Written 22nd June 2019.
So now I’ve had a fair few weeks to recollect, I decided to write this post about how I went for an apprenticeship at Google and got the job. Apprenticeships are relatively new to Google, so the information online was scarce, and I myself am (obviously) inexperienced with this stuff. My goal with this article is to explain what I learned along the way.
First, some context: Last December I was preparing my UCAS application for University. Having spent weeks fussing minutiae of my cover letter, I'd completely lost sight of the bigger picture. I chose my unis, paid the fee, and sent it off thinking I was done with further education until late next year. Looking back, I never properly reflected on my choice. I decided to spend a couple weeks looking at apprenticeships.
Some helpful resources:
|gov.uk Apprenticeship Overview||https://www.gov.uk/topic/further-education-skills/apprenticeships|
|gov.uk Apprenticeship Search||https://www.findapprenticeship.service.gov.uk/apprenticeshipsearch|
|Not Going To Uni||https://www.notgoingtouni.co.uk|
For those who are unaware, or not from the UK, apprenticeships are an alternative to university where a student’s learning is sponsored by a company. As well as working at the company, they spend time at a learning institution. Hopefully under this model, students can gain theoretical and practical skills whereas university does not have the work element. They’re usually balanced around 80% of time for work and 20% of time dedicated to study.
It’s really an individual thing, but I feel that what I really need is practical experience. I know the basics and I want to get out there and make mistakes and learn hands-on.
Long story short, I applied for a place at Amazon, BBC and Google - two companies and one public broadcaster, all of which I’ve heard good things about engineering-wise. Any one of these companies would have provided me the valuable skills & experience I need for the future.
Fast forward a couple of weeks and I find myself behind a 45 minute phone-screen with a Google Employee from Zurich. Because I could be rejected at any stage, I made the best effort to learn as much as I could from the experience.
Something obvious but useful: The interviewer can’t see what’s in front of you on a phone call. I had sprawling pages of A4 documents on every scrap of data I could gather about Google’s culture, various facts on the software development industry and stories about previous things I’ve done demonstrating the characteristics I felt they were screening for. I can’t express how helpful this was.
The next stage was a technical interview on Hangouts & Docs - the dreaded whiteboard stage. There’s plenty of data out there on Google interviews, but not for apprentices. I made a few assumptions at what they think the limits of my CS knowledge would’ve been and prepared accordingly. When solving problems, I made sure to speak aloud and express my thoughts. The interviewer was friendly, guided me through the process and made time to answer my questions at the end. On the whole, a very positive experience.
An interesting aspect of the application is that I was given a software project to go and complete from a couple of options. You can check out the code on GitHub here:
The on-site interview in London was the best part of the whole journey. I’ve never lived in a city nor have I travelled so far alone so I made sure to make the best of the day by visiting a relative and exploring.
I woke up at 5:00 AM, hopped on a train from Lancaster to London and arrived at Google’s Kings Cross office just in time.
I’d spent the previous few months working on my Grandma’s business, Decoupage Dreams during which I developed many skills that helped with my interview. As well as having to sell my ideas to improve things, I’d also had the opportunity to visit several networking events, further putting me outside of my comfort zone. I believe made the most impact in developing the confidence I needed for the day.
The office was awesome, and everything you’d expect from a modern tech company. Although I wasn’t feeling very hungry on the day (thanks to a sizable train breakfast), I did appreciate the offer of food.
So, a few weeks later I got a phone call telling me about the good news. And having had the time to think about it, I couldn't have wanted any alternative option for the future. The opportunity to work in a culture like Google’s, and moving out to London, will undoubtedly give me many life lessons beyond being an engineer.