Hackernoon logoHow I Got a Job at Google (as a Software Engineer) by@techlead

How I Got a Job at Google (as a Software Engineer)

Patrick Shyu Hacker Noon profile picture

@techleadPatrick Shyu

YouTuber (500k subs), Ex-Google/ex-Facebook Tech Lead.

Ex-Google Tech Lead explains how he landed a job offer at Google as a software engineer.

The road to Google took me a brutal 10 years to travel. Even still, most never make it. I share the story about the path I took that led me to success, and all the failures and missteps on the way there.

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Disclosure: Some links are affiliate links to products. I may receive a small commission for purchases made through these links.

Transcript:

(Note: This transcript is auto generated by YouTube and may not be completely accurate.)

00:00

hey tech late here and welcome to the

00:02

tech elite show it is the tech least

00:03

coffee time I'll be your host the tech

00:05

lead the tech lead now I wanted to talk

00:08

today about how I got into Google as a

00:11

software engineer why don't we go on the

00:13

drive well actually I'm a little tired

00:17

so we can do this here now I gotta tell

00:20

you that it was really quite a journey

00:21

and it took me ten years over ten years

00:24

of applying to Google you know every

00:26

single year since 2006 through 2014 when

00:29

I finally got into Google I have been

00:31

applying every single year and you can

00:33

see there are email logs where the

00:34

recruiter is just talking to me asking

00:36

me about questions and I remember in the

00:38

final interview where I finally landed

00:40

the job the interviewer could see the

00:43

huge history of my applications that he

00:45

would just say why you must seem like

00:47

you really wanted to get into Google and

00:49

I'd say yeah that's right I really

00:51

wanted to get in and you know I think

00:53

that's a funny thing is that a lot of

00:54

people I see junior engineers they may

00:57

get into Google and they would quit

00:59

within a few months you know they're

01:00

very inside though they're very spoiled

01:02

they got the easy and these days also

01:04

hear about people who aren't giving as

01:06

much respect as they should be to Google

01:09

engineers or X Google Tech leads like

01:11

myself you know people would just say

01:13

that it's not that great it's not that

01:15

cool anybody can get in they've lowered

01:17

their hiring bar oh you're just another

01:19

tech worker with Asperger's you're

01:20

stealing our jobs you're not so cool

01:22

you're not that smart right oh maybe

01:24

you're smart but you can't communicate

01:25

you don't have empathy and there's been

01:28

a lot of criticism over all for tech

01:29

workers even friends and family members

01:31

they would just say things like well

01:33

yeah maybe you got into that company but

01:34

I would never want to work for a company

01:36

like that you're a sellout but for me it

01:39

was a grueling 10 years of work to get

01:41

into the company and I never took that

01:43

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off your first website one reason that I

