Santa Clara University

Information Innovation


David Drummond ’85 on the Google campus in Mountain View, Calif. Drummond joined SCU’s Board of Trustees in Fall 2005.

David C. Drummond’s ability to see ahead of the curve has shaped his career. Today, the SCU Class of 1985 alumnus is Google’s senior vice president for corporate development and the firm’s general counsel, helping steer the explosive success of a company that is known around the world for harnessing the potential of the Internet to gather, organize, and make information accessible.

In 1998, when he met the soon-to-be Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin at Stanford University, Drummond was already a partner in the corporate transactions group at Wilson Sonsini Goodrich and Rosati, the Silicon Valley technology business law firm. Page and Brin realized that while Web research worked reasonably well, it didn’t always get you what you wanted. Drummond remembers understanding that the pair was on to something even though their vision wasn’t fully formed.

“It took awhile to realize their vision wasn’t about making Web search a little better, but about making all the world’s information available,” Drummond recalls.

“I like to believe lawyers think analytically, that it gives us something in common with computer scientists. But for me, it’s also being immersed in Silicon Valley and seeing what can be accomplished. You start realizing that things are possible with the application of brain power and creativity. Constraints are there, but when you think about what else is going on in technology, you realize that some of these [visions] are within the realm of possibility. At Google, we try to work on big things because we believe they’re possible now or in the future.”

Drummond’s comfort with ideas that challenge the norm was part of his persona when he was at Santa Clara. A member of the Black Students Union, Drummond was unsatisfied with the numbers of African-American students at the University, and the ways in which the University and its non-Caucasian students interacted. He advocated a new way of responding to diversity on campus.

“The Black Students Union became Igwebuike in my dorm room. I was a bit of a student activist, as Fr. Locatelli will tell you. I recall some sit-ins outside his door when he was vice president.”

Drummond says he learned a great deal from the opportunity to debate controversial or conflicting ideas on the Santa Clara campus. One issue he was deeply engaged in was adequacy of meeting space for the Multicultural Center, then housed in a loose collection of offices that the affected students thought was ineffective at promoting cultural exchanges and idea-sharing. The administration and the students didn’t see eye to eye at first, but Drummond says that open debate did, in fact, lead to discernment and change.

“There was plenty of creative confrontation. It required pressure on our part, but the university ultimately embraced it, and it was good for the

students, for the university, and for the community.”

Good things, Drummond recalls learning from the experience, sometimes come with struggle. “You figure out how to navigate in a setting where you’re maybe not fully understood or appreciated for what you are. What you learn is that you can still be part of the family while being comfortable in your own skin, with your own experience.”

Today, at Google, Drummond still experiences the creative confrontations around new ideas that don’t fit comfortably into existing paradigms. The vast amount of what Google creates, he says, attracts no controversy. Users embrace Google’s features because they see the value of what Google is proposing. Who these days argues with the brilliance of intuitive search by phrases, sort techniques that save time by bringing the searcher the content that most closely fits the query, and constant computer-evaluated vetting of page sources? Other ideas being developed at Google, however, are currently getting a tougher reception. “Not everyone understands any new concept at first. Google is willing to step out and push for what most people want, and to engage others in open debate.”

Drummond, a history major at SCU, observes that “people believe the power of information is important for humankind. Google’s overall mission is to organize the world’s information and make it accessible and usable—and we mean all of it. What you see at Google is the application of computer science talent and creativity to the problems of information retrieval. Rational thinking combined with data and the actual willingness to do something about it.”

Drummond sees Santa Clara University as supporting adventurous thinking within its educational philosophy. “Openness to ideas, willingness to debate them through to new understanding, engagement with the world—that’s how you make progress. It’s not to say you don’t have your own particular values, but that openness to engagement is critical.”

What technological paradigm shifts does Drummond see in the future?

“Ten years from now, the online world will be very different. Today, most of the world is not connected to the Internet. If you believe that access to information online is a plus, that it improves standards of living and productivity, just imagine what will happen when more people have access to all the information in the world online.

“Google certainly creates value for its shareholders, but we try to do so  through innovation. We’re focused on participating in the next breakthrough. I guess what I’m saying is, the first part of innovative thinking is to realize what’s possible. The next part is to realize the innovations themselves.”

  • SCU enjoys strong relations with the Silicon Valley business community, with more than 100 employers participating in annual career faires.
  • Students have access to listings for more than 12,000 internships nationwide through SCU's Career Center, some of the local offerings include placement at IBM, Cisco Systems, the San Jose Mercury News, and Wells Fargo.