Graphics, University News

Google finds growing number of recruits at Brown

TA program within CS department prepares students for job interviews, conflict resolution, leadership

By
Staff Writer
Wednesday, February 10, 2016

On a break from coding during last weekend’s Hack@Brown event, students found themselves overwhelmed with free food, t-shirts and photo booth images paid for by a number of tech companies vying for students’ attention. Among the t-shirts decorated with the names of sponsoring companies and the slices of Flatbread given away, students may have also reached for a water bottle, courtesy of Google, to quench their thirst.

The tech giant’s appearance at Hack@Brown was just one of many ways it garners student interest in its internships and full-time employment opportunities. The company’s intentions at Hack@Brown were clear: Students at the event could also submit their resumes to be passed along to Google and other tech firms for recruitment.

The company’s recruiting efforts have evidently made an impression on Brown students. Google is one of the computer science department’s top three recruiters, along with Microsoft and Facebook. Last year, 13 percent of computer science undergraduates were hired either as interns or full-time employees at Google. Furthermore, a LinkedIn survey of profiles indicates the company is by far the largest employer of Brown grads, with 392 graduates employed at Google’s offices across the world.

“Google has started paying more attention to building a deep relationship with our department,” said Ugur Cetintemel, department chair of computer science. “They send alums to give talks about specific projects, collect resumes and conduct interviews.”

Through the Industry Partners Program within the computer science department, companies pay a fee in return for direct access to Brown students. They may use this opportunity to network with students to host events such as resume reviews and coding competitions. Google representatives alone schedule visits to campus at least three or four times each semester for department-wide programs, as well as events on campus like Hack@Brown and next week’s career fair, said Lauren Clarke, who manages the Industry Partners Program.

The path to getting hired by Google begins with a phone interview. Those who impress their interviewers will receive an onsite interview at one of Google’s many offices in Mountainview, CA, New York or Cambridge, MA. According to its website, Google considers four key qualities of each student during the interview process: leadership, role-related knowledge, thought process and “Googleyness” — an individual’s “comfort with ambiguity, bias to action and collaborative nature.”

Sam Heft-Luthy ’16, a former Herald senior staff writer and a concentrator in computer science and literary arts, has held internships at Google for the past two summers — one on the politics and elections team and another in product management.

For his position on the politics and elections team, Heft-Luthy said that he applied online through the normal application and was offered two phone interviews. During these, he was given a Google document and asked to address a coding problem. Following the interview, Heft-Luthy went through a process of “host matching” where his profile was put on an internal website where Google employees could discover interns that would match the needs of their teams. He was eventually matched with the politics and elections team in Washington, D.C.

The following summer, Heft-Luthy emailed the recruiter specifically to apply for the Associate Product Manager program.

For that position, he completed one initial phone interview and was subsequently brought to the New York branch for two in-person interviews. He was then asked to write an essay about one of Google’s products.

“Interviews for both positions are industry standard,” Heft-Luthy said. “One of them you’re writing code to solve a simple problem. The other one you’re doing more brain teasers to get a sense of what your eye goes to and how you approach complex problems.”

As a product manager, Heft-Luthy communicated with engineers and designers to bridge the divide between the two departments. In his role, he was encouraged to host meetings face-to-face and provide guidance to different teams, rather than engage in active work himself, he added.

Heft-Luthy said that Google recruits heavily from elite colleges like Harvard, Stanford and University of California, Berkeley. He noted that many of his peers in the Associate Project Manager program — one of Google’s more selective internships — came from Ivy League schools, rather than public universities.

Google keeps track of which schools provide the best-performing interns and turns to them in the next recruiting season, Heft-Luthy added.

Google targets a wide range of students, including women and minorities in computer science, Clarke said. In addition, Google is one of the few companies that runs programs specifically geared towards first- and second-years to give them exposure to different fields and build upon their skills in software engineering.

Even beyond the active recruiting months from September to December — notably earlier than the recruitment timeline for non-tech fields — Google continues to connect with students through events within the department and on campus.

“Even if they are not actively recruiting, they are still taking resumes, and they are still doing open office hours,” Clarke said. During these office hours, students can meet with a Google recruiter to have their cover letters and resumes critiqued before they submit their applications to the company.

Google also fosters connections with students in more light-hearted ways. “One year, Google sent a bunch of pies to the department for Pi Day (and) also sent a couple of alumni to chat informally,” Clarke said. “It’s just another way to connect to the students.”

Unlike other schools’ computer science programs, Brown’s employs undergraduates as teaching assistants, allowing them to gain valuable skills that make them attractive hires for companies like Google.

“Every semester almost 200 undergraduates serve as teaching assistants, and this is very unique, as in most other schools, it is usually the graduate students who do most of the teaching,” Cetintemel said. “At Brown, it’s sort of flipped.”

The TA program offers students the opportunity to not only improve their technical skills by teaching the material, but also to build on soft skills that help them in the communication of technical material, leadership and conflict resolution. The program provides rigorous training in software and leadership skills that prepare students to work at top companies like Google.

“By the time they graduate they are the complete package,” Cetintemel said. “In fact, our placement rate is almost 100 percent. Many of the students graduate with great offers.”

Google’s interest in innovation and raw talent is a good match for Brown students, who often value creativity and the opportunity to make a real-world impact, Cetintemel said.