How I Got Into Google With No Tech Background, Part 5

This is Part 5 of a series on how I got into Google as a first generation college grad with no tech background and almost no connections. If you haven’t already, read Part 1, Part 2Part 3, and Part 4 before proceeding.

I was NOT happy to hear that my next interview wouldn’t take place until March 28th. 

Those 17 days between talking to Jen on the phone, and this next round in-person at Google’s NYC office felt like an eternity. 

It’s not that I was desperate for money or anything –– after all, I was still comfortably entrenched at American Express.

At the same time, this whole interview process started way back on February 25th…

And a month later, I still didn’t have a feel for how much longer it would go.

That said, my heart was still set on Google, and when I was told to come in on March 28th I reached back out to Ben.

I wanted to know what I should wear to the office.

My plan was a suit and tie, since that’s what I’d worn at American Express, UBS, and pretty much all my interviews. 

Ben pushed back: “No way. Google’s pretty informal. The tie is too much.”

So I decided to just wear a sport coat which –– in hindsight –– was also probably too much. 

(The only reason I don’t regret the sport coat is because no one saw my pit stains of nervousness.)

One thing that made me (a bit) less nervous, though, was the way Ben prepped me for everyone I would be interviewed by.

I remember sitting in a strip mall parking lot in Camelback, PA for an hour chatting with Ben in the car while my family ate pizza at a local eatery during our vacation. 

He helped me a lot! Full scouting reports packed with useful details. 

Of course, when interview day came, it was still on me to go in there and deliver.

Now it was showtime:

I would be interviewed by four different people at Google that day.

This would be the first time I stepped foot in Google’s office, as all my interviews prior had been over the phone.

And like I mentioned in Part 1, their office was awfully impressive. 

As soon as I walked in I saw huge Lego pits for kids (and the Googlers). People walking around in jeans and t-shirts. Dogs going in and out of conference rooms. (Meanwhile, there I was in nicely pressed slacks and a sport coat.)

Interestingly — even though this was slated to be a day of in-person interviews –– only one of the four people interviewing me was there at the office.

The first three interviewed me from Chicago and California via video conferencing, which, back in 2011, wasn’t that stable on a home Internet connection. Google had invested lots of moolah to get the highest of high speed internet.

My first interview was at 1pm with Joe, the Director of Media Services.

And, as someone later confirmed to me, his specialty was “stress-based interviewing.”

Joe stressed me out a lot!

First he asked me about Google’s philosophy on making their Google Play store open or closed. 

(it was relatively new back then –– Apple’s App Store was huge, and Google was trying to compete with its Android operating system.)

So he asked me if I thought Google Play should be open, or if Google should make it a closed system like Apple does. 

I had no freaking idea what the right answer was. I didn’t even have a particularly strong opinion!

Put on the spot like that, I said: “Well, I think it’s more in-line with Google’s values to make it open source and more available and not in a walled garden.”

And then he pressured me: “But then we would lose so much money!”

It didn’t take me long to realize Joe’s schtick: there was no “right answer”, and no matter which position I took, he was ready to pounce on me with the drawbacks. 

He went several levels deeper with these types of stress-based questions, on all kinds of different scenarios and business issues. 

(This is when I started sweating, and I didn’t stop until I went home around 4pm.)

I didn’t know what I was talking about for most of the interview, and I felt sure that I had screwed this whole thing up. I thought that interview went terribly.

My second interview was with a potential future peer of mine.

The way Google (and a lot of top tech companies) do interviews is to have you talk to people who are senior to you as well as people on the same level. 

Frankly, this guy was a breeze compared to Joe.

He didn’t seem like a very seasoned interviewer, which (after the gauntlet I had just gone through) was fine with me. 

We talked through some of the role-related knowledge in a fairly relaxed manner, and it was mostly stuff I had spoken about already with Lindy and Jen. 

Nothing from this interview added to my self-doubt, but I had plenty of that as it was.

My third interview was with a cerebral man named Oren.

He was intellectually intimidating, but he also liked to talk a lot.

The purpose of our interview was mainly to talk about the team I would be running, but he turned out to do most of the talking. 

Which actually benefited me, because I was able to glean a lot of useful nuggets about the people on the team and what the team was being evaluated on.  

I probably spent 75% of this interview listening to Oren, and only about 25% of the time responding to questions he asked.

Oren and I also connected over our Jewish heritage (I dropped some hints about Passover coming up, which I was not shy about doing in the least) as well as the fact that we both had kids. 

I was able to relate to Oren as a human being and that proved to be a big positive.

Finally, I sat down across a conference table with someone named Ken.

I sat at the far end of the table so he wouldn’t smell my sweat as much.

This was my first in-person interview with someone who was actually there at the office.

Ken came from Conde Nast and had moved to Google two or three months ago. Which set the stage for a great discussion about me possibly coming in from another traditional, slow moving company: American Express.

He talked about what the culture shock had been like for him coming in from the magazine business.

We talked a lot about advertising. And he asked a bunch of questions about how I would adapt to the culture, given how much faster-moving it was than what I was used to.

My responses were truthful: I had been disturbed for a long time by how slow American Express was. I was tired of people telling me “it’s a marathon, not a sprint.” I liked to move fast!

We talked for probably 45 minutes, focusing mostly on culture fit and related issues. 

When we wrapped up around 4pm I was feeling good, but also exhausted, and so damn sweaty that I will never forget it for the rest of my life.

I asked where I stood in the interview process, but no one could give me a clear answer.

Luckily for me, I was closer to the finish line than I realized at the time.

And I’ll wrap this whole saga up in Part 6, the final post in the series.