Tag Archives: Life at Google

How Joy Jackson prepared for her Google interview

Welcome to the latest edition of “My Path to Google,” where we talk to Googlers, interns and alumni about 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 Joy Jackson, a data center technician on the global server operations team, who shares how she went from studying to be a graphic designer to discovering a passion for IT and joining the Google data center team.

What’s your role at Google?

I am currently a data center technician on the Global Server Operations team, leading local projects as well as working with our team to deploy and maintain Google's advanced data center servers and network infrastructure. What I love most about my role is working with a diverse team and seeing how passionate each of us is to make sure that our network is up and running, ensuring users have the best and fastest experience possible.

What does your typical day look like right now?

A typical work day for me right now ranges from many different duties like physical deployments of the data center, maintaining servers and networking infrastructure and working closely with various partner teams to ensure our goals, missions and projects are successfully delivered.

Tell us about yourself?

I grew up in Charleston, South Carolina, and after graduating high school I left Charleston and went to The Art Institute of Charlotte, where I received my associate’s degree in graphic design. When I am not working, I like to spend my time on graphic projects and photography. Some of my hobbies outside of designing and photos are hiking, doing yoga and most importantly, traveling. I love to meet new people, explore new areas and learn about different cuisines and cultures. 

Can you tell us about your decision to apply to work at Google?

I was interested in Google because of how innovative the company is. I had never applied before and was intimidated because of how huge the company is. When I applied and heard back about interviews, I was extremely nervous because I did not think I would be a good fit due to being at the very early stages of my career.

Joy stands in front of a Google logo across a piece of wood cut in the shape of Virginia.

Joy works at one of Google’s Virginia data centers.

How would you describe your path to your current role at Google?

When I went off to college, I thought my heart was set on becoming a graphic designer and opening my own agency. But as I progressed in life and my career, I found myself more interested in working in IT. I worked hard to transition from what I thought I wanted to do to where I am now. And I am happy I did – I love the work we do. I have had opportunities to work in different data center locations and in different roles, just by learning new skills and opening myself up to reach out to other site locations and their teams.

What inspires you to come in every day?

I am inspired each day to come into work because of the millions of lives we are able to touch. It's just a great feeling knowing that, by the work we are doing, we are able to help so many people stay connected with friends and loved ones.

How did the recruitment process go for you?

I was referred to apply, and I was nervous about not being the right fit. But after my phone interview, I decided to stay open-minded about the process. Because I knew I could do the job and it was a perfect fit.

What's one thing you wish you could go back and tell yourself before applying? I wish I could go back to the moment before I applied and tell myself that it is okay to ask questions! I was so nervous and scared to ask any questions.

What resources did you find most helpful when preparing for the interview?

One of the resources I used to prepare for my interviews were sites like LinkedIn Learning, taking the time to do online courses and training classes and watching tutorials.

Do you have any tips you’d like to share with aspiring Googlers?

Never doubt your abilities to achieve anything you put your mind to. With education, drive and determination, you can reach your goals.

Graphic with a photo of Joy wearing an Android t-shirt on the right, and on the left, text that reads: “My Path to Google, Data Center Technician.”

The many hats of a technical solutions engineer

Welcome to the latest edition of “My Path to Google,” where we talk to Googlers, interns and alumni about how they got to Google, what their roles are like and even some tips on how to prepare for interviews.

Today’s story is all about Sanjay Khubchandani, a technical solutions engineer based out of our Bangalore office. Find out how participating in coding competitions led him to becoming a technical solutions engineer at Google.

What do you do at Google?

I am a technical solutions engineer in Google Cloud based in Bangalore. We focus on solving advanced technical problems our customers face. But that’s not all we do. A technical solutions engineer (TSE) wears many hats, such as making sure customers can solve the issues they're facing as effortlessly as possible. The most exciting part of being a TSE is that we get to collaborate with many teams working in many different areas.

What’s your typical workday like?

I joined Google remotely, as everyone was working from home. Typically my day involves working on solving problems, working on my projects, talking to customers and so much more. I don’t always code, though I sometimes do. If I were to define my role in three words, it would be “troubleshooting at scale.”

What made you apply to Google?

I had never applied before because every time I was going to, I got scared and thought I would never get selected. I believe that fear didn’t allow me to apply. I still remember the journey from when I applied on the Google Careers portal, to today when I am actually contributing here. Looking back to where I was seven or eight months ago, I got to learn, grow and contribute so much in such a short span of time that I believe there is no other place than Google where you can do this.

How did you get to your current role?

Before joining Google, I was a student who used to participate in a lot of coding competitions organised by various colleges or universities. That’s what made me realize that I enjoy solving problems. It was not about getting to code, it was always about getting the problem statement and finding a way to solve it. 

