Thursday, June 14, 2012

How to work for Google in (and after) college: ranked the #1 company to work for by Millennials

Last week I introduced you to student ambassador programs, and recently I was able to interview some people who work directly with one of the most exciting ambassador programs - Google's
Time and time again Google is ranked as one of the best places to work - especially among Millennials. I'll never forget the first time I learned about their California-based headquarters - the Googleplex - in my Organizational Development class: an office with pool tables, laundry-mats, dentists; a place where you can get your haircut and bring your dog to work.   

And I am a huge personal fan of Google's amazing (and free) products - I often recommend in my book and blog how Gmail, Google Docs, and Google Calendar save my life daily and offer incredible tools for college success (e.g. using Google Calendar SMS reminders for assignment due dates). 

I've had many students tell me they desire to work for Google one day, so I thought I'd give you some insight into their Student Ambassador program and what it takes to work there via my interview with Miriam Schneider, the Google Marketing Manager on the Google Education Team, who also runs the Google Student Ambassador program, as well as my interviews with two former Google Student Ambassadors: Veronica and Andy. 

I was so delighted to meet these three, and it was obvious by their energy and kindness that Google really is a great place to work.

Miriam studied Communications and French and UCLA, and then, without a clear direction of what might come next, moved back to her parent's place in Laguna Beach for the summer.Miriam applied to a temp HR job with Google's Irvine office: "I was unaware that it was a difficult application process at the time and didn't get the job for a good reason: because I had zero HR experience. But I did get to talk to some of the recruiters who helped me figure out what would be better fit for a new graduate with my skills and interests. I eventually found a role on the consumer operations team (online support)."

Miriam was "in the trenches, answering user emails, and troubleshooting technical bugs and inquiries on Mobile and Picasa."

Getting to meet recruiters at a large company like Google can be a great experience in and of itself, even if you don't get the job you applied for. 

Miriam owes her current position to the initiative and proactivity she showed in her first position. She learned a lot about the company in the "trenches," and found that she learned a lot about her strengths and interests in that experience - she loved learning about the users and anticipating their needs. As she grew to enjoy marketing, she eventually moved to the position she has today. 

Miriam's advice to students who want to work for Google? "Be flexible. Everyone wants to find their dream job right away, but it takes time. Answering user queries about highly technical issues happening on their mobile devices wasn't exactly my dream job; my coworkers would laugh at me because I was helping users with mobile issues and I didn’t even have a flip phone at the time."

"But I gained so much from that experience because it gave me a first-hand opportunity to learn."

"Many students have super high expectations when they graduate and are used to getting what they want - especially those who graduate from top-tier universities or at the top of their class. But you have to make a conscious choice to be flexible, be willing to start from the bottom, and make the environment that you’re in a positive one. That is a trait that has helped me enjoy my work and want to continue it."

Today Miriam works with universities that are using Google Apps and looks after Google's student outreach efforts such as the Google Student Blog, Student Google+ Page, and generally anything relevant to university students. Miriam's favorite part of her job? "I really enjoy talking to students who have this infectious enthusiasm. I've been at Google six years, and like any job, your day-to-day can get exhausting. Talking to students who are so passionate and enthusiastic and knowledgeable and hearing their ideas is motivating and inspiring."
Google has Student Ambassadors around the world. Currently positions are open by referral or nomination by people in the school's administration (e.g. check with your College's IT department) or current Google interns

An interview with Google Student Ambassador, Andy

What is your major? I majored in Politics and Sociology, at Brandeis University - a college that uses Google Apps for Education. I started college thinking law school might be a good avenue, but as I continued school I realized education and technology was really enjoyable. At Brandeis there are people who implement technology in the classroom and I found it to be a really fascinating field because its constantly changing. 

How did you learn about the Google Student Ambassador program and how did you apply?  I worked with tech support at Brandeis University. I kept my eyes and ears open, got involved in a lot of clubs, and got to know a lot of people and that opened different avenues. Initially the whole idea of tech hadn’t even occurred to me, but it was the people I met and the connections I made through clubs. 

The help desk at Brandeis hired all sorts of students regardless of their technology background. They felt that they could teach technology, but what they were really looking for is enthusiastic people who like talking to faculty and students. 

