My Path to Google: Adriana Jara, Software Engineer

Welcome to the second installment of our blog series “My Path to Google”. These are real stories from Googlers highlighting how they got to Google, what their roles are like, and even some tips on how to prepare for interviews.

Today’s post is all about Adriana Jara. Read on!

Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
I grew up in a small rural town in Costa Rica called Candelaria de Naranjo. I grew up surrounded by coffee plantations and nature. I used to help my family during the harvests and always joke that in spite of knowing the coffee making process from bean to cup, I must be one of the very few software engineers who doesn’t drink coffee! After high school, I moved out of my small town to go to the Universidad de Costa Rica for college, where I graduated with a Bachelor in Computer Science.

Besides being a software engineer at Google, I'm a dancer. I've been doing contemporary dance for 12 years, and I also practice salsa and West African dance. Dance has helped me see the world from a different perspective. It helps me clear my head and make better decisions as an engineer.

What’s your role at Google?
I'm a software engineer. I recently transferred to the Shopping Syndication team, where I hope to make shopping ads outside of more useful and less annoying!

What inspires you to come in every day?
The people I work with. I also thoroughly enjoy solving problems, especially problems that have impact on our users. It’s rewarding to work with so many inspiring people to help make our users’ lives easier. I'm excited about connecting people with opportunities, and sharing the advantages that our products bring to more users.

Can you tell us about your decision to enter the process?
It started with Gmail when I was in college. I very clearly remember opening my Gmail account and being so inspired by the people that changed how we do email (something that I thought was fine as it was). They made it so much more intuitive and effective that I remember thinking to myself “I want to work with people like that, people who don't take the status quo for granted, people who wonder how can we do better."

About 8 years later, I got the first email from an @google address (my recruiter’s) and got so excited about the chance to work with the people I had always admired. I never thought I could make it from my small town to the Googleplex. I never thought I would end up working in a place where you can impact millions of users around the world.

How did the recruitment process go for you?
I was super excited to even be in a Google office for the interviews, but at the same time, I was scared to death of the possibility of having to move by myself to a whole new country and start a different life. I remember my first phone interview didn’t go so well. At that point, I was losing hope, but got a surge of strength thinking “I’m a good engineer and I want to work at Google, but I’ll be fine even if it doesn’t work out.” The burst of confidence seems to have helped — I did well on my second interview, came onsite for interviews, and now I work here!

What do you wish you’d known when you started the process?
I had the perception that Google was only looking for geniuses who knew everything and could come up with the best solutions in minutes. I wish I could go back in time to tell myself how wrong that perception is—it would’ve definitely removed at least a bit of the pressure of the interviews.

Now as an interviewer myself, I’ve realized that Google engineering interviews are basically just conversations about solving problems. Essentially, they go like this: If we were to work on [x] problem together and given [y] set of tools, how would you approach it? Had I known that this is the actual approach, I think I would've been more relaxed going into the process.

Can you tell us more about the resources you used to prepare?
Various coding exercises, an algorithm class (there are a lot of those on Coursera and other education sites), and a whole lot of practice. I knew several people who were also interviewing and we shared resources we found, did 'code reviews' on challenges, and did mock interviews together.

I also absolutely loved the ’How To’ videos from the Life at Google channel on Youtube.

To finish, do you have any tips you’d like to share with aspiring Googlers?
Don't be afraid to try! There is nothing to lose by trying. If you want to work at Google, go ahead and apply. Prepare yourself for the interviews by sharpening your knowledge of data structures, algorithms, and coding. If you try and fail, don’t give up! There are many factors that might lead to a failed round of interviews—everyone has bad days—so prepare yourself and try again.