I applied for a completely different role, but a recruiter from Google looked at my resume, reached out to me and told me about the technical solutions engineer role. When I read the role description, I knew it was perfect for me.

What inspires you to log in every day?

Our customers, always. I wake up with a smile on my face and coffee in my hand thinking I will get something to solve which I have never seen before — and I always do!

What was the interview process like for you?

When I was being interviewed for the TSE role, the world was not going through a pandemic and I was still in my last semester of college. I got to see the Google Bangalore office, and meet some amazing people. I still remember the day I got a call from my recruiter saying “Congratulations, Sanjay.” I immediately called my parents and let them know. It was so awesome to see them share my excitement.

What resources did you use to prepare for the interview?

Oh it was a great journey, to be honest. Google Search helped me prepare for my role at Google as a whole. Being a TSE is not all coding. I used a lot of resources to learn about topics like OS management, web technologies and  networking. For example, I used to watch YouTube videos to explore the depths of how an operating system actually works. I took my time to understand the concepts and not just go through what they mean. I believe if you understand something really well, you will never forget it.

Do you have any advice for aspiring Googlers?

Your passion is what matters, if you are passionate about something and you find the role which matches your skills, interest and experience — apply!

Why coming to Google was a package deal for Belle Sun

Welcome to the latest edition of “My Path to Google,” where we talk to Googlers, interns and alumni about 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 Belle Sun, one of the Googlers behind the packaging design for Google products. Belle deep dives into her role and shares how her career has taken her from Shanghai to the U.S. and from working on baby products to high tech.

What’s your role at Google?

As a Packaging Engineering Program Manager I facilitate Google consumer products packaging design — from engineering to manufacturing. We design packaging that not only protects the product, but also provides the best experience for people as packaging is the first interaction our customers have with a product. No matter how challenging the development phase is, nothing beats the sense of achievement when I see our products packaged on the shelf.

What does a typical workday look like for you?

I first check my emails and sort out the priority level. I then set up meetings to share project status, analyze risks and impact due to the changes requested — changes can be everything from adding a warning label to packages to adding additional screws so people can secure something like the Nest Cam onto their walls. Besides my daily work, I enjoy reading daily newsletters from the company to know what exciting things other Googlers are doing. I’m also a part of the “Dogfood” program where I test out new features and products and provide feedback.

Belle at her desk at home.

Can you tell us a bit about your move from Shanghai to the U.S.?

I grew up in Shanghai, China as an only child. I had no clue what I wanted to do, and solely focused on grades and getting into college — hoping to find a decent job in the future like many Chinese children of my generation. English was always my favorite subject. I went to the “English Corner” every week to practice and persuaded myself to be brave whenever I had an opportunity to speak with people from abroad. Fast forward to 2013, I moved to the U.S. at the age of 29. 

As an immigrant, I was at a loss. I wondered if I was ever going to do well here from life to career because I didn’t speak perfect English and it was so different from where I grew up. However, I never gave up and encouraged myself everyday that I could do it. I went from being too shy to say “hi” to a stranger to being a Googler. I learned you can do anything as long as you believe in yourself and work hard toward your goal.

Why did you decide to apply to Google?

I was working long days and nights prior to joining Google. One night my son held my arm to be with me while I was still in a meeting at a very late hour. At that point, I knew I needed to move onto something new for myself and my family. 

A friend of mine told me about a role at Google Nest. Google is known for providing a good work life balance and caring for its employees. Above all, it is a company that leads the future of technology development. So I decided to go for it.

Belle and her son posing on Halloween in front of an Android pie statue.

Belle and her son at a Googleween event.

What was your path to your current role?

When I lived in Shanghai I was a product planner —  I tracked orders and maintained on-time shipments from factories. That’s when I became interested in product development and landed a role for baby products where I first learned about project management and how products were developed from concept to manufacturing. When I first moved to the U.S. I worked at BuyBuy Baby, then I moved into the packaging industry and developed packaging for consumer products. 

What inspires you to come in (virtually) every day?

Designing and developing thoughtful packaging is exciting. Nowadays, packaging is not only used to protect the product during the transportation, but also a means to celebrate the company’s values such as sustainability and inclusiveness.
Pixel 4 box sitting on a table indoors.

Packaging Belle worked on for the Pixel 4.

What was your application experience like?

I applied for the role directly online. Before the interviews, I was concerned with answering the questions correctly. I researched on the web, consulted with others in similar roles, and learned about Google’s values. That’s when I realized that there would be no right or wrong answers. Instead, what Google valued the most was the thought process and the creative way to resolve problems.

What advice would you give your past self?

I wish I told myself to apply earlier rather than thinking things like, “Am I qualified enough to compete with others since Google is a company so many people want to join?” I should have focused on the fact that my experience matched what the role requested.

