Nov. 20, 2013
By Tara Cavanaugh
Hey grownups: Think back to when you were a teen on the verge of graduating high school. Wouldn’t it have been great if you could have heard advice from adults established in their careers?
Twenty-five Ann Arbor Public School high schoolers got that chance this week at one of the country’s most coveted workplaces: Google. The company’s Ann Arbor office opened its doors to AAPS juniors and seniors for its third annual Career Day.
First, the students were led on tours through Google’s unique, brightly painted offices, which feature niceties such as a staffed kitchen, a game room and exercise facilities. After that, a panel of Googlers talked with students about college and career preparation and Google’s workplace philosophy.
The students were surprised to learn that many of the Googlers have diverse educational backgrounds.
Team manager Lindsay Shultz, for example, studied psychology. “A liberal arts degree was a well-rounded approach that encouraged me to consider many paths,” she said. “You need to ask yourself: are you a generalist or a specialist?”
The employees also shared the skills they utilize in the workplace on a daily basis.
“Communication is a big thing,” said account manager Erin Maddens. “I spend at least fifty percent of my time on email with clients. When I’m not on email I’m on the phone.”
Communication skills are especially important in a crisis, noted software engineer Annie Sullivan.
“All of us have the skill of adapting to change and handling ambiguity,” said Shultz. “We are comfortable being uncomfortable and navigating the unknown.”
The Googlers also said critical thinking, the ability to prioritize goals and working well within a team were important skills they used every day.
A student asked the panel how Google allows employees to make their ideas heard.
Employee feedback is part of Google’s core culture, said Sullivan. Employees are asked to participate in performance reviews as well as hiring committees. “The culture is bottom-up and driven by peer feedback,” Sullivan said.
“The essence of Google is highly collaborative,” Shultz said. “We tend to debate the best ideas.
“After all, we are all corporate citizens who want to do the right thing.”
The company also shared resources the students can use in the future, such as scholarship and internship information and Google for Students.
“It was really nice to get a look inside Google,” said Skyline senior Jeremy Glick, who participates in the business magnet program. “I already know I want to go into business somehow, but this was a really nice way of looking at how a technology company integrates business into its platform.”
“I signed up out of curiosity, and I’m glad I came. I took away a lot,” said Roberto Clemente senior Austin Yu.
The Career Day started as a “20 percent” project for Vinal Desai Burbeck. Google encourages its employees to dedicate 20 percent of their time on side projects of interest.
Burbeck, who has a background in career advising, said Career Day fits within Google’s pillars that determine how employees spend their time and energy.
“One of those pillars is K-12 education. We believe that’s where it all starts,” Burbeck said. “We’re not going to get high-quality employees if they’re not being nurtured at a younger age, so we’re encouraged to act with K-12 schools in our communities.”
Related on the AAPS News:
- Google donates multicultural books to AAPS
- Google Career Day inspires AAPS juniors, seniors
- Volunteer buddies build love of reading at Allen Elementary
- High schoolers invited to Google Ann Arbor offices for Career Day
- Portfolio Day inspires Scarlett eighth graders to plan for college, career