02:02

got into the company was that I applied

02:04

every single year and I was very

02:06

persistent about this you know I know

02:08

some people though only apply once and

02:11

they fail the interview and then they

02:13

yeah forget it right they didn't one

02:15

that worked there anyway they were good

02:16

they're fine and they kind of take it as

02:19

criticism upon themselves and they don't

02:21

want to deal with that criticism they

02:23

can't take it they don't want to feel

02:24

like a loser and they just give up or

02:26

they just become content with their jobs

02:29

and they somehow manage to convince

02:30

themselves that they don't want to apply

02:32

for that but for me I would just make it

02:34

a game for myself where I would say okay

02:36

it's that time of year where I'm just

02:37

gonna go try and ply to Google I just do

02:39

it once a year every year and give it a

02:41

go and even then I can tell you that I

02:44

made a lot of mistakes along the way and

02:46

I have a few tips for you that I think

02:47

can help speed up your process but

02:49

really the first tip is to remain

02:51

persistent you know sometimes it's not

02:53

necessarily your fault sometimes it

02:56

could just be that there's no openings

02:57

maybe when you're they need somebody

02:59

with your skills maybe the next year

03:01

they don't just be persistent and keep

03:03

that going the second tip I have for you

03:05

is to carefully navigate your career so

03:08

for me when I first got out of college I

03:10

was really into game programming but

03:12

little did I know that that is an area

03:14

of computer science that is quite

03:17

perpendicular to Silicon Valley tech

03:19

right the prestigious tech companies up

03:23

until recently with a VR they really

03:25

didn't have much business doing computer

03:27

graphics they're really more focused on

03:29

web and mobile development and these

03:32

were areas that I had no experience in

03:33

because they didn't seem very fun they

03:35

didn't seem very interesting and I only

03:37

wanted to do game programming and one

03:39

thing I will note here is that the game

03:40

programming industry is notoriously

03:43

competitive and treats employees poorly

03:46

they'll make tech programmers work very

03:48

long hard hours for low pay low benefits

03:50

and they're just psycho through and burn

03:52

out a bunch of junior engineers and

03:54

that's fine and that's really other

03:56

looking for and this may even apply to

03:58

technologies right like if you were

04:00

really focused on say Microsoft

04:03

technology like dotnet stack ASP

04:06

Silverlight all of that stuff then it

04:09

may lock you into that specific segment

04:11

of technology and then your chances of

04:13

getting into a company like Google

04:15

Facebook Twitter Netflix you know those

04:18

companies are generally on a non

04:20

Microsoft tech stack so that can also

04:22

lock you in and you know there may be

04:24

situations where you may be

04:26

to use very proprietary strange

04:28

technology strange languages you know

04:31

you get into a company and they want you

04:32

to become a professional Ruby on Rails

04:34

developer and that could get you locked

04:36

into say the Ruby on Rails stack so what

04:39

you need to do here is to carefully

04:40

navigate your career and this is a very

04:43

key piece of information and advice

04:45

years to make sure that whatever

04:47

technology you're learning or working on

04:50

whatever you're developing proficiency

04:52

in that it can also help you land your

04:54

next job right it can get you to your

04:57

next place you know you never really

04:59

want to lock yourself down such that in

05:01

one or two years you find out that your

05:03

expertise is in something completely

05:05

proprietary and then when it comes time

05:07

for you to switch rows or to apply to

05:08

Google you find that you don't have any

05:10

valuable skills that the company with

05:12

one so my story is that I was working on

05:14

computer graphics a Sony Pictures over

05:17

in Los Angeles and Southern California

05:19

has a lot of these graphics based gaming

05:21

companies EA rockstar games you know

05:24

companies like that and they just cycle

05:26

through a bunch of interns and college

05:27

grad students and stuff like that so I

05:29

was doing my stuff there and you know it

05:32

was low pay it was fun and I enjoyed the

05:34

work and what happened was I started

05:35

building some of my own apps my web apps

05:38

and luckily for me those web apps took

05:40

off and at that point I had quit my job

05:42

and just focus only on Web Apps it was

05:45

quite a career shift to go from computer

05:47

graphics C++ OpenGL into web

05:50

technologies and most of my co-workers

05:52

had no idea what web technologies would

05:54

be you know something just fun that

05:57

people may dabble in here and there but

05:59

that also helped open the path for me to

06:01

get into companies in Silicon Valley

06:02