A Googler’s fight against the “model minority” myth

Editor's note: Charlene Wang, an associate product manager for Google Play Ads, recently published a book on combating Asian American stereotypes. We sat down with Charlene to talk about her book.

Three years ago, Charlene Wang drafted a letter to her brother Warren in Taipei. He was preparing to move to the United States for college, and she wanted to give him advice. Specifically, she wanted him to know what to expect about the stereotypes that Asian people face in America, and her suggestions for how to navigate those harmful expectations while staying true to himself. “I wanted to share all the things I wish someone had told me when I first came here,” she says.  

Eventually, her letter became a book: “Model Breakers: Breaking Through Stereotypes and Embracing Your Authenticity,” which was published in April of this year. 

The title is a reference to the pervasive and harmful myth of the “model minority” — the stereotype that Asian American people are naturally smart, studious, successful and docile. While that might sound positive on its surface, the myth is damaging in numerous ways. It pigeonholes Asian people into the stereotype of being hardworking, but lacking the people skills necessary to be good leaders. It groups all Asian people — people from diverse backgrounds and cultures from more than 50 countries — into a monolithic, homogenous group under the assumption that all Asian people have the same advantages or face the same challenges. And the model minority myth also acts as a racial wedge, perpetuating inequality by pitting people of color against one another. “That's why we used ‘Model breaker,’ since it's basically breaking up that model minority myth and turning it into something positive,” Charlene says.

In the book, Charlene explores the challenges she encountered as an Asian immigrant facing racist stereotypes upon moving to the U.S., as well as how she healed from these experiences and found her voice in spite of it all. 

One example: After she founded a company in 2016, she had an opportunity to pitch to an investor. But when it was her turn to pitch, he shut her down before she finished. “I introduced myself and I didn't even get to say what I was working on,” she recalls. He told her to take an ESL course and learn to speak English. “He didn't even let me finish. And then I didn't say anything because I didn't know I could. I didn’t know how.”

Over time she says she learned how to speak up for herself when she faced similar situations. A year later, she was invited to attend a conference to help entrepreneurs craft their pitches. She noticed that the person who had invited her seemed to doubt her qualifications. “I knew I needed to do something different,” she recalls. “I knew that if I didn't speak up this time I would be repeating the story, so I wanted to stop the pattern.” She called him out, explained why he was wrong to doubt her — and then she became the most popular speaker at the conference. She says he sent her a long apology email after, acknowledging his error. “He apologized for how he made me feel, and he acknowledged that he has his biases, and he underestimated how much age, or sex, or even other biases hurt you,” she says. The experience was eye-opening for her. “I think that moment really changed the way I think about my voice and my story,” Charlene says. It further motivated her to help others understand the power of their voice and story as well.

Charlene Wang's author photo — she's standing with her arms crossed wearing a white sleeveless shirt.

“The book is the toolkit for how to know yourself, be yourself, tell your own story and take some risks,” she says. The intended audience is young people — high school students, or people just entering the workforce. And her goal is to reach the Asian American community, as well as to raise awareness about challenges that the Asian American community faces.

She originally focused the book on her own personal perspective, but throughout the writing process it evolved to include the voices of other people who have gone through similar things. For research purposes she interviewed nearly 100 people, including Asian immigrants,  refugees and Asian Americans representing a variety of ethnicities, as well as non-Asian allies. Interviewing other people helped her to identify common patterns, particularly in how some people may experience and respond to trauma. For instance, roughly 15% of people in the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community struggle with mental health, and her interviews reflected that. So she devoted some chapters to family dynamics and caring for your mental health. Another theme she discovered had to do with risk: Some people she spoke with were afraid to take risks, she says. So she devoted some of the book to the benefits of risk-taking.

Ultimately, her research helped her see the necessity of reframing and reclaiming the narrative of what it means to be Asian in America as a way to dispel the model minority trope while valuing your own authentic self.  “The first step is to really know what makes you you, what makes you excited, what values you have — from you, not your family or your parents, but what you love to do,” she says. “And then once you’ve found that, how can you see that in your family, in your work, in your passion. And that requires a lot of experimentation. Everyone is different.” 

The book is coming out amid the tragic backdrop of a horrifying increase in anti-Asian violence. But racism and anti-Asian sentiment isn’t new. “People didn’t know these things happened before,” Charlene says. She says she wants to encourage Asian Americans to feel brave enough to continue being themselves, and sharing their stories, in spite of the risks: “How can we help everyone feel secure?” she asks. “How can we help everyone see that they’re already good, that they have value? How do you find things about yourself that are so loveable that you just want to share them with other people?”

Charlene believes that recognizing, accepting and embracing your core values is a key first step to living authentically, in spite of stereotypes or pressure to act or behave a certain way. And she also thinks that celebrating your values and your culture can be deeply inspirational for others in your community. “The stereotype is the backstory,” she says. “You have to tell a better story that inspires you to wake up every day, so you can speak up for yourself. It’s hard and it takes a lot of courage, but know that you're also speaking out for thousands of people.”

