The career prospects I bring back to college after a year at Google

Written by admin

A statue of Android is displayed in front of a building on the Google campus in California.

A stint at Google showed Olivier Müller how to make the right choices for himself rather than worrying too much about what others think.Credit: Justin Sullivan/Getty

In the summer, I left Google after working there as an analyst for a year. After I left, I posted a series of tweets sharing some of my thoughts on working in the private sector. The tweets went viral among academics – it seems many were interested in what I was bringing back with me to academia.

I am an astronomer by training and I joined Google’s anti-spam team after a postdoctorate at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne (EPFL). The job was to review suspicious activity in Google’s advertising ecosystem. Some of this activity is accidental and some is deliberate – when other advertisers click on ads to waste competitor budgets, for example. Whenever a valid issue was raised by a customer, the team investigated the data with the aim of detecting as much fraudulent activity as possible and preventing it in the future.

At the end of July, I left Google to start another postdoc at EPFL. One of the main reasons I decided to return to academia was to regain the independence I had lost in the private sector. There, at the end of the day, you are hired to do a job, and in most cases your manager or a senior manager defines what you do and how you do it. It can leave you with a job you just aren’t passionate about. But my time at Google taught me valuable lessons that I want to share with other scholars.

don’t be a hero

This is one of the most important lessons I take with me. If a task can only be accomplished by putting your mental health and even your physical health at risk, you are effectively hiding flaws in the system. If you consistently work well beyond your contractual hours or responsibilities, these flaws will go undiscovered and remain uncorrected. Google promotes this “don’t be a hero” mindset.

During my first week, for example, I was diving into the broad subject of spam to prepare for work and working late into the evening. My manager, who was in a different time zone, saw me online and suggested I quit. This short interaction created a different expectation than I was used to; in academia, my working hours often extended well beyond normal office hours.

As a counterexample from academia, I know of a part-time administrative position in a student organization that paid 40% of a full-time job. The post holder has worked for several years without problems, managing the secretarial duties of a large student organization at a university. Under normal circumstances, the workload was manageable, but one year there was an internal reorganization that increased the workload, as well as an additional project that took a lot of time and energy. Within a year, the workload became more than a part-time person could handle. They stepped up, working well beyond their contracted hours, acting like a hero and enduring constant stress for an extended period of time. This led to burnout and eventually they retired from their positions.

The system was only repaired after this happened and the person disclosed the increased pressure and workload. Now the role is 80% of a job. The lesson here is: do a good job, but if it’s too much to handle, talk about it instead of trying to put up with it, especially in times of crisis. Only then can systemic problems be solved.

You are responsible for your career

This is true both in the private sector and in academia. My peers and Google officials have actively reminded me of this fact, but in academia the reminders aren’t so immediate.

When I left academia to join Google, what I struggled with the most was the idea that other people – especially those in my immediate scientific environment – would judge me and think badly of me, especially my boss, who had dedicated time and energy to getting me to institute in the first place. But if you put the interests of others ahead of your own, you won’t control your career. I made the choice that I thought was right for me.

When I returned to EPFL, I almost apologized to a senior professor, saying that I was back and ready to start working at the institute again. He didn’t even know I had been gone for a year. I was so worried about what my colleagues at the institute would think of me, but people come and go all the time.

Academics are highly qualified

I always thought that as an astronomer I would have a hard time finding a job outside of a university.

You don’t see many job openings for astronomers in the private sector. However, I discovered that the years I had spent writing code to analyze data; discuss the great unknowns of the Universe; present my research to a wide audience; and writing research papers and grant proposals had shaped skills that were highly sought after outside of academia. I realized that these skills qualified me for roles like data scientist or software engineer, in industries as diverse as IT, banking, and life sciences. There is indeed a shortage of talent in these sectors, but to take advantage of it, you have to know how to sell your skills.

Writing in a job application that you’ve published seven peer-reviewed articles is likely to earn you blank stares from recruiters rather than invitations to interviews. But specifying that you have managed a research project from start to finish – working with different stakeholders (peers, referees and editors), planning meetings, documenting efforts and carrying out the project – highlights many in-demand skills. . I know now that at the end of my current postdoctoral contract, if I can’t find anything in academia, the door to the private sector is wide open for academics like me.

This is an article from the Nature Careers Community, a place for Nature readers to share their professional experiences and advice. Guest posts are encouraged.

Competing interests

The author declares no competing interests.

#career #prospects #bring #college #year #Google

About the author


Leave a Comment