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A tshirt that changed everything
I get a lot of questions about my own career, so I decided that once in a while I will share some moments that were important to me. Here’s one of them.
Back in 2005, I was working at IBM in Brazil and still trying to make sense about what my future could look like. To be honest, I didn’t quite feel like I fit at IBM: the people who brought me in were great, but a few management changes later I was stuck with a bad manager who made my life much harder than necessary.
I received an invitation to speak at a conference in Germany, Linuxtag, to present the work I did to create inclusive communities for women in the Free Software scene. After the event, I was at the Frankfurt airport when I decided to review my spam folder to check if something ended up there mistakenly (I didn’t use Gmail at the time, and the spam filters were not great).
There was an email from a Google recruiter, Leila, asking about my situation at IBM and if I would be open to speak with Google about a job. I couldn’t believe it. What did Google want with a regular person like me? Back and forth with emails, I decided to go through the recruiting process. What did I have to lose? Not much and in the worse case scenario, rumor had it that everyone who went through the recruiting process at Google got a free t-shirt. I loved my free tech t-shirts back then. So I went with it.
I had a few conversations over the phone with recruiters and engineers, and then I was invited to fly to Mountain View for onsite interviews. I still remember that I had no money for the trip. Google sent me the tickets, but I would have to pay for incidentals at the hotel. I also would have to pay for my trip from the airport to the hotel (Hotel Avante, in Mountain View). Most importantly, I would have to figure out how to make it from the airport to the hotel. I was very young and very naive. I was only 23 back then.
I scheduled my interviews the week after I had a surgery, so I could use my medical leave days “recovering” while I was traveling for my interviews.
A recruiting coordinator met me at the Google Plex and took me to a room for my interviews. The whole thing seemed like a movie. Everything seemed perfect, amazing, and I could tell people were smart just by looking at them. I felt like I was walking on clouds.
I did the onsite interviews, and they were varied: there was some white-boarding code, troubleshooting, very hard conversations, and some other easier conversations. At the end of a day that felt very long, I got a bag with my prize inside it: a white t-shirt saying “I Google” in front. I reached my goal then and everything else would be a bonus.
After the trip, I received an email saying I would have a call with another engineer, and to my surprise it was a guy from Brazil, Andre, that later on became a friend. He asked me a couple of questions, but told me the main reason for the call was to ensure I was understanding the process I was going through 100%, because the interviewers agreed my English wasn’t great. I confirmed I was understanding.
It felt like years the weeks after that call while I waited for a contact from Leila to tell me whether they would offer me the job. In Moana terms, I was way beyond my reef, so beyond that I was allowing myself to be hopeful. When that email came saying they did want to offer me a job, I was a bit shocked though.
I had a decision to make: to continue at IBM, and at my not so great computer science university, and hope that after I finished my studies I would have another dream opportunity like this, or I could just take this leap of faith to live my dream, in a city I had never been before, to work for the most desired workplace in tech back then.
So in December of 2005 I left Brazil to move to Zurich where I lived for over 6 years until I left my job at Google.
Probably if Google didn’t give out those t-shirts at the interviews, I would not have tried because I was sure I wasn’t going to make it to the end.
Image credit: PikWizard