This is the latest post in our series profiling entrepreneurial Googlers working on products across the company and around the world—even 35,000 feet above the ground. Read how one engineering director tried Google App Engine for the first time to build an Android app—now used by nearly half a million people—during a 12-hour plane ride to Japan. -Ed.

A 12-hour plane flight may seem daunting to some, but I look at it as uninterrupted time to do what I love—code new products. My bi-monthly trips from London to Tokyo and California are how I spend my 20 percent time—what I consider my “license to innovate.” It was on a flight to Tokyo that I first built what became Chrome to Phone, an Android app and Chrome extension that allows you to instantly send content—like a webpage, map or YouTube video—from your Chrome browser to your Android device.

As an engineering director, I spend the bulk of my time managing software engineers and various projects. As a result, there’s not a lot of time to just sit at my desk and code, and it’s possible for my technical skills to become rusty. So on one of my frequent cross-continent trips, I decided to take the opportunity—and time—to brush up on my engineering skills by exploring device-to-device interaction, an area that has a lot of potential in our increasingly connected world. I’d never written a Chrome extension or used App Engine, a platform that allows developers to build web applications on the same scalable systems that power Google’s own applications and services. But rather than sleeping or reading a book, I spent my flight figuring it out. And somewhere over Belgium on my way to Japan, I had a working prototype of Chrome to Phone.

A few days later, on my trip back to London, I emailed my prototype to Andy Rubin and Linus Upson, who lead the Android and Chrome engineering teams. Before my plane even landed, they’d both given the product their blessing. With a little help from a developer in Mountain View and a user interface designer back in London, we tidied things up and ultimately launched the open source code for Chrome to Phone at Google I/O just two months later.

As an engineering director, I don’t always have the time to get deeply involved in every aspect of a product launch. Chrome to Phone gave me a unique opportunity to be actively involved at the grassroots of product development at Google—from concept to launch—working directly with the legal, internationalization and consumer operations teams. With few restrictions on how I spent my time, I was able to build a prototype and launch it quickly, adding more features based on user feedback. Today, more than 475,000 people use the extension, and that number is still growing.

When you’re leaving your house to go out, you take your phone, keys and wallet. I don’t think it will be long before you just take your phone—it will contain everything that you need—and that’s our motivation to explore device-to-device interaction. In order to get there, we have engineers here in the U.K. and around the world examining the mobile space, both in their full-time roles and as 20 percent projects. There isn’t only one solution, so by encouraging engineers to work on new projects, we hope that ideas will come from all over the world—whether from a Google office or even 35,000 feet above one.