Do I need an elite MBA brand to get a Google internship?
Can a non IITian get into Google?
Without an Ivy League MBA, should I forget about getting an interview call from Google?
These are just a few of the common queries about getting internships & jobs at Google. And it’s not surprising, considering how selective Google’s hiring process is. Apart from the high salary and compensation package, Google offers a phenomenal working environment and culture that encourages creativity and innovation. And yes, there’s free food!
If Google is your dream employer, and you haven’t been able to get into a top tier MBA, Abhinav’s story will give you hope and some tips on how you can approach the process.
If I had to describe myself, I would call myself someone with grit. It is this quality that makes me stand out. Like several other middle-class Indians, I pursued a degree in computer science and engineering and joined the software services industry.
During my stint at Infosys, where I worked prior to my MBA, I realized the value of gaining business knowledge and the potential it had to accelerate my career growth. I felt that, as a software engineer, I had very limited visibility into my client’s and my company’s business and could not understand the true scale and scope of my work. I knew I wanted to pursue a business career but remain rooted in technology.
That is when I started researching career options, and the ones that stood out to me were functions such as product management, consulting, and supply chain management in the tech industry. I knew that getting an MBA would help me transition into one of these roles, and I decided to pursue it.
While growing up, I had always heard stories about how an MBA can transform one’s career and lead to well-paid managerial jobs. I must admit that initially, I got sold on the idea that an MBA was like a magic wand that could transform my career.
However, when I started doing more research, I came across the MCB blog and decided to buy the book, “Beyond the MBA Hype”. Both these resources gave me a realistic picture of the entire MBA journey, from admissions to landing a full-time job upon graduation.
Besides, while I did not work with MCB’s admissions consultants on a paid engagement basis, I did get some advice from Sameer Kamat during the application stage. Specifically, he helped me decide to take the GMAT again and get a better score after I had got a score of 680 on my first attempt (I ended up getting a 710 on my second attempt).
His advice also helped me select which schools to apply to and how to focus on my profile overall. This was important because I was concerned that the study gap of 2 years that I had (which was caused by my discontinuing my B. Tech in my second year of study due to a health issue at the time and then having to start the program from year 1 again and complete it) could affect my chances of gaining admittance to a good MBA program.
To select the right business schools, I relied on factors such as location, class size, class profile, companies that recruit from the program, strengths of the program, and financial aid.
I applied to 7 schools and was accepted to 4 with scholarships. I was initially disappointed because the first school I gained admission to only offered me 40% scholarship, and I knew I could not afford it. Two other schools offered me a similar scholarship amount.
However, the financial aid offered by the Eli Broad College of Business (Michigan State University) was very attractive (80%) and I was confident that I could not only afford the costs of attending the program but also achieve my career goals. The program has a strong emphasis on leadership and teamwork.
Additionally, the small class size and experiential learning modules (called Extreme Green) made the program seem attractive to me. While the school is known mainly for its Supply Chain Management concentration, it has a reputable Marketing program as well, and I was considering pursuing both these concentrations as they were relevant to my career goals.
The teething problems when I started the MBA in USA were to adjust to a new environment and country. I had never lived away from home until then, but my classmates and social circle helped me acclimate to the new environment and understand the cultural nuances.
I would describe my classmates as having very diverse backgrounds and being collaborative and team-oriented. Most of the international students have a quantitative/engineering background, mostly in the manufacturing space. Considering that I had no experience in manufacturing and they had no experience in IT, it proved to be a great opportunity to learn from one another.
The special aspect of the program is the strong emphasis on leadership and teamwork, and the leadership training and simulation lab exercise that allows each student to observe how they act in leadership roles. Furthermore, most MBA courses follow a case-study based approach and involve learning by doing in a team environment rather than learning by rote. This is very different from the student experience I had in India when I was pursuing my engineering degree.
The program also has a heavy emphasis on MBA networking, thanks to networking events on campus, such as corporate info sessions, tailgates, and career fairs. The MBA program enjoys great brand recognition and is well-respected by employers, where several of the program’s alumni currently work.
Furthermore, the RoI of the MBA program also proved to be high in my case, considering the low cost of attendance due to the scholarship and the fact that I was able to land an internship and a full-time job at Google.
During the first year of the program, I realized that internship recruiting works quite differently in the US than in India.
While Career Services provides guidance and advice pertaining to resume review, cover letters, elevator pitch, and networking, it is ultimately each student’s responsibility to take ownership of their job search.
My internship search was not easy. I faced a string of rejections from several companies because of my international student status and the fact that I did not have prior experience in certain functions (such as supply chain management and product management) that the companies were recruiting for. I had to do quite a bit of networking before something concrete materialized and I got my Google offer.
