So a few weeks back, I applied for a brilliant opportunity to go into London and get a look in Google’s office, meet 64 other bright female Computer Science students from around the UK, meet a lot of Google software engineers, have lessons in confidence, take a Mock Interview, have my CV looked over and picked apart by actual recruiters and get some free food.
Somehow I got picked (I’m still non-plussed on that, got to be honest!), booked my day off work and my train tickets in, hung out with a Craig from the pi community and the following day, the big day arrived and I trekked through London to their Buckingham Palace Street office.
I’ve been to 3 womens events so far (yes. I’m aware it’s gender discrimination and I’m still a bit mixed up about how I feel about them, but they’re awesome opportunities, so I will still take them) and I think the Google day was by far my favourite, not least because of the free food and office tour where it took me a second to realise “hey there’s Google written on the wall…and uhm…on everything”, but because of how the whole day was handled.
We started by checking in, having an intro from Farrah, a recruiter and outreach kind of person who I’d met before and is quite possibly reading this blog, as well as Marily (I’m not sure I spelled that right…) who is doing a PhD at Imperial College in CS and got a scholarship to do so from Google. This progressed into the icebreaker which was fabulous and hilarious, as we were first told to write down 3 words to describe ourselves and then instructed that we’d each been given an animal on the back of our name badges, and at this point were told to make the sound of that animal – as mine was a snake, I sat there hissing and smiled when looking across the table as another girl was hissing and giggling back at me. We got up, joined together and listened out for more hissing. We then paired off to talk to each other about the words we’d picked, what we studied/where and various other things about ourselves, and were then told to introduce one another as Farrah ran round the room with a microphone.
Following this we sat back down, and a software Engineer and manager named Grahame talked about what he did, why Google is awesome and various stories about his life, after which people asked questions. This was insightful as he was completely honest and gave what he liked about Google, and what he didn’t like about Google.
This lead into a confidence workshop in which another google employee got us to get up, talk to 3 other girls from the group and discuss again, what we did, what we wanted to get across when networking, and just generally mingle. We then sat and discussed how that felt, what shows confidence and what shows nervousness, and how to avoid the nervousness part, with the input from 3 more female google employees.
Segue into lunch, where we headed upstairs and mingled with each other and with the employees we’d met and who joined us to talk over lunch, and then straight after was the mock interview session.
Quite personally, mine went horribly, but that’s a good thing (I think). I was paired with a girl named Mariya who had already done 1 internship with Google and had one lined up for the summer, so was far more confident than me and far more clued up on her algorithms, which is the important thing with a Google interview. Our interviewer, Ben, quizzed us on how best you would work out whether a string was in a list of strings of unknown size. I completely tanked the entire thing because suddenly, I’d forgotten how to program and it’s been a long time since first year. This is a good thing, however, because I could see exactly what I was doing wrong, and where I needed to improve.
After leaving the interview, later on Ben came back to me and asked if I wanted my feedback. Baring in mind at this point I’d taken a massive confidence knock where I suddenly thought “I’m a terrible Computer Scientist and should be ashamed at how badly that went”, I politely declined: yes, more feedback on exactly what he saw would be great, but I wasn’t ready for it, and before going off and doing any applications for google/get any interviews with them, I will make sure I am ready.
On returning to the room in which we were based, we were taken around the office, shown things like the gym and the massage rooms (where there was a lovely picture of a cat massaging another cat with the caption “massage in progress”) and then given an open invite to ask the tour guide any questions about anything.
We returned to the room, and were taken out of it again for the CV workshop, where I was again with Mariya and a couple of other girls from my table. This was again an insightful workshop where I scribbled bits out of my CV and was told exactly what google’s looking for, which is very heavily focussed on technical ability – for example, he mentioned a 19 year old guy got hired because he had “#1 in the UK on TopCoder” on his CV and was dropping out of university.
The final session was a Q&A with 2 software engineers and one recruiter about their jobs, what they liked about London and various other topics, for which Farrah asked most of the questions since we were struggling to think of any.
Overall I had a really great day and it’s something real to aim for if I want it enough, as well as meeting more girls and talking some more about the necklace I was wearing (my 16 neopixel ring + gemma one, programmed so that it randomly flashed through the standard google colour scheme) and being told “I’m expecting a nice blog on this charlotte” by Farrah (no pressure or anything!)
[will add photos later. maybe]