Two Googlers meet for the first time at I/O

Mike Pegg has never missed an I/O. “There’s a magic about it,” he says. “It’s sort of like seeing Google come to life, right?” Mike leads Developer Relations for the Google Maps Platform team, and when we spoke via Google Meet a few days before I/O, he was gearing up to present at the conference from his Bay Area home. Gearing up, literally.

“My tech check for my AMA will happen...right here,” he says looking around his desk at home. “I literally had a suitcase sent to me with all my camera gear and microphones. I even bought some ethernet cabling so I’m not competing with my son’s gaming on our WiFi!” 

While Mike’s AMA would broadcast from his home, up until recently he thought he wouldn’t physically make it to I/O this year. Then he heard there would be a (small) audience. “I was so excited to take part, I just wanted to help out in whatever way I could.” Speakers who would be on stage at the Mountain View campus nominated colleagues to be audience members — and Mike was one of about 35 Googlers selected to sit in the audience at I/O

As was Lamon Bethel, a visual designer. Unlike Mike, Lamon had never been to I/O — in fact, he’d never been to the Mountain View campus. Based in San Francisco, he’s only been working at Google for about nine months. “The invite was sort of mysterious,” Lamon says. “It was like a Friday or Saturday and I was going through my inbox and there was this totally nondescript, cryptic email saying I’d been nominated to sign up to attend I/O.” At first he thought it was a joke — he was so new at Google, and he wasn’t a developer. He signed up anyway and soon enough, found out that he would be on site for I/O  with the small audience group. 

A person’s hand holding a plastic bag. The clear bag has a red mask inside.

 Audience members each received face masks upon arrival.

Lamon would be diving head first into the world of Google — as well as into the now-unique experience of seeing so many people at the same time. “It was energizing just to be in touch with all the I/O folks throughout the planning process,” he said before the event. “When I’m actually in the presence of other people, and seeing the presenters...I’m so curious what that will feel like!” 

When I talked to Mike and Lamon a few days before I/O, it was the first time they “met,” though they knew they would both be in the audience. They don’t work in the same department, so it’s likely that even if they’d been working in offices this year, their paths wouldn’t have crossed. But both of them said they couldn’t wait to be on site at I/O, experiencing an event happening in front of them, in real life. 

Of course, they were also just looking forward to meeting. “I can’t wait to meet you, Lamon!” Mike said during our call. “This will be so cool. It will almost be like your first day at Google.” 

By all accounts, it was a good one. “The energy of the speakers, the audience members was great — it was such a seamless day,” Lamon says. Lamon got to meet coworkers for the first time, and Mike was reunited with people he’s worked with for years. “It was pretty special to not only reconnect, but also experience the magic of the I/O keynote together!”

And Lamon and Mike also met — in person — even though they were seated at different stages. “But when we had breaks and during lunch and breakfast, we found time to connect,” Lamon says. “He’s someone that I feel like I’ll always have this really unique bond with after having gone through that I/O experience together,” Mike says.

Giant cranes and video games: How I/O went digital

There’s a sign on the wall behind Andrew Rossi's desk that’s been impossible to ignore during video calls lately. The placard counted down the days until I/O 2021 — and as event lead for Consumer Apps at Google, Andrew is part of a huge team behind the whole production. While it now reads “0,” the purposefully placed sign was visible during the many virtual meetings he had with people all across Google in the run-up to an entirely different kind of I/O.

A sign on a wall above a small bookcase with changeable lettering reads: “I/O is 0 days away.”

I/O is a major undertaking under normal circumstances, and it took a unique brand of elbow grease this year. But after I/O 2020 was canceled due to the pandemic, Google’s developer relations and marketing teams couldn’t let another year pass without it. 

“Apps and the web became even more integrated into our daily lives over the past year,” says VP of Engineering Jason Titus. “They helped us stay healthy, connected and productive — and this served to spotlight how developers were really part of helping us adapt to the challenges of 2020.” 

Planning for this year’s event began nearly as soon as I/O 2020 was canceled. The team agreed on an event primarily focused on live broadcast but that also offered flexibility for participants, while also respecting how different parts of the world were experiencing the pandemic. It would be a three-day digital event, with a mix of live keynotes, pre-recorded technical sessions and interactive features — and it would be unlike anything Google had created before.  

Online, everyone’s invited

Taking the event virtual had a big upside: More of Google’s global developer community could attend, for free. This year, there were 225,000 registrations, mostly from outside the U.S. 

