Google, on the surface, did not surprise Tuck second-year MBA candidate Steve Harrington. “Google was exactly what I expected it to be, as far as the goofy colors and when you see people on bikes, it’s kind of a whimsical place,” he says. However, the startup culture that pervades even the large established companies in Silicon Valley was an eye-opener, says Harrington, who is interning at Google in product management.
“It was very cool to see the energy across all the different companies,” says Harrington, 27, a U.S. Army veteran, ‘the energy of everyone, not just at Google, but just, you overhear conversations of people starting companies, or making apps. There’s just this sort of drive to build. It’s contagious. I’m already thinking about what I might be able to do in the future, coming out here.”
Harrington is right where he wanted to be – he came into the Tuck MBA program determined to end up a product manager at Google. And for that role, he discovered, internship interviews would be far different than for jobs requiring case interviews. “People talk a lot in business schools about preparing for case interviews,” Harrington says. “Product interviews are a whole different beast.”
For those interviews, with several companies including Google, Harrington took advantage of the Tuck alumni network, practicing beforehand with alums who had gone through product interviews themselves.
TELLING GOOGLE HOW TO MAKE IT BETTER
On the way to his Google job, Harrington underwent two product interviews in the first round, and another in the second. For those interviews, he would present three company products he liked, and three he didn’t, and discuss how he would improve them; he’d do the same on products from competing companies.
“Honestly, I thought (the interviews) were fun, sort of like case interviews are fun where you get to think on your feet,” he says. “The time flies – the 45-minute interviews each went by in the blink of an eye.”
Harrington’s participation in last year’s inaugural Tuck tech boot camp led to the Google internship, with one Tuck alum from Google recommending him for the position, and other alumni providing information about the industry’s culture, directing him toward resources, and helping him prepare for interviews. He recalls a talk during the camp by an older Tuck alumnus. “At one point he said, ‘Who here knows what they want to do?’ Being foolish, I raised my hand. He sort of scoffed at me. I said, ‘I think I want to be a product manager at Google.’ It feels really good to have ended up exactly where I was aiming when I started.”
He’s talked to many incoming Tuckies, and prospective students, about the Silicon Valley tech sector. “I always say, ‘If you’re interested in tech, make sure you get out here, and make sure you come on this trip. It gives you a great introduction. It was sort of a critical factor for me I think in ultimately being successful, is getting out here early.”
SPEAKING ‘THE LANGUAGE OF BUSINESS’
Harrington has a bachelor’s degree in electrical and computer engineering from Lafayette College in Pennsylvania. At Google, he’s deploying knowledge and skills provided in Tuck’s first year curriculum.
“Right now I’m doing a lot with analyzing data and I’m using statistics a lot. I found myself harking back to last fall, the core curriculum. I did an NPV (net present value) analysis at one point – I didn’t even know what that was before I came to Tuck.
“The language of business was something that I wasn’t really familiar with before Tuck. Being able to be fluent in the language of business was something that I learned in my first year as well.”
He would like to get a permanent job at Google after graduating from Tuck. “I’m just going to take my time here and focus on my project and try to deliver results,” he says. Longer-term, he sees other options, and notes that the area and industry have cultural expectations different from other regions and sectors. “It’s . . . accepted here that you’re going to move around, which is great, but you can stay home too at a place like Google – there are people who have been here 15 years and there are people who choose to leave after four years. Everybody’s OK with it.
“Some day, being part of a small company in the startup phase would be interesting.”
For MBAs aspiring to work in the Silicon Valley tech sector, the job market is highly competitive. “A lot of people apply and certainly the odds are against you,” Harrington says. “If it’s something that you’re interested in and passionate about, you can do it.”