Passage to Silicon Valley —004 Michael Gao

Michael Gao is a Software Engineer at SolarCity. In this episode, Michael talks about his decision to return to the Bay Area after graduating from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland. Michael started out as an environmental engineer, researching hurricane induced power outages but later became a software engineer. To help contribute to his research group’s model, he learned R programming, and eventually learned other software tools to explore ways to the model faster and more accurate.

He remains curious in learning. He sees programming as a tool, and the application is where his passion derives from. He feels it’s quite fortunate and a coincidence for him to become a software engineer. He talked about how he got the job at SolarCity by learning about the opportunity at a conference. Michael compared the differences between working as *a contractor within an applied science program* at NASA and SolarCity.

One fun part of the reason he decided to attend Johns Hopkins is the orange juice machine on campus. It was so entertaining to watch the orange coming down the big machine that it was worth waiting in line every day. He enjoyed the fresh OJ and had 4~5 cups every day for the first two years of college. Weather, family, and job opportunities are the main reasons that brought him back to the Silicon Valley.

Michael’s hobby is breakdance. He was a member at the breakdance club in college. He also likes to cook and read in his free time. He once joined in a dragon boat competition right here in Silicon Valley at Treasure Island. You can join this annual competition, too, but would need to devote your time to practice weekly in Foster City before the event. If you are interested in dragon boating, check it out. His Treasure Island competition ended with entire boat flipping over. Listen to the podcast for the entire story.  : )

Google Maps ( is his recommendation for preventing getting lost. He also recommends using One Password ( for password management.

Lastly, he mentioned he was forced to go to Chinese school when he was young. He might pick up his Chinese like programming language in the future. (He speaks Cantonese with his family)

You can find Michael at Youtube:


*when Michael mentioned working at Earth Science/NASA, he meant working on earth science related projects.

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