“Going digital meant we had the freedom to think of new ways to deliver technical content,” says Elizabeth Cha, who leads developer marketing. “It seemed the best way to be helpful to developers this year was to give greater access to our technical experts and let the developer community support one another. So beyond the usual technical sessions and Codelabs, we're offering Ask Me Anything (AMA) sessions, instructor-led workshops and meetups.”

A person sitting at a desk looks into the camera on their laptop; the screen shows the person. Behind the laptop is a light and recording gear

A video technician tests out one of the at-home recording kits sent to presenters so they could record their talks from home.

Just like an in-person event involves crowd control and line management, a digital event requires building the infrastructure so everyone can participate. The team took the opportunity to make other improvements for accessibility and inclusivity — including an American Sign Language option for the two main keynotes, a first.

“This year, instead of the online experience accompanying the physical event, the online experience is the event,” says Developer Relations Product Manager Ilen Zazueta-Hall. “Scaling the event was a coordinated effort — we had to rethink so much. Like how do we scale workshops? How many languages do we translate technical content into? How do we make sure it’s accessible, and that people can connect?” 

Live, from Google I/O

While online development was crucial, there was also the challenge of broadcasting live. The team wanted to keep keynotes live because, among other things, digital burnout was a factor. “We’re all sick of sitting down in front of a screen,” VP of Marketing Marvin Chow says. The best way to fight this fatigue was with live video. “When it’s taped, you don’t get that same authenticity and connection.” 

A camera crew of several people are in the foreground, filming a stage surrounded by trees.

The production crew films the keynote dress rehearsal.

Going live was a complex process. First, Andrew and his team had to find a location. Originally, the idea was to film from Shoreline Amphitheatre, Google I/O’s home since 2016, but that was quickly dismissed. The venue, which can fit more than 22,000 people, would have felt eerie without thousands of attendees. 

So the team settled instead on Google’s “Quad” campus in Mountain View. That, too, came with unknowns. “You can’t just throw a stage on campus, because the sun would just beat down on everyone,” Andrew explains. So the team brought in giant cranes to cover the area. “We tracked things like how much the wind blows on an average day.”

Three masked people sit near a “Google” sign in adirondack chairs on a lawn.

Googlers in the I/O audience.

In addition to two stages and space for production crews, the quad could accommodate a small, socially distanced audience. “We realized we could get 15 people around one stage and 19 around another,” Andrew says. This would give presenters something to look at, and bring some energy to the broadcast. Presenters nominated fellow Googlers, so they would see familiar faces. Audience members agreed to a list of COVID-19-related requirements as well as sitting through two rehearsals in case production needed to use backup film. No phones or laptops were permitted the entire time. 

But the work was well worth it: Googlers were excited to head to campus for I/O — and each other. In some cases, colleagues even met in person for the first time.

Photo showing a group of people wearing masks standing on a circular stage on a lawn. A person in the foreground is taking a photo of them.

Googlers gather at the dress rehearsal the day before the keynote.

For everyone who couldn’t go, there was an online Adventure. 

Adventure awaits

A significant draw of I/O for developers is everything that happens IRL. “You know when you’re in line for food and you strike up a conversation with someone?” Elizabeth says. “And you find out you’re both working on the same problem or interested in similar topics and then ideas start pouring in — that’s what I/O is about.”

Enter I/O Adventure, a reimagining of what it’s like to actually be there and get your "hands on" the latest technology, complete with virtual product demos and hangout spaces where you can meet and chat with other developers. Adventure was developer advocate Tom Greenaway’s idea; he’d come up with it as a way for attendees to join in during Chrome Developer Summit (CDS) last December. It was a success, so the team decided to bring it to I/O. 

Photo showing a large group of virtual avatars in the I/O Adventure game world. Participants can earn up to 140 pieces of virtual swag.

 I/O attendees gathering inside I/O Adventure. Participants can interact with over 450 pieces of unique product content — like technical demos, videos and codelabs — and earn up to 140 pieces of virtual swag.

Tom, along with a small team of designers and programmers, collaborated with various Google product departments to craft experiences inside the game. Machine learning and AI, for example, have a musical forest where trees transform into instruments as you bump into them. “As they change, collaboratively, people all over the world will make music together,” Tom says. And Google engineers had special help testing the product — from their kids. “They did about two hours of testing in all over a weekend,” says Elizabeth, whose own children assisted. “And they wanted to play more!”

Two children sitting at a dining room table looking at an open laptop that shows the I/O Adventure game on the screen.

Elizabeth’s kids test out I/O Adventure.

Invention...and Easter eggs

Appropriately for an event that celebrates developer creativity, inventiveness is a theme that runs throughout everything the team did to make I/O happen this year. “I/O 2021 was about  meeting developers where they are and making it easier for them to innovate quickly,” Jason says. In such a daunting year,it was increasingly clear how much the world needs builders. “By helping developers, we help everyone who uses the technology they build.”