which are really more web dominated not

06:05

the other interesting thing to note here

06:07

is that these days many of the interview

06:09

questions that tech companies used to

06:11

ask are banned because they're just so

06:14

tricky and they're so ridiculous right

06:16

people would ask questions like why are

06:18

manhole covers round how would you climb

06:20

to the top of Mount Fuji how many gas

06:22

stations are in the United States people

06:24

would ask MP complete problems like the

06:26

Traveling Salesman problem just to see

06:28

how far you could get they would as

06:30

totally ridiculous questions and a lot

06:32

of these are just banned these days but

06:34

when I was going through the interview

06:36

process I was being asked a lot that

06:38

this stuff and the whole thing just kind

06:39

of got me

06:40

and for me I just decided that I did the

06:42

one that wastes my time studying any of

06:44

this stuff I didn't see how it would be

06:46

really relevant you know I just refused

06:48

to prepare for that and not only that I

06:50

didn't really believe in preparing I

06:52

thought that if I was a good programmer

06:54

that my skills should show for

06:56

themselves and I really believed in

06:58

going in there and talking about all the

06:59

projects that have been building but

07:01

unfortunately a lot of the people were

07:03

not really interested in the projects

07:05

you know a lot of interviewers are not

07:06

well trained and they really only want

07:09

to hear if you can explain why manhole

07:11

covers are round believe it or not I was

07:13

also a little afraid that I would study

07:15

so much that the interviewer would

07:17

actually ask me a question that I would

07:19

already have heard of and then I thought

07:21

well what would I do then and I didn't

07:23

want to try to study too much because

07:25

then I would know every single problem

07:27

and then you know people would say hey

07:29

you've heard that problem before you

07:30

must have been studying you know that's

07:32

really not the right way to go about

07:33

this these days actually I've heard so

07:35

many of these problems that if I were to

07:38

go to an interview loop I would probably

07:40

have heard like 30% to 50% of the

07:43

problems already

07:44

and then the rest would be variations on

07:46

some of these problems a lot of these

07:47

are fairly routine things and you know

07:49

that's one piece of advice for you is to

07:51

just go through a site like say leet

07:53

code hacker rank and just try to

07:55

understand and get as much broad

07:57

coverage of these problems as you can

07:58

there's really not that many different

08:00

types of coding problems that people

08:02

will be throwing at you and there's not

08:04

all that many different algorithms and

08:06

the data structures that people are

08:08

using you know there's a few basic data

08:10

structures stacks queues hashmaps

08:13

arrays that's pretty much it you know

08:15

and then it's just how can you combine

08:16

them to do different types of things and

08:18

as for algorithms people don't do

08:20

algorithms anymore everyone's just using

08:22

machine learning so no one's even asking

08:24

algorithm questions anymore if I

08:27

remember one time I went to a Google

08:29

interview and they would ask me like

08:31

well would you want to do here and I

08:34

just thought that was the most

08:35

ridiculous question and so I answered

08:37

the question by saying yeah I want to

08:40

just change the world I'm here to make a

08:42

huge impact on the world I want to just

08:44

make the world better I want to do

08:45

something huge and improve the world for

08:47

the better that's what I'm here to do

08:49

and you know it's like well yeah and

08:51

that's true right that's the question

08:53

that

08:54

my answer right what else that I want to

08:55

do I want a million bucks right why do I

08:58

want to work at Google so I can become

09:00

an ex-googler Clete that's why you know

09:02

people aren't stupid and everybody knows

09:04

that the interview process is broken and

09:06

it can't be improved but there's just

09:08

not really a good solution there's not

09:10

really a good way to improve it

09:11

especially across a huge large

09:14

organization and usually the feedback is

09:16

along the lines of well if a candidate

09:18

really wanted to get into the company

09:20

they would prepare they would study up

09:22

on their data structures algorithms time

09:23

serious analysis that's the game those

09:26

are the rules of the game that have been

09:27

laid out and if you want to win you're

09:29

gonna have to play that game that's what

09:31

I had to understand and I had to begin

09:32

really taking it seriously and studying

09:35

for it and preparing for it now my

09:37

fourth piece of advice here is to make

09:39

sure that you're using the right

09:40

language to write technologies so here's

09:42

what happened to me when I started

09:44

building my own apps I have been using

