Big idea: Creating next-generation broadband networks — featuring speeds up to 100 times today's standard — to spur the coming wave of online innovation. "Being a catalyst is an ambitious goal for us," says Minnie Ingersoll, 33, about Google Fiber for Communities. "Pursuing high-speed networks that are open for third parties to offer retail service will lead to new business models. There will be new deployment techniques. Our guys are excited to dig up streets and experiment. And there will be new apps and services." Cities such as Hampton, Virginia; Greenville, South Carolina; and prototypical everytown Peoria, Illinois, have already publicly stated they're competing to be picked as test sites. "The response so far has been exciting," she says. "Even cities that have broadband are interested."
Growing up geek: "I grew up in Pasadena, basically on the Caltech campus where my dad's a professor. I always thought I wasn't that interested in tech, but that's because I was comparing it with the grad students always hanging around my house." When Ingersoll went to Harvard Business School in 2000, she says, "I quickly realized I am entirely techie. I love the Valley's meritocracy, the brainstorming spirit, that it's not about money."
Ingersoll got her job at Google thanks to ... her mom: "Google had an ad that said 'You're brilliant, we're hiring,' and my mom saw it and called me: 'Minnie, you're brilliant, and they're hiring!' " In the recruitment process, Ingersoll took advantage of her experience as a Stanford computer-science grad to network with former classmates who already worked there. "Nothing prepared me for Google, but now I think I can say that Google has prepared me for Google."
Favorite Googleplex perk: "I can't pick one." [Long pause.] "Okay, it's the chair massage," she admits. "It's just 15 minutes. It's not a full massage that would interrupt your whole day."
Cable or DSL? "I have Comcast. But I probably do most of my computing at work."
Last book she read: "I've gotten lazy. I do podcasts. I prefer when someone else reads me the front page of The New York Times or the CNET tech news. My favorites are the Slate podcasts, particularly Political Gabfest. It's so rare to find an intelligent commentator like Emily Bazelon. I did enjoy The Nine, by Jeffrey Toobin. It's as close to a page-turner story of the Supreme Court as you get."
Guilty pleasure: Music videos, particularly the Director's Label box sets. "I play them as background music, with some pretty awesome directors — Spike Jonze, Stephane Sednaoui — adding rad visuals to the audio experience."
Offline hobby: Surfing. "I live in San Francisco, so I like to surf in Pacifica on the way to or from work," she says. "When you're underneath a 5-foot wave, you're not worried about a meeting with [CEO] Eric [Schmidt]. It's mind-cleansing."
Blue Crush or Point Break? "Hahaha," she laughs. "How about Step Into Liquid? I did see a play called Point Break Live, a reenactment of the movie where Keanu Reeves — I mean, heartthrob Johnny Utah — is chosen from the audience and his lines are fed to him via cue card. It was awesome."
Beloved sporting gear: Swim fins. "You could say that I've decorated my apartment with sporting equipment, but I especially love my fins." Ingersoll, a high-school jock who has taken up triathalons, says, "I never was a swimmer until I joined the UCSF masters swim team. I was afraid that I wouldn't be able to keep up. The secret of doing swim team is the big huge fins!"
A version of this article appeared in the May 2010 issue of Fast Company magazine.