And of course, what would any Google project be without a few Easter eggs? “Do you know the Konami Code?” Tom asked during a recent demo of Adventure. “It’s up, up, down — ” ...actually, you’ll just have to find out for yourself. 

How accessible tech helps Inho Seo explore the world

Welcome to the latest edition of “My Path to Google,” where we talk to Googlers, interns and alumni about how they got to Google, what their roles are like and even some tips on how to prepare for interviews.

We spoke to Inho Seo, a software engineer intern with a visual impairment working at Google Korea. Inho told us how accessibility technology helps him explore the world and connect with people.

What are you working on right now? 

I'm a software engineering intern in a team working to make Google's products as usable as possible. Currently, I'm working with my team to develop a program that can detect and verify errors made by developers, and improve the end product. 

Can you tell us a bit about yourself? 

When I took the Korean SAT in 2015, I was pleasantly surprised that the first Braille terminal was introduced. This led me to become interested in public administration and I decided to major in political science in college, so I could become a public officer or a politician who would implement human rights policies for minorities. 

But in my sophomore year in college, I had the opportunity to live in the U.S. as an exchange student for a year. While I was there, I started using many amazing accessibility apps that helped me do things that I couldn’t do back home, like traveling alone, and I realized the benefits of assistive technology. Traveling solo was my longtime dream back then and these apps enabled me to travel to 10 different cities across the U.S. independently while using a cane. 

It made me realize how technology can change the way we live, and if we had similar accessibility apps in Korea, how helpful it would be for Korean people with disabilities. When I returned to Korea, I decided to pursue computer programming with the goal of becoming a software engineer so I could make a difference too. 

What made you decide to apply to Google? 

When I was introduced to a Google recruiter at a campus recruiting event in Seoul, I handed over my resume on the spot. I was really excited about the opportunity after learning more about Google’s workplace culture, the people and the type of work I could do. I had a call back almost immediately and that was the start of my interview process. 

How did the application and interview process go for you? 

I was surprised when Google asked if I needed any accommodations before setting up my interviews, as I’ve not experienced this with other companies before. Both the HR and staffing operations teams were very supportive in providing me a convenient environment for every round in the interview process. 

I was especially touched after receiving Google’s notification email saying, “Google wants to ensure that you are able to perform to the best of your ability.” It made such a huge difference to me, knowing that Google cared about a potential candidate and would make me feel supported throughout the whole process. 

Inho stands in front of a building with the Google logo. In between are multicolored bike racks, some shrubs and a tree.

Inho at Google’s global headquarters in Mountain View, California

Can you tell us about the resources you used to prepare for your interview or role?

I found the site Leetcode really helpful when I was preparing for the algorithm interview rounds. I had solved over 300 problems before the actual interview! 

What advice would you give others who are interested in being an intern at Google? 

Google’s internship program gives you a lot of opportunities to grow your career. Don’t be afraid to try as many projects or roles as you can. There’s room to grow, and you won’t fail if you continue challenging yourself and reflecting on the feedback you receive. Do your best, and enjoy the experience! 

Complete the following: "I [choose one: code/create/design/build] for..." 

I code for good. A friend of mine once asked me how I would like to be remembered if I pass away. I wasn’t sure how to respond back then, but now, I would like to be remembered as a person who helps others and creates positive change. To achieve this goal, I choose to be a software engineer, developing useful technologies that are universally accessible to everyone around the world.

A chance encounter led this researcher to Google

Welcome to the latest edition of “My Path to Google,” where we talk to Googlers, interns and alumni about 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 Preeti Talwai, an architecture student turned user experience researcher. Preeti shares how her initial reluctance about tech faded as she realized how many different types of roles there are in the space.

What’s your role at Google?

I work as a user experience (UX) researcher on the AI User Experience (AIUX) team in Google Research. Our team studies changes in society and science and creates product concepts in close collaboration with research scientists and UX folks across the company. 

My focus is on early-stage, foundational research that tries to unpack big questions about human behavior and needs. With early-stage work, we’re often working with technologies that aren’t built yet and may be very new to users. For example, one of my favorite projects was studying people’s personal goals for a year and helping teams understand how technology can better support those goals.

What does your typical day look like right now?

When I’m planning research, there’s a lot of collective strategizing with other teams and my UX colleagues. When I’m conducting a study, my days usually involve a number of sessions with participants. When I’m synthesizing data, it’s a lot of “heads-down” time punctuated by ongoing sharing and collaboration with my team.  And when I’m sharing the insights and working to put them into action, my days involve meetings and presentations.  

Can you tell us about your decision to apply to work at Google and your path to your current role?

I always felt a pull towards design, so I decided to study architecture in college and went on to do a design research/architectural theory degree. Honestly, I never thought I’d work in tech and was actually against that idea at first. I had a very narrow understanding of tech jobs, and I was pretty sure they weren’t for me. The first time I became interested in Google was at the end of grad school.

