Luke Harmon-Vellotti at the 2016 Chicago Open. Photo: Betsy Dynako Zacate.
International Master Luke Harmon-Vellotti, 18, recently was selected from a pool of approximately 3,000,000 applicants to join Google, Fortune magazine’s #1 Company to Work For in 2017, as a software developer. According to Lazlo Bock, former SVP of People Operations, Google’s highly selective interviewing process means only 7,000 new employees are hired each year.
Harmon-Vellotti had Google in his sights ever since he added a computer science major to his math major at UCLA. Apparently, Google had him in their sights as well, as company recruiters contacted him through his LinkedIn account. Although Harmon-Vellotti began interviewing immediately, he needed to wait until his birthday several weeks later to complete the process because no one under 18 is allowed on the Googleplex campus.
Harmon-Vellotti verifies that the tales about Google’s strenuous interview process are true. “Each stage that you go through is a little stressful,” he says, “and finally you have to perform for four interviewers separately in front of a white board on the Google campus.”
A week after his final interviews, Harmon-Vellotti received the call that 3,000,000 applicants yearn for annually. “They called me with an amazing offer,” he says, “and I was really relieved to know that I passed all the tests.”
At a time when many 18-year olds are anticipating their college freshman year, Harmon-Vellotti is instead preparing for his new job, which includes a hiring package worth over $1 million over the next four years. He will graduate from UCLA in June with dual honor degrees in pure mathematics and computer science, and will be moving to Mountain View, CA, in August, which for him is bittersweet. “I guess I’ll finally commit to becoming a resident of California, as I kept my Idaho residency status throughout my years at UCLA.” Although his exact role at Google has yet to be defined, he will be working with a small software development team within their engineering group.
Harmon-Vellotti is well known in the chess community as an academic and chess superstar. He is an international master, four-time national champion, and ten-time member of the Trophies Plus All-America Team. He began playing chess when he was three years old. “I never remember not being able to play,” he says. “I really believe that chess helped enormously to channel all my energy and focus from a young age so I learned the necessary concentration to do well in my studies. It has been challenging to balance all of the chess study with my academic study, but I enjoyed doing them both.”
When he was just 14 years old, Harmon-Vellotti was accepted to UCLA and was awarded the prestigious E. Roe and Penny Stamps Leadership merit scholarship, which covered his expenses for his entire undergraduate education. While at UCLA, he worked as an instructor at the Los Angeles Math Circle for gifted students, and also was an associate software developer at a start-up called Heal.
Because of his tough academic load, Harmon-Vellotti didn’t focus on chess while at UCLA. “I put off my goal of becoming a grandmaster so that I could double major at UCLA in both pure mathematics and computer science, as well as go through their honors program, which was a lot of work,” he says.
With undergraduate school behind him, Harmon-Vellotti reports, “I am happy to now divert some of that energy to resume my quest of the GM title. I am actually actively looking for a coach to help me make it through this last stage of training and performance.” In addition to focusing on his chess studies, Harmon-Vellotti plans to begin an online computer science graduate program at Georgia Tech in the fall. He is also looking forward to becoming active in the NorCal chess scene.