Someone who worked with Brandeis library and technology services referred me to the Student Ambassador program. 

Not all people at Google were Computer Science majors either. There were students in art, advertising, business, English, etc. That shocked me and was very cool to see. 

What has been your favorite part about this program? The best part was getting to go to Google headquarters. Google is unique in that they really bring you to Google and give you a lot of stuff to distribute to students. They give you a chrome book (Google’s new laptop) and 50 Tshirts to give out on campus.  You see all these articles about Google being #1 place to work. It really is true. It’s absolutely incredible.

What are some of the things you did on campus as a Google Student Ambassador? I held a Google Sites workshop at Brandeis where I invited club leaders from all over campus to come to a workshop. Google gave money to provide pizza and I taught them how to set up websites for their club. Since Brandeis used Google Education Apps I also often asked students how they use Google Apps in the classroom and would give their feedback to staff at Brandeis who would then use that feedback when they talked about their apps at conferences. I felt like I was both benefitting Google and Brandeis.

What kind of students do you think Google looks for in its student ambassadors? I think they are looking for people who are excited about the brand and really already networked into their community and their school. For example, there were a lot of ambassadors in student government. 

What did you like about Brandeis using Google Apps for Education?  Instead of a school using their own email service, which can very expensive and hard to maintain, schools have Google provide them with Google Apps (some packages are even free). For example Brandeis' email is hosted through Google, and we use Google Calendar to make appointments with faculty and staff, or see the registrars calendar of due dates. We can even use Google Calendar to reserve rooms on campus on our phone - I love it, the faculty seem to really like it too. The email is also a great way to ensure students actually check their college email - which is so important. 

How do you feel like being involved in the Google Student Ambassador program benefited you? It was so exciting to be able to say I worked for Google. It sounds really cool to tell people that and it was really fun to get all that stuff and you really feel like you are a valuable part of the company. When you do a good job, they really make you feel good about it. It was also really valuable to gain that professional experience and learn about a new working environment and industry, which led to my current full-time job after graduating college - working with the technology at Brandeis. 

An interview with Google Student Ambassador,Veronica

What are you majoring in and how did you figure it out? 
During my freshman year I wanted to major in engineering or the sciences because that was considered “practical” in today’s increasingly technical world. But I soon realized that was a stereotype inflicted upon me by society, and not really in my heart at all. Luckily, I chose a school with an open curriculum (Rice University) because I wanted to also explore my options and figure out what I wanted to do. 

I soon realized that I loved my economics and business classes, and for a lot of my extracurriculars I found myself doing a lot of movie making and media creation (I used to blog for Seventeen Magazine). By the end of freshman year, I decided that I wanted to double major in economics and visual arts via the film track. 

Ever since I've been engaging in as many technology and startup opportunities as possible, such as Google Student Ambassador program, an entrepreneurial event that I helped plan called Rice 3DayStartup, and my current internship with an amazing up-and-coming startup this summer in New York City called I'm also constantly reading about other startups, internet corporations, and the future of technology. 

One thing I’m realizing that’s very refreshing is that you don’t have to be technical in order to make a difference in the world of technology – that is, you don’t necessarily have to know how to code or actually build things. As much as there’s a push for technical talent, we still live in a world of humans who are going to use the products that technical individuals create, and I honestly believe that we humans are way more complicated than computers and technology. An understanding of people is crucial to technology’s successful implementation in our world.

How did you learn about the Google Student Ambassador program and how did you apply? I got incredibly lucky. Since I had been a part of a leadership retreat and done online media work with Seventeen Magazine I was recommended to the the Director of IT Communications at Rice. She was putting together an on-campus IT Ambassador Program and she wanted me to be a part of the program and use my media skills to create movies and content to help the program take off. When I came in for an interview, she told me that she was also looking for an outgoing marketing persona to be Rice’s Google Student Ambassador, especially because we were about to move to Google Apps for Education and someone would have to help facilitate that transition. So, she recommended me to apply, and I was lucky enough to get it!

Honestly, so many of the opportunities that we get in any college are due to the mentors in professors, staff, upperclassmen, and faculty members at our colleges. I wouldn’t have had the amazing experiences that I’ve had with both the IT Marketing Ambassador position or with Google if it hadn’t been for my boss believing in my capabilities. I don’t think I’d have found my path if it hadn’t been for her providing me with the means to discover my passions.