I accidentally walked into a networking event after a class at the business school on campus, and I heard a panelist say she worked for Google’s Real Estate and Workplace Services division. I was surprised that something relevant to architecture existed at Google, and I stuck around until the end of the event to meet her. I sent her my resume, and though a role on her team didn’t work out, my information ended up getting passed along to a UX research manager who offered me a role as a research assistant. I decided to take this year-long contract role to test-drive a tech career, and, to my own surprise, loved it. After my contract, I transferred to a full-time role on my current team. 

My path to Google has been meandering and unpredictable. I have always been drawn to understanding human stories and shaping people’s experiences, but I didn’t know the job I had been describing was called “UX research” until I graduated from college. I’ve found that my non-traditional background has opened doors to unique types of research and teams at Alphabet that I may not have otherwise known to look for.

Preeti standing in front of a large Android statue wearing a Noogler hat.

Preeti on her first day at Google.

What inspires you to come in (virtually) every day?

Being able to meet so many different types of people and tell their stories, especially when those voices are not often heard or need to be amplified. The topics I research require deep and personal conversations with our users, and I’m always amazed at how open and candid these sessions can be. I find this an inspiration, but also a privilege and a responsibility I take seriously. My most gratifying moments are when I get to share what we’ve learned back with the communities who gave us this knowledge.

What's one thing you wish you could go back and tell yourself before applying? 

I would tell my past self that there’s so much more to do at a tech company like Google beyond engineering.  There are so many roles I didn’t know existed, and getting to these roles doesn’t have to be, and is often not, a formulaic process or a straight line.

Do you have any tips you’d like to share with aspiring Googlers?

I see a lot of aspiring UXers wondering how to build a portfolio and feeling like they “need experience to get experience,” especially to come to a place like Google. One strategy that helped me is to focus less on job titles and skills as you’re building experience, and instead seek opportunities that help you hone your human-centered research lens and approach. Those opportunities might come in diverse and even surprising disciplines, and can help you get methods experience nearly identical to what you’d be getting in a typical UX internship.

Coworkers become allies while working from home

When Shammi Quddus joined Google in 2018, she noticed she didn’t run into many other Muslims. “There are so few of us, statistically speaking,” she says. She decided to join the [email protected] group, part of the Inter Belief Network run by Googlers to empower employees to voice and practice their beliefs. She was especially impressed by the Muslim Allyship Course the group runs, which explains the basics of the faith, and how non-Muslims can be helpful allies. She soon signed up to be an instructor herself.  “Our faith practices, like daily prayers and fasting, intersect with the workplace quite a bit,” Shammi explains. 

The course was designed in 2017 by a group of Muslim Googlers, including Sarmad Gilani. “Throughout my life, I’d had bad experiences when people found out I was Muslim,” Sarmad says. That’s why he decided to join [email protected], and help create a space where people could ask questions and learn to be good allies. Demand for the course grew so rapidly instructors could hardly keep up.

The program’s momentum was encouraging, if slightly limited. The Bay Area-based group would meet every month, booking rooms at the Mountain View and Sunnyvale offices for 40 to 60 people for their panels. Every time a session was added, so many people subscribed that they had to create a waitlist. “We were trying to think about how we would start in other hubs like Seattle or New York, but that requires a critical mass of four or five Muslim Googlers to serve as instructors and panelists, and manage other on-site needs,” says Shammi. 

While considering their next move, COVID-19 struck. They’d already been interested in livestreaming classes, but the idea of being online-only was nerve-wracking. “We worried people would get bored, or wouldn’t ask any questions,” Shammi says. “What if the Meet call was full of awkward silences?!” 

Fortunately, that wasn’t the case — in fact, online sessions and meetings helped classes grow significantly. “Our pool of instructors and attendees has no geographic boundary — we have Googlers from all over the world signing up!” Shammi says. While the group has missed some of the intimacy, safety and connection of in-person meetings, they’re making use of interactive features like polls and questions to engage their online audiences. “Google Meet’s ‘raise hand’ feature is awesome!” Sarmad adds.

Shammi’s noticed more interesting questions being asked, too. “Some folks will ask why I wear the hijab, and I’ll share my journey of wearing it in the U.S. and Bangladesh,” she explains. “And then it gets really interesting when there are other hijabis in the panel who have different motivations and experiences. It just shows how diverse we are.” 

Amina Gerrbi joined [email protected] after COVID hit. She’s now one of the allyship leads and regularly checks in with participants. “We ask how they feel about certain topics, and even do quizzes sometimes. Engaging an audience for an hour and a half is challenging so having those moments that call for the audience to participate are crucial.”

