Google Search: What kind of job can I get with a Haverford degree?
We recently asked four Haverford alumni who work at Google to talk about how college helped to prepare them for their careers. Peter Allen and Joe Malin (both HC '78), Aaron Kaliner (HC '97) and John Saroff (HC '98) all participated in the interview, which took place, as one would expect, via a round-robin instant messaging conversation using Google Chat.
HC: Hi friends
Peter: Welcome to Google
HC: Thanks so much for agreeing to do this. I can't tell you how jazzed we all are. Your fellow alums are going to love it!
Aaron: Good stuff.
Joe: I think the honor is all _mine_.
HC: So, I'm not sure if you all know each other, but could you all tell what you studied at Haverford and when you graduated?
Aaron: I graduated in 1997 with a history degree.
Peter: Sure. 1978 (same as Joe, but we never knew one another very well). English and Classics.
Joe: This is Joe. I was originally class of 1975, but I graduated in 1978. I studied Chemistry (one reason I never met Peter).
Peter: Yup, didn't do any chemistry in college...
John: I was 1998, History (I think that Aaron and I were in Roger Lane's Western Civ together)
Aaron: Great class -- wish I could go back in time.
Joe: Oh yeah! For one thing, I'd make much better friends with Emo (Steve Emerson, HC's new president), he was only one year ahead of me, and with Barry (Barry Zubrow, Chairman of the Board of Managers), who was in my original class!
HC: LOL! How is each of you involved with Google?
Peter: We're Googlers! Maybe you wanted a more specific answer...
Aaron: I'm the Manager of our Google Publisher Solutions Team in NYC -- joined the company in late 2005.
Joe: Good point. First and foremost I'm a Googler. I am also an information engineer for internal documentation in Mountain View. I joined in late 2006.
Peter: I am the director of Google University (very much a work in progress). Joined Google last April.
John: I'm a Strategic Partner Development Manager on our TV team in New York - joined in early 2007.
John: (if you can figure out what any of us actually does by our title - free prize!)
HC: I was just going to ask!
Aaron: am I the longest running Haverford employee at Google? It's amazing that two years here makes me a long-timer.
Peter: Another free prize awarded.
Peter: Sounds vaguely criminal.
Peter: I think we may be having more fun than you intended...
Aaron: Just to give some context, we call ourselves Googlers and new employees Nooglers.
Joe: It's part of Google culture
HC: Fun is great! We like fun.
So really what is Publisher Solutions? Or Google University?
Aaron: Google Publisher Solutions is a team focused on providing web publishers with a variety of monetization options. (Believe it or not, we use the word "monetization" a lot around here – definitely never used that word at Haverford.) Basically, we work with big websites on advertising-related partnerships.
Peter: Hmm. Well, Google University focuses on developing innovative education for Googlers in a variety of areas, from leadership and people management to basic business and professional skills.
HC: Is it targeted toward Nooglers, Peter?
Peter: We do Noogler orientation, but also have programs for folks at every level.
Peter: This is all very new - it just started last spring - so we're planning and building at the same time. Someone described it as "building the airplane while flying it."
HC: Is Google a lot like that, flying while building?
Aaron: No question about it -- with so much experimentation throughout the company, it's a constant juggling act.
John: Absolutely. Exhilarating and windy at the same time.
Aaron: It all seems to come together though.
Peter: And particularly if you think about how new the company is - and how much we've grown...
Joe: I would say that we have a bias towards action. Let's do something instead of talking about it.
John: Build early, iterate often.
Peter: Well ... we assume we can't find the perfect solution the first time out, in isolation. Part of the "iteration" process is getting feedback from the market - and from within and adjusting as you go. from the market - and the company -
Joe: Peter is right.
HC: How is that kind of culture/attitude different than other places you've worked?
Joe: OY! Yes. I've worked for about 6 or 7 Silicon Valley companies, including both startups and powerhouses (HP, Oracle). Google has the most brilliant, forward-looking culture of all of them.
Aaron: I've always been impressed with the way decisions get made here -- it's such a consensus-based culture. Reminds me of Haverford.
