If you hope to work at Google, consider some of the tips recently learned by dozens of Silicon Valley teens.
Three Google employees, part of an internal company group called Engineers Helping Educators, stopped by Cupertino High School on Wednesday, Dec. 4 to talk about how they got to the company and what they actually did. To the surprise of the roomful of eager 14 to 17 year-olds—mostly girls—a computer science degree is preferable, but not necessary.
That's what Kimberly Johnson, a researcher in the user experience team for Google Plus, explained. Her background in symbolic systems, psychology and human-computer interaction helps Google understand what keeps users coming back to the product—or not—so that her team can suggest improvements to the programmers and designers.
"It's never the users fault," she said. "The user should be able to understand immediately how to use the product."
Johnson displayed a PowerPoint slide with subject areas of interest that could be useful at Google. In addition to what she studied and the most widely known—computer science and engineering—others included sociology, communications, fine arts, design, sales and statistics.
Another tip the students received came from Google programmer Michael Gainer. When asked if a Masters in Computer science was necessary, he replied that he didn't have one. His suggestion? "Go get work at startup," he said. "Get experience."
On the mobile platform team, Jason Buberel studied biology and considered getting a Ph.D. in the subject. However, Buberel realized that he wanted his work to affect change faster and at Google he could try something and know if it works within a week or two, versus years in a Ph.D. program.
"We solve problems at the scale of the planet," he said and later added, "Everytime something doesn't work at Google, the world notices."
These types of opportunities at a company like Google was one of the reasons 14-year-old Vinitra Swamy wanted the Googlers to present at CHS. Swamy participated in Computing and Programming Experience (CAPE), a summer program located at Google in Mountain View and New York aimed to inspire excitement about computer science for incoming ninth graders. Now Swamy is a CAPE Ambassador.
"Google gave me $200 to spread the word about computer science so I decided to spend it to try and get students to get more inspired," said Swamy, who along with the Computer Science club advisor Eric Ferrante helped organize the talk. The event drew about 80 students. "I thought the turnout was amazing."
After participating in CAPE Swamy, who has considered studying journalism and business, now also has an interest in computer science. That's why she wanted other kids to know that it was "basically a lot of fun."
She and Ferrante also made a concerted effort to invite more girls.
"The ratio of boys to girls in computer science is really startling," said the sophomore. "Boys outnumber girls."
Swamy definitely accomplished getting more girls into the packed room and may have even helped some understand the field a little better.
"I thought it was nice to hear because I've done some software coding," said Margaret He, a senior, "and it gave me a greater outlook of what the job is about."