What has been your favorite part about the Google Student Ambassador program? Tough question, because I’ve loved every part of it! It’s amazing getting to work for a company like Google for so many reasons, but I think the big reason why I’ve enjoyed the program so much is because as ambassadors, we get to be a part of the front end of implementing the newest and most exciting projects in technology. Not only is that exciting in and of itself, but it really provides an incredible avenue for creativity in discovering ways to implement the technology.

For example, one of the programs I put together during the Fall 2011 semester was a Google+ Hangout for Teach For America with alumni of diverse career backgrounds across the country (some were even Google employees!). I collaborated with the Rice Teach For America Ambassador and a former Google BOLD intern at UC Berkeley so that we had one projected screen of the Hangout in a UC Berkeley classroom and one in a Rice classroom. Then we invited students who were interested in TFA to come to those rooms at an apportioned hour to witness the alums all across the country talk about their TFA days via Google+ Hangout. They also had the opportunity to ask the alumni questions. 

It was ridiculously exciting to see that we had all worked together to put together a program that had probably never been done before in that capacity, with so much national integration across three time zones for a good cause in disseminating information to students who were interested in TFA. Google Hangouts is a perfect example of what I mean when I say that technology comes to its full power when we implement it in creative ways. All the while, the Google Student Ambassador program and Google employees provided unwavering support to make the event happen – it was incredibly empowering to be able to make a difference like that, and the program supports each of us 110%.

What are some of the job duties you did as part of the Google Student Ambassador program? Well, every day I’m giving out swag – t-shirts, sillybands, stickers, pens, keychains, and the list goes on. I know that other ambassadors are even making relevant food, like Chrome Cookies! But most of the time, ambassadors are planning events and putting together programs on campus to make sure that our fellow students know about the incredible capacities of Google products. The extent and diversity of what we put together is entirely dependent upon what we come up with. 

Personally, along with that Google+ Hangout with TFA, I’ve organized a 10-day Google+ Scavenger Hunt, Google+ giveaway promotions, hangouts with professors and administration as office hours, and consulted with and presented to many clubs and organizations on how they can use Google products most effectively to benefit their communities. 

Next year, when Rice officially switches to Google Apps for Education, I’ll probably be running doing more demo sessions along with some outrageous programming. It sounds like a lot, but for people who love Google and technology in general, it’s a blast!

What advice do you have for students who would want to get involved with an ambassador program? If you’re interested in getting involved in an ambassador program, I’d recommend that you research the companies in fields that you’re interested in. Lots of companies are launching on-campus ambassador programs because they see a lot of potential in college markets, especially because our generation is so tech-savvy and can execute on social media and new age marketing really well. In particular, a lot of internet-based companies and startups are putting together ambassador programs. Since there’s such a diverse array of internet-based companies, you should be able to find an ambassador program that’s in line with an industry you’re interested in, like fashion, sports, marketing, journalism, career development, nonprofits, travel, leisure, and of course, technology. It’ll give you an opportunity to make a difference and get experience in a field you really care about, and if you stress your passion in an application when you reach out to a company, you’re that much more on your path to success!

What are the benefits you feel you received from the program? How do you feel it will help you in your future career? I’ve absolutely loved working as a Google Student Ambassador, and I know that ambassador programs are incredible in general – they’re opportunities for students to hone in on so many skill sets. You’re likely going to be working a lot on your marketing and creativity muscles, as well as your ability to execute and deliver programming and projects effectively. You develop communications skills, sales skills, and if you’re working with something that you’re passionate about (like technology for me) then you’re bound to learn a ton about the field. I know that I’ve been able to experience all of the above benefits and more.

For me, working for Google has been an incredible experience not just because I’ve been able to hone on experience and work for an amazing company, but because they’re an undisputed leader in the world of technology. My career is going to be in technology in some capacity, so this is a great jump-start to my knowledge and experience in the field. It’s like an awesome fulltime job that I embrace with everything I’ve got, and my friends can attest to that fact by the amount of Google shirts I wear around on campus!

Huge thank you to Miriam, Andy, and Veronica for sharing your incredible experiences with me and my readers! 

You can learn more about Google's Student Ambassador programs below. 

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