Peter: Except faster!
John: Great point, Aaron. It's totally different from other places. I've worked at two other companies (a traditional NYC law firm and a "big media" company) and the pace here is much faster and much more forward-looking.
Joe: Yes, fast consensus. HP (the old Bill and Dave HP) was consensus too, but very slow and traditional.
Joe: I find it very motivating.
HC: And so how did your experiences at Haverford help prepare you?
Peter: I'd say Haverford was helpful in teaching me how to think, how to write, how to learn ... and how to be respectful of other people's opinions.
Joe: At Haverford, nobody told me what to think. They always asked "What do you think?" And also, "do you agree with this writer, and if not, why?"
John: I think Haverford got me ready to be really participatory - no place to hide in small environments like HC (socially or academically) and much the same skills are required at Google. Know your stuff, have an opinion, and advocate it.
Aaron: I was on a few different committees at Haverford and saw how it was a great model for decision-making (if a bit slow). By forcing everyone to come to consensus, you had to learn to listen, think creatively, respect other people and move forward.
Joe: Excellent point, John! I agree. At Google it's never "somebody else's job", it's _yours_. We are all the company.
Peter: Which is not so different from Haverford - the sense of collective responsibility and ownership
Aaron: That's true -- at Haverford, if you saw a problem, you were empowered to do something about it. Same with Google.
Joe: Haverford also gave me a very participatory education in science. I deal with very technical issues here, and it helps to have analytical training.
Aaron: I do think Google has a very open culture -- our executive group encourages open questions, critical thinking, constructive criticism -- similar to what I remember from Haverford.
Joe: Well, we have regular meetings that gather various levels of the company. It's accepted that people will ask important questions and expect good answers.
Peter: Another interesting thing - and this chat shows it - I've never worked anywhere where written communication is so important. How well you deal with e-mail (both volume and quality) really matters.
Aaron: Also, it's pretty typical that we're running this interview through a Google chat -- so many decisions get made quickly online in small groups.
Peter: Folks, with regret, I have to head to another meeting. Please let us know when this is published, and thanks for the opportunity.
HC: Peter, thanks so much! I'll keep you in the loop!
Peter has left
John: When we have X-Functional Meetings of any size with product, engineering, sales, business development - it really is important to pitch your ideas with the same critical thinking that we learned at Haverford and to really LISTEN to the feedback that comes from the audience
Joe: I learned the value of information and communication at Haverford. I studied science, but my writing was as important as my other work. Which is why I went from software engineering to technical writing!
HC: Do you all have any advice for HC students as their considering career paths?
Joe: Study hard, come to Google. Especially people in computer science. Or not. Go do what you really love doing. You'll be richer for it, and you _will be successful_.
John: The company I work for didn't exist 10 years ago and my job didn't exist 10 months ago. Follow your passions (in my case media) and be prepared to find interesting challenges in places you wouldn't expect them.
Joe: Good point, John. I've been working in Silicon Valley for 26 years, but only 2 years at a time doing the same thing.
Aaron: I would definitely recommend that students reach out to alumni, but make sure you're prepared for the conversation. Think ahead of time about what you want to get out of our time together.
John: I would REALLY emphasize your point. COME PREPARED. I want to help students very much, but they've got to come prepared and smart about what they want and are willing to work hard and use critical thinking
Aaron: Also, I think that people from Haverford tend to overlook sales as a great career opportunity. I didn't consider it when I graduated, and now I'd strongly suggest a sales role to anyone with good communication skills, who enjoys working with people and is goal-oriented.
Joe: I hope that HCers don't overlook anything as a career.
HC: Sage advice, really! I want to thank you all so much!
Joe: our time was too short...
Joe: Say hello to Emo for me, maybe he remembers me after all these years...
HC: oh I will definitely do that
John: he is super impressive - great to have him on board!
Joe: oh yes. I was totally blown away when that was announced, as in "Hey! I _KNOW HIM_! :) I also think he was the smartest person I ever met at H'ford
John: I'm Co-Chairing my 10 year reunion in May - so we'll see you there!