Alphabet Inc., parent company of Google and one of three technology conglomerates valued at over $1 trillion. The 2007 Pennsylvania College of Technology graduate is a printed circuit board design engineer for Google’s Pixel hardware group in Chicago.
During the past few years, Staub, originally of Millersville, has served as a lead designer for both the Pixel 3XL and Pixel 4 — Google’s Android smartphones — as well as other internal and consumer-facing products.
Most of his days are spent designing PCBs with electronic computer-aided drafting software to bring “electrical schematics to life.” That work requires collaboration with other engineers, representing a variety of specialties.
“Smartphones are complex systems with a lot of different technologies packed into a small-form factor,” Staub said. “There are many different teams responsible for the many different technologies. It’s part of my job to interface with those teams to ensure their technologies are properly designed on the circuit board.”
A PCB serves as the heartbeat of any product containing electronics, according to Ken J. Kinley, instructor of electronics and computer engineering technology at Penn College. “A PCB is a thin board, usually made of fiberglass, that physically supports electronic components, such as transistors, resistors and capacitors,” he explained. “The components are connected via a conductive material, usually copper, to perform specific designed applications.”
Staub designed his first PCB as a student at Penn College, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in electronics. His interest in the subject dates back to childhood, when he would routinely dismantle gadgets and inspect the intricacies of internal electronics.
His old Discman is a prime example. Staub remembers taking it apart to watch the CD spin and laser assembly move. Music was an afterthought on that day.
The fascination with electronics matured into a career consideration for Staub in high school, thanks to several technical courses. As a senior, he discovered Penn College from an acquaintance who graduated from the school. The resulting review of the curriculum — which offered the opportunity to incorporate Cisco networking classes within the electronics program — aligned with his interests and prompted him to enroll.
“Penn College gave me one of the most important abilities: the confidence to face and solve complex problems,” Staub said. “The creation of most consumer electronics stems from a problem or set of problems, and having the knowhow to deal with them has been very rewarding to both me and my career.”
Richard J. Calvert Jr., assistant professor of electronics and computer engineering technology, is pleased his former student has embraced that reality and is enjoying professional success.
“Most people in the field are constantly presented with a problem that often makes no sense, but they still have to solve it,” Calvert said. “You have to have the desire to figure it out, regardless of how long it takes.
“Matt was very motivated. He became good at designing PCBs and has made a career out of it. It is important to realize what you are good at and pursue it.”
Following graduation, Staub pursued PCB design at Videon Central Inc., a State College-based electronics manufacturer, and Battelle, a nonprofit applied science and technology development company in Columbus, Ohio. His experience — including high-speed and high-density-interconnect PCB designs — led to recruitment by Google in 2017.
“I have always considered Google to be a dream job, since they entered the hardware development scene,” he said. “I really enjoy going to work and interacting with my teammates, which is very important to me.”
Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic has eliminated in-person interaction for the past few months and foreseeable future. Staub also misses the amenities of Google’s Chicago office, including ping-pong, cafes, a gym and a rooftop view of the Windy City’s skyline. Instead, the married father of two has been working remotely, both from his house in the suburbs and his wife’s family farm in Palestine, Illinois.
Staub’s responsibilities, though, remain the same.
“I’m given an outline for a PCB, and it’s my job to ensure that all components can fit within the boundaries of the outline, without violating anything that would cause issues during assembly,” he said. “I also have to make sure that I electrically connect all the circuits in the design, so the design can be fabricated without electrical interference.
“Each design is a complex puzzle that I love to solve. My creativity is displayed in my ability to solve these puzzles.”
Company policy prohibits Staub from providing specifics about current and future “puzzles” at Google, but he can express pride in the Pixel 3XL and Pixel 4, which feature an industry-lauded camera. He’s also excited about Motion Sense, a form of radar technology in the Pixel 4 that allows the user to control the phone without touching it.
For years, Staub scoured tech websites for the latest information on smartphones. He would even search online for smartphone teardowns to study the PCBs in them. Now those same websites cover products he’s played a pivotal role in developing.
“I’m very fortunate to be able to work on designs of this complexity that reach a large audience, as well as be part of a team of some of the smartest, nicest people I’ve ever met,” he said. “I’m also fortunate to work in an environment that fosters learning and the exploration of personal projects.”
Staub can’t say what those projects are, but it’s safe to assume they don’t involve a portable CD player.
Penn College offers three baccalaureate degrees and two associate degrees in electronics, as well as a nanofabrication technology competency credential. For information about those programs and other majors under the School of Engineering Technologies, call 570-327-4520 or visit www.pct.edu/et.