SAI Alumni Spotlight: Jeff Birnbaum
Jeff Birnbaum (’00) was drawn to Cornell from a young age. His close family friends were alumni who always raved about their great experiences, sharing fond memories of their times in Ithaca. For Jeff, attending Cornell offered a more rural experience, with beautiful landscapes and architecture unlike anything that he had seen in his hometown, Syosset, NY, located in the center of bustling Long Island.
Once at Cornell, an older friend of Jeff’s introduced him to SAI, where Jeff came to work as the Editor-in-Chief of the Greek Directory. He found cold calling and meeting with potential local advertisers intimidating at first, but from these engagements, he gained "the ability to talk to adults and business owners, understand their language and the things they evaluate.” He found that working at SAI helped him gain confidence, learn how to balance competing priorities, and manage his time.
SAI provided Jeff with a new network of friends and exposed him to different parts of Cornell and its campus. In addition, his experience at SAI pushed him toward a career in business and marketing.
Presently, Jeff serves as the Head of Mobile Apps and Gaming Partnerships at Google, where he is charged with crafting deals and handling account management with a wide variety of game and app developers. He works to help these companies maximize the usefulness of Google’s ad technology as well as the rest of the Google suite. He enjoys the feeling of accomplishment that comes from completing deals and working through the negotiation process, saying “there’s nothing like closing a big deal.” Jeff also enjoys mentoring and coaching the people on his team. He notices a decent amount of turnover in junior positions as employees move onward and upward, but he still enjoys training them to be sensitive to certain nuances in the industry and preparing them for the rest of their careers.
Jeff’s advice to current managers is to find something that you are passionate about where you can devote your career. He believes that, if you are going to spend 40 to 50 hours a week on something and intend to do it well, you must focus on something you find inherently interesting. Jeff found interest in the transformation of media and the consumption of content, which he feels he grew up with. He liked observing changes in the space and how he personally consumes media. For example, he was a member of one of the first classes at Cornell to receive student email accounts. He wanted to help spearhead such technological changes, which inspired his professional career leading up to and including his time at Google.