Even before I started the program, Career Services had connected me with an MBA alumni mentor working in the industry I wanted to work in (technology) post my MBA, as indicated in my application essays. The alum mentor was working with Google at the time, and he very kindly agreed to take the time to answer questions I had about the program and what to expect from the MBA program.
Over the next several months, I kept in touch with him and sought his advice on matters ranging from my internship search to which courses he would recommend taking. This mentor-mentee relationship eventually led to a referral that gave me an opportunity to interview with the company three months later.
I would say I was fortunate enough to get this opportunity because Google is very selective about who it interviews even in the case of a referral. The role I was interviewed for required a mix of both technical skills and business knowledge, and my background and experience combined with my MBA proved to be a good fit for the role.
The interview comprised two rounds and involved both behavioral and technical questions (including coding/programming questions, data structures and algorithms, etc.), and I was able to clear them successfully, although this required me to review computer science concepts and I had learnt in my undergrad besides focusing on behavioral questions.
About a week after I completed the interview, my recruiter called to inform that they were extending me an internship offer! I was thrilled!
Google is a company that I had dreamt of working for during my undergrad days, and never did I believe that I would get an opportunity to intern there (especially because my self-confidence had taken a beating due to the string of rejections I had faced at other companies before).
It was only after getting the internship that I realized that I had beaten the odds to get the offer (from what I read online, Google is more selective than Harvard!).
This helped bust the myth that only Ivy League grads can get into a company like Google.
I decided to make the best possible use of this opportunity and not only learn a lot but also possibly get a full-time offer there.
My internship experience was one filled with fun and learning. The culture of innovation, the free food, perks, and benefits made me feel no different from a full-time employee! The project I was assigned was quite ambiguous (as one would expect in a company full of smart people!) and was focused on managing the development of tools and systems to support Sales in growing client accounts in the ads business.
My fellow MBA interns were from top programs such as NYU, MIT, Harvard, etc., and I must admit that I was a little intimidated at first and experienced Impostor Syndrome, but soon got over it.
To set interns up for success, the company also has a strong mentorship program that enables interns to gain an understanding of the various teams at Google and how to navigate the organization and connect with the right people to be successful during the internship.
During my internship, I made two presentations, and my work was continuously evaluated by my manager and two other reviewers for conversion. I initially had two conversion interviews, which were mostly focused on technical concepts and programming. I completed my interviews and ended my internship on a high note.
Based on the feedback I received from my stakeholders, I had a general sense that the team I interned with wanted to extend me a full-time offer, but I was also anxious because of the long conversion process and the high hiring bar.
The recruiting process at Google works as follows.
After the conversion interviews, the recruiter collects feedback from the interviews as well as the stakeholders who review an intern’s work during the internship, and prepares a candidate packet for Hiring Committee, which comprises senior Googlers who have a lot of experience in interviewing and recruiting.
Hiring Committee meets on pre-determined days in a week and makes decisions (hire, no-hire, hold). Upon Hiring Committee approval, the packet is sent to a VP/Director-level committee for approval, a compensation committee, and an executive (SVP-level) for final approval.
In about a month after the end of the internship, when I was told to expect the result of the conversion process, I was contacted by the recruiter for a third technical interview!
After nearly 3-4 weeks of completing the third round, I received a full-time offer from the company for the role of Solutions Consultant and accepted it. It felt like a dream come true since I had landed a job that would enable me to make use of my engineering degree, IT experience, and my MBA to add value to Google!
In summary, my MBA journey has been a roller-coaster ride with its highs and lows. Not only did I learn a great deal about business and gain international exposure, but I also learnt how to network and find a job even when the odds were against me!
Furthermore, my experience reinforced what I had learnt from articles on the MBA Crystal Ball blog:
Career change is difficult if one tries to change all three parameters (location, function, and industry) at a time.
Hence, my advice to international aspirants targeting US B-schools is to be realistic and practical in their approach to the entire MBA journey, from admissions to getting a full-time job offer upon graduation.
Sometimes, you may not even need an MBA for your specific career situation (please read “Beyond The MBA Hype” if you haven’t already).
If you are sure you want to do an MBA based on all the research you have done, make sure you research the business schools you are applying to thoroughly. This should reflect in your application essays and interviews.
Once you gain admittance to the school of your choice (hopefully with some financial aid), make sure you devote enough time to networking, as it can sometimes open doors that you never thought would open to you.
Do not lose faith in your abilities and put failures in perspective. You may face a lot of challenges and frustrations in finding an internship or job but remember not to give up!
Lastly, it is a myth that brand name is everything.
While it certainly helps to attend an Ivy League MBA program, not going to one does not mean you can never work for a company like Google!