Welcome back to school everyone!
Have you ever wondered what it is like to be working at Google? I am very excited to share with you some insights from my friend Alex Feinberg. He currently works as a Vertical Lead for Sports and Fitness Mobile Integration Partnerships. Previously Alex enjoyed an early career in professional baseball, he had also completed a stint working at a hedge fund in Asia.
1. What sparked your interest in the technology field? What is the hottest topic you follow these days?
I have always been interested in entrepreneurship, even before it was cool, and I thought Silicon Valley would be a great place to work around highly creative and capable entrepreneurs. I follow many different tech topics currently, but some that interest me are artificial intelligence and augmented/virtual reality.
2. How did your previous professional baseball career prepare you for your current role at Google?
In my current role I work with many sports and fitness partners to make sure their content is accessible in Google search. I believe that competitive sports in general provide successful participants the habit of rationally assessing their performance, skills, and shortcomings, along with the habit of continual self-improvement.
3. Tell me about your work, what is your day to day like?
I wake up fairly early to beat the traffic down to Mountain View headquarters. This isn’t really the norm for most, but I usually take the 5:50am or 6:25am shuttle to work so I can get a full workout done in the morning. I’ll usually finish up, eat breakfast, and arrive at my desk around 9am.
My work day is interesting because I have to continually multi-task, as almost all my projects involve waiting for feedback from others, so I always try to have less time sensitive work (such as operations work) to mix in during my ‘waiting times’. My more time sensitive work usually focuses on working with a partner or product manager on a particular integration or initiative, such as the Accelerated Mobile Pages project. Depending on my workload, I’ll either take the early shuttle (4pm) or late shuttle (7pm) home, and finish up my work while hopefully avoiding traffic.
4. What are some of the key attributes that would help you succeed in the tech start-up industry?
Be friendly, and constantly strive to learn and re-learn. Tech HR departments have figured out employee churn is very costly, and one thing that increases employee churn is unfriendly employees – so they try not to hire them – sometimes almost irrespective of ability. The second attribute that would be helpful is a thirst for knowledge. A lot of things in Silicon Valley don’t make sense unless you’re able to scrap previous assumptions and relearn what you thought you knew. I look at mental agility in work the same way I looked at physical agility as an athlete – highly necessary.
5. What actions did you take or would recommend students to take to get into your specific field?
Technical skills are always helpful, taking computer science classes should help. But it’s also good to have an idea of which type of tech company you might want to work at. Outside of Silicon Valley, a lot of startups and mature companies get grouped as “tech” but many of them operate in different industries. Some happen to use technology to disrupt the transportation business, while others use technology to disrupt the movie industry. But if you work at one of these companies, it’s good to be aware that technology is a tool that engineers and product managers use to create new business that tend to scale well, rather than a sector by itself.
6. Any resources (apps/ sites) you use to stay up-to-date on industry trends?
I use AppAnnie to keep tabs on which apps are gaining or losing popularity, as well as ComScore and eMarketer for industry stats. Benedict Evans is a good writer/tech prognosticator. TechCrunch is a good publication to keep tabs on innovation and funding.
7. Any final advice/ words of wisdom for students?
Industries rise and fall in their allure to students. While technology is the field du jour, and will be important in some capacity for the rest of our lifetimes, it may not always appear as glamorous. 10 years ago graduating students all wanted to go work at investment banks, so if you focus on doing what you are interested in, rather than a hot sector, you should have more success and satisfaction. Also, learn corporate finance. Learn how to price stock options, learn where corporate money is coming from, and where it is going. You’ll save yourself some heartache in the future if you equip yourself with the tools to properly appraise your compensation offers.