Sarmad says the best part of online courses is they no longer have to turn anyone away. “That had become an issue with the in-person courses, because we wouldn’t have enough seats.” Since fall 2020, nearly 600 people have registered for online sessions, where the group has helped bring events like their Ramadan Fast-a-Thon, where Googlers can participate in fasting for a day, online. The Fast-a-Thon supports hunger relief efforts and is also an invitation to learn more about Ramadan; this year it's raised $190,000 and counting.

For Muslims everywhere, and at Google, faith is an important part of their identity, and being able to share this with colleagues all over the world has been a silver lining during the pandemic. “I love getting the chance to share personal authentic stories about growing up as a Muslim American woman and genuinely connecting with our participants,” Amina says. “And at the same time, we’re really working to break stereotypes and bust myths.”

A hybrid approach to work

Sundar sent the following email to Google employees earlier today. 

Hi Googlers,

We’ve spent the last year focused on supporting employees during the pandemic. I hope the extra benefits such as Carer’s Leave, the work-from-home allowance, the extra reset days, and the ability to work from wherever you need have been helpful in getting through this tough time.

And we’re not through it yet. It’s heartbreaking to see COVID surging in places like  India, Brazil, and many others around the world. If you live in one of these places, please focus on taking care of yourselves and your loved ones right now. We are here to support however we can. 

In other areas, conditions are less dire and people are beginning to open up their lives and think about returning to the office. In fact, in places where we’ve been able to reopen Google offices in a voluntary capacity, we’ve seen nearly 60% of Googlers choosing to come back to the office. 

For more than 20 years, our employees have been coming to the office to solve interesting problems — in a cafe, around a whiteboard, or during a pickup game of beach volleyball or cricket. Our campuses have been at the heart of our Google community and the majority of our employees still want to be on campus some of the time. Yet many of us would also enjoy the flexibility of working from home a couple days of week, spending time in another city for part of the year, or even moving there permanently. Google’s future workplace will have room for all of these possibilities. 

Over the last year, a team within REWS has been reimagining a hybrid workplace to help us collaborate effectively across many work environments. They’re testing new multi-purpose offices and private workspaces, and working with teams to develop advanced video technology that creates greater equity between employees in the office and those joining virtually. All of these efforts will help us work with greater flexibility and choice once we’re able to return to our offices globally. 

That flexibility will come in a few different forms — and your product areas and functions will share more details on all of these changes by mid-June. Here are the key principles: 

A more flexible work week: 

  • We’ll move to a hybrid work week where most Googlers spend approximately three days in the office and two days wherever they work best. Since in-office time will be focused on collaboration, your product areas and functions will help decide which days teams will come together in the office. There will also be roles that may need to be on site more than three days a week due to the nature of the work. 

More choice around where you work: 

  • More locations globally: One of Google's biggest advantages is our global footprint. We are investing in many great communities globally — which creates more opportunity for employees to move around throughout their careers. By mid-June your PAs and functions will come back with a process by which you can apply to move to another office. In granting approvals, they’ll take into account whether business goals can be met in the new location and whether your team has the right infrastructure in the site to support your work. 

  • Remote work: We’ll also offer opportunities for you to apply for completely remote work (away from your team or office) based on your role and team needs. Before the pandemic, we had thousands of people working in locations separate from their core teams. I fully expect those numbers to increase in the coming months as we develop more remote roles, including fully all-remote sub teams. You’ll be able to apply for remote work within your product area or function. As with location transfers, your leads will evaluate whether remote work can support the goals of the team and business. Whether you choose to transfer to a different office or opt for completely remote work, your compensation will be adjusted according to your new location. 

  • Taken together these changes will result in a workforce where around 60% of Googlers are coming together in the office a few days a week, another 20% are working in new office locations, and 20% are working from home. 

More flexibility for your life: 

  • Work-from-anywhere weeks: Going forward, Googlers will be able to temporarily work from a location other than their main office for up to 4 weeks per year (with manager approval). The goal here is to give everyone more flexibility around summer and holiday travel. 

  • Focus time: Product areas and functions will also offer focus hours so we limit internal meetings during times when people need to be heads down on projects.

  • Reset days: We’ll continue offering extra “reset” days to help employees recharge during the pandemic in 2021. Our next global day off will be on Friday, May 28 (or the following work day if you’re already not working on the 28th). Please enjoy it!

GIF showing the text: More flexibility for your work week, More choice around where you work, More flexibility for your life

I know this past year hasn’t been easy for anyone and many Googlers are still suffering as the pandemic wears on. We will get through it — together — as a Google community. 

I am profoundly optimistic that once we do, we will be able to come back together in our offices to see all the people we have missed. And we’ll be able to work together in entirely new ways that improve both our work and our lives. 

The future of work is flexibility. The changes above are a starting point to help us do our very best work and have fun doing it. 

 Look forward to continuing the conversation with all of you.