09:45

PHP my sequel Linux Apache the lamp

09:48

stack and when I would go into Google

09:50

interviews I would be using PHP and that

09:53

should be okay right usually recruiters

09:55

will just tell you that you can use any

09:56

language you like interviewers are going

09:58

to be language agnostic and you know

10:00

even though Google doesn't even use PHP

10:02

across most of their tech stack I could

10:05

still use PHP and it would be fine and

10:06

so that's what I did

10:07

and I found that time after time I could

10:10

not get through the interview process

10:11

because usually interviewers they look

10:13

at that PHP code and they just think

10:15

it's garbage code I remember I would be

10:17

writing code and then the interviewer

10:19

would have to ask what is that dollar

10:21

sign syntax is that does that mean

10:23

variable and that have to explain that

10:25

stuff and I could tell that interviewers

10:26

were just never quite pleased with the

10:28

code and especially if they asked one of

10:30

these problems like reverse a linked

10:31

list or something

10:32

it would be harder to write in PHP which

10:35

doesn't really have pointers so for me

10:37

my big break came when one time I was

10:40

out in Japan just traveling around

10:41

working on my own stuff and I decided to

10:44

get into iPhone development because I

10:46

had a bunch of websites games and apps

10:49

and I wanted to translate those over to

10:50

iPhone and so I picked up objective-c

10:53

and then I remember that your I applied

10:55

to Google as I usually did and I applied

10:58

for a web role but they told me that

11:00

since I seem to have some iPhone

11:02

experience they wanted to slap me in for

11:04

mobile as well

11:05

okay fine we can try that so this time I

11:08

would do the interview in the mix of

11:09

languages I would use some objective-c

11:11

which I had learned I would mix them

11:13

some standard C and C++ I would tend to

11:15

rely on PHP and JavaScript which I was

11:18

more comfortable with but then when it

11:19

came time to coding I would actually

11:21

translate those into say pseudocode or C

11:24

like syntax such that it would just be

11:26

more comfortable for the interviewers to

11:28

look at and we wouldn't have to debate

11:29

about the language syntax at the time

11:32

there's also a huge shortage and Iowa's

11:34

engineers and actually at that time I

11:36

remember YouTube was not that popular

11:37

and so they offered me a role in

11:39

YouTube's iOS engineering which I took

11:41

up but I remember it's funny even then I

11:44

was thinking I didn't really want to

11:46

join the YouTube team I thought that the

11:48

Google team was more prestigious it

11:50

turns out in the end that YouTube has

11:51

exploded in growth and the YouTube iOS

11:54

app has become one of the top apps in

11:56

the App Store largely in part thanks to

11:59

yours truly now the funny thing is at

12:02

the time I landed this Google job offer

12:04

I also landed two other job offers so I

12:07

had a total of three offers to pick from

12:09

and I just remember acing all of these

12:11

interviews at the time I remember in the

12:13

past I would stumble through these

12:14

technical interviews because I just

12:17

chose not to prepare for them

12:18

I used strange languages I didn't take

12:21

the process seriously in the past I

12:22

didn't want people to know that I was

12:24

trying to get into these companies I

12:26

felt it would be too humiliating to

12:28

myself if I told people that I was

12:30

trying to interview for this stuff if I

12:32

told them I was serious if I was

12:34

actually putting in time and preparation

12:36

and effort into any of this stuff and

12:38

then to lose personal time and effort

12:40

and to not get the job offer would just

12:43

be too humiliating for myself plus I

12:45

didn't really seem to believe in myself

12:47

either I just thought that a lot of

12:49

these people at these top tech companies

12:51

were probably geniuses people with super

12:53

high IQs PhD academia people and so then

12:57

I would just put in a half-baked effort

12:59

so it's just funny that when I finally

13:01

got into Google I found myself

13:03

surrounded by complete idiots

13:05

these were people that only focused on

13:07

interview preparation and had no idea

13:10

how to do any practical coding

13:12

whatsoever now one way to land the job

13:14

offer at Google is to show initiative by

13:17

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such that you can focus on building the

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product whether it be an app game coding

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about squarespace.com slash tech we get

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10% off so those are my top tips on how

14:27

I landed a job offer at Google if you

14:30

liked the video give the like and

14:31

subscribe and I'll see you next time

14:32

bye

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