Posted by Max Saltonstall
A little over 10 years ago, we launched the IT Residency Program (ITRP) at Google with a twofold mission: to provide exceptional tech support for Googlers and to empower the next generation of IT pioneers.
ITRP’s founding principle is learning and development. In addition to formal on-the-job IT support training, the program takes its residents through a focused career development path, including a hands-on rotation in a specific Google function in their chosen specialty. For their part, the residents, who come from a wide spectrum of often non-traditional backgrounds, bring with them a passion for learning. ITRP converts that passion into real-world experience and equips them for a lifelong career in tech.
Today, hundreds of Googlers are ITRP alums, working in disciplines ranging from site reliability engineering to security and privacy to program management and all points in between. Looking back on the program’s 10-plus years, we wanted to share some of their stories, their experiences and their triumphs. Look for more installments in this series in the weeks to come.
While studying anthropology in college, Kate Grant had a part time help desk job, helping solve people's computer problems (and sometimes the computer's people problems). And it was through that job that she realized she really liked the satisfaction she got from helping people so directly. At school, Kate could help students, faculty and staff — both technical folks and non-technical, and it was great to save the day for them, teach them, and constantly learn about new technologies.
Joining the Pride March in NYC as part of Google's presence
As graduation loomed close, Kate needed something to do afterwards, and she stumbled upon the ITRP posting. It looked like a great way to continue doing what she loved, and in a much bigger company, with more to learn. She applied, thinking "there's no way in hell" she would get this job.
Turns out she was wrong!
Growth in ITRP
Starting at Google in August 2012, Kate worked in Mountain View, CA helping Googlers of all types with a broad range of tech challenges. She got to spend some time with the Search team at Google working on technical documentation, helping engineers at Google as well as web designers outside Google better understand Google search features. This experience gave Kate something cool she could show her family too, a very tangible "I made this" moment, which can be hard to come by in IT operations work.
During her time in the program, Kate also had the chance to spend some time working in the New York office, which felt good because it brought her closer to New Jersey, where she grew up. It was the first step towards coming back to the Northeast, a welcome return to a comfortable place. Eventually she'd move to New York to work in Google's NYC office full time, helping with IT operations and later managing junior IT help desk folks as the team expanded.
Neon welcome sign in the lobby of the Google NYC office
Working across teams and projects and help desks in ITRP helped Kate develop all kinds of skills, from improving proficiency with Linux, Windows, MacOS and Chrome to also developing better judgment and analysis skills when solving novel problems that walked into the support desk. And as she began helping to train new employees in orientation, covering IT, Security and Technology topics, she got practice improving her public speaking; by the end of it she was speaking to over 100 people at a time on Mondays in Mountain View as new employees learned the essentials of their work at Google.
While she had been considering a tech writing career path before, Kate realized that the work in ITRP helping people day-to-day let her wear many hats. She was writing documentation, that was one key component. But she also wrote code, managed programs and projects, mentored junior members of the team, and analyzed data. The breadth of the job matched her growth goals, and Kate ended up continuing her career in Techstop, transitioning into a role as a Corporate Operations Engineer in 2014.
The work remained in the front-line support team and gave Kate tremendous exposure to the wide array of people in the Google headquarters. She focused more on projects to improve the onboarding and daily operations of the support teams, helping to keep systems and services healthy. This involved scheduling, mentoring, training and helping the newer members of the team, mostly later cohorts of IT Residents.
Kate's experience training new employees, and mentoring new IT Residents, made her a great fit for a new opportunity on the onboarding team, where she worked to make the new employee experience more consistent and reliable between offices across Google globally. This began a traversal of different parts of Google's IT org, where she learned about how the company, and its many teams, operate. Kate's work focused on helping to create better, smoother, more automated processes for the teams in IT, and help to scale the successes they had already achieved.
Making the jump to Operations Manager
Driving improvements to Google’s onboarding infrastructure was fun and satisfying, but Kate missed working with junior techs day to day, and mentoring them on their own career growth. Luckily in 2016 a new manager position opened up in NYC, and Kate jumped at it. She started leading a team of newer support technicians, including IT Residents. Now she could focus on making a really great support experience for Googlers, and give back to the program she had enjoyed by helping the folks on her team grow.
In 2019 Kate had the opportunity to move to Austin, TX to build out a new ITRP Hub location from scratch, and continues to manage IT Residences and Corporate Operations Engineers there today.
Coming full circle now Kate shared some great advice with us for those thinking about ITRP:
"Don't screen yourself out of the opportunity. Folks come into the program from all walks of life. You don't have to have a super fancy computer science degree. If you’re excited about technology and helping people, ITRP could be a great next step for you."
She reinforced that you get out of the program what you put into it: “If you take the time to be curious, to ask questions, to investigate, you will learn so much. It's really an endless amount of material you could absorb, and nobody can get through it all. But when you put in the work, it pays you back”.
And as people go through the ITR Program, they end up in all sorts of places. "There's no cookie cutter outcome… It doesn’t mean you’re doing something wrong if your path doesn’t look like someone else’s. The right way is what's right for you and your goals."