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Google@McMaster

During the week of October 15th, Google came to visit McMaster Engineering as a part of the Employer of the Week program, organized by the Faculty’s Co-op and Career Services office. Throughout the week, several events were held, including a resume critique, mock interviews, writing Google-ready resumes and an information booth featuring McMaster students who have worked at the tech giant. Finally, Google Week concluded with “Goodbye Google”, where Cathy talked about her experiences leading up to working at Google, and answered questions that students had for her. Here is what she had to say:

Q: What is a day in the life like working at Google?

A: As a product manager I think my role is like pretty varied across the board. I do pretty much anything and everything related to the product that's necessary. Software engineers I think have a more structured work week in which like you are either working on a specific bug or you have specific features that you need to implement because that's what's outlined in the product development. Sometimes you can have bug bashes where the team gets together and tries to break the product as much as they can. But it's primarily coding.

Q: What do you look for in the engineering practicum?

A: I think it's the demonstration of one, your skills that you've acquired on your own, and two, the commitment to learning something. So I think in this case because work experience is not really as big of a thing for a practicum, it's just really showing your ability to learn different frameworks and things like doing different projects, doing well in your courses and so on.

Q: Would the recruiter use a different process for recruiting based off a specific geographical location?

A: I think it specifies typically in the job posting. It would mention if you are applying for this position you will automatically be considered for and they give you like a list of all of the other offices. I think generally speaking if it's the same goal regardless of geography, it's considered holistically.

Q: What is your least favourite part about working at Google?

A: It can get really messy. There is so much going on all of the time. I'm constantly bombarded by different things coming in from different places and just when I think I know something I realize that like there's this whole other thing that I have to consider.

Q: You talked about software engineering and project manager engineering. For positions like research interns, how different is the interview process?

A: I'm not too familiar with the research intern but I think as a general piece of advice for anything Google, what Google looks for is like bright talent like you guys in a specific role. So if you're going for a research intern position you should make sure that your resume really reflects your skills in research. So I'm assuming these are things like publications. Things like big problems that you've tackled in research work that you've potentially done and really emphasizing that. The really cool thing is that the interview process is highly specific so if you're applying for software engineering you have technical interviews where you actually code with an engineer at Google. There's interviews where you design with designers and there's interviews where you analyze with product managers. And it's very like applicable to the actual role that you're doing. It's not just like a tell me about yourself. So that's really neat. And I think one of the things for me that really proved to me that this was the right job for me what's that going through the interview process I had seven interviews. Every single interview was so much fun. I legitimately thought that every question they asked me was super thought provoking.  

Q: Do you ever feel the pressure to do well at your job?

A: Absolutely. I felt a lot of pressure, not to mention there's only 45 people in my class and they're all extremely intelligent people. These are people who have done like crazy things with their lives already and they just graduated school. I certainly felt the pressure but from day one my mentors, my manager, my friends, they were all telling me to relax. They told me that what I’m here to do is learn and like that's my main priority. Go and do the best that you can, don't be too stressed and work as best as you can. And if you have issues, tell us. And if we have issues, we'll tell you because feedback culture is very strong as well.  

Q: How do you feel your work life balance is?

A: I think my work life balance is great. I think what it is is the flexibility that you have. I live in San Francisco, and commute to Mountain View. If I have dinner plans in the city I can leave work early if I get in a little bit earlier. Working remotely is actually a big thing at Google because we have so many teams in so many places that it's super easy to just video conference. I have a lot of people on my team who work from home once a week. It's really flexible to your lifestyle. 

Q: How big are your teams?

A: It depends on like how you define team. Product Managers for example, have about eight of us under my one manager. I work directly with about 15 engineers in Mountain View, about 4 or 5 in Tel Aviv and then my design team is 3 people in New York. We also have two people on my business development team. You work with a lot of different people and those people are not necessarily working with you specifically all the time.

Q: Have you found there is a culture of actually wanting to protect people’s data that are using the product?

A: 100 percent yes. I work in search which is effectively the one place where we have like the most information about you ever. But as a part of all the analysis that I ever do is never ever personalized. Even if I tried, I could not find your personal search history. That's just impossible because the way we build our systems. It would probably be pretty random. What I care about is the information in aggregate. I want to know how many people are searching for a certain thing and how I can help them find their answers better. And so that's one example of how the data that we process is not individualized. I think the other thing is like we have really, really stringent product teams and legal teams who are very, very conscious about what you can do and not do. And moreover I believe that Google is probably it is the leading AI company in the world. We’re doing a lot of things like forward looking research and all of these things broach on like a lot of sensitive topics. We have teams and teams of people whose sole job is to define policy and what's morally acceptable for a lot of these things, and we are so conscious about what is acceptable and what is not. So to that extent I think yes there is a strong privacy culture.

Q: Would someone ever want to leave Google?

A: Some people who want a certain lifestyle for a very long time could probably stay forever and they do. There are people who have been at Google forever. Why would you want to leave Google? I guess that's more like on the personal career choices, right? If you wanted to pursue something new, if you wanted to start a startup, if you wanted to join a startup, if maybe working at a big company isn't really for you and you wanted to do something smaller. Maybe the team that you joined is like no longer fulfilling your learning objectives. There are many reasons for it and I don't think Google looks down at you for that because we've definitely had a lot of very successful people like work at Google, leave, and do amazing things.

Q: What makes Google unique among the other companies out there?

A: I think at Google you get access to the most world class resources that you could possibly get anywhere. You're literally at the forefront of technology and you're leading the way and you're paving the path for a lot of people. I think the work culture is something that's exceptionally unique. I mean every tech company's a little bit different on what happens internally but for the size of Google and given the growth that we've had over the years the amount of transparency, the amount of community and all of these things, the way we've been able to preserve all of that even through big growth stages is like incredible. And I think it just gives you this whole other perspective and world view of like what's even possible out there. I remember interviewing for this job and I was practising with my friends and I was giving an answer. I finished the answer, and he suggested to think bigger. What if this problem could be solved with like biometric sensors and all. I wasn't even thinking of that because I was still thinking of the constraints of what was possible, what existed and how to fix the nitty gritty details along the way, whereas his mind was already at how we could revolutionize the solution to this problem and you can fundamentally change the way people think about it. And at Google, they're actually possible.