Lessons of a 2019 Google BOLD Intern/Incoming Full-Timer
Somewhere in the November of 2018, I noticed a shift in the conversations I was having with my parents. Conversations moved away from the standard questions about classes, health, etc and the dreaded question kept coming, “So, what are you doing for the summer?” You see, the summer of 2019 was between my 3rd and 4th years of college. So, it was essentially seen as the last summer to get an internship and add some more experience to my resume.
Now, the simple answer would have been, “I’ve received summer funding for my research project and I’m going to stay on campus to pursue that.” However, they kept pushing that I needed more experience and some actual income this summer.
Around the same time, I came across a posting for the Google BOLD Program and realized that I had found the perfect solution.
One of the most impactful parts of my childhood is that I come from a small business family. At the age of 31 days old (yeah, 31 days), I became employee #3 and went on to spend a majority of my childhood at our various stores.
Through the various businesses, there were obviously many changes but there were a few things that remained constant. One of these things was a really old HP computer that my dad kept bringing with him. This computer was ridiculously slow, would randomly restart, and the internet connection would disconnect every time the credit card machine was used. In short, it was old and barely capable of doing anything. Expect, it was able to handle Google. So, the days were filled with the excitement of searching random words in Google Search, looking at the photos in Google Photos, and exploring the world in Google Maps. I’ll never forget how 12 year old me felt so smart simply because I was able to show my dad our home street on Google Maps. Google let little-me in a small store, on an old computer with slow internet feel like the world was in his hands.
So, when I saw the posting I figured it was time to give it a try. To be honest, I knew how competitive the opportunity was so I didn’t really think I had a chance. However, I now had something to tell my family so that they would stop asking the question. Best case scenario, I would get to intern at Google and worse case, I would get them off my back long enough to prove that the research project could be a serious option. So, I spoke to a personal mentor of mine, who worked at Google, and submitted the application.
Every couple months, I would get an email telling me to stay tuned because the process can take some time. This was perfect because I just kept working on the project! Then, around March, reality suddenly snapped in and I got invited to an interview. From there, I was fortunate enough to receive an offer to intern in their Ann Arbor, Michigan office.
For 11 weeks, I worked in Google’s Ann Arbor office in their gTech division. Essentially, we worked under the Google Ads product to provide support in troubleshooting and optimization to its clients. Some days, we worked with large corporate clients and, on others, we worked with mom-and-pop shops. One of the most exciting parts of the internship was the transparency and clear promise that we would actually learn from the experience. After we reached our expected workload, we were encouraged to use our extra time to meet new people, take skills courses, enjoy the free perks (I gained 10 pounds which I blame on the free coffee and ice cream! 🙂 ), etc. All in all, it was one of the best experiences of my life so far.
Originally, I was struggling to write this article because I couldn’t figure out how to consolidate 11-weeks of growth into a few (yes, 20 paragraphs are still considered few, haha) paragraphs. However, I remembered that, at the end of our internship, we were asked to each present 3 things we had learned during our internship in 5 minutes. Now, as the fact that the introduction to all this has taken 673 words might already show, I love talking. So, how was I going to turn summer into just 3 things and make it fit in 5 minutes?! Well, after multiple revisions and help from amazing people, I was able to make it all fit. So, for the sake of not turning this article into a novel, here are the three big lessons I learned from this summer:
1) The Privilege to Affect Lives
In our role, we got the chance to work with businesses from large corporations to local shops. One of my favorite memories was when I had the opportunity to help someone who was new to using Google Ads for their business. The conversation started almost like it was directly from a training exercise because I found myself explaining Google Ads from the basics. Now, let’s make something really clear, I didn’t do anything special I simply explained what I knew. However, over a 30 minutes conversation, this individual went from a state of confusion to suddenly strategizing with me! Before my own eyes I saw this individual take the knowledge, combine it with the technology before themselves, and create a brand new world of possibilities.
Suddenly, the internship wasn’t simply a fun time or a line on a resume, now it was reframed into a chance to truly help hard-working business owners. Technology and knowledge truly have the power to allow small and medium business (SMB) owners to take control and compete on a global level. Lucky for me, I had the privilege to be a part of that. Even beyond the internship, it further pushed me to continue with my research project, CignatureMBA, where we hope to use modern technology to make business education more accessible for SMB leaders.
2. The Sum is Greater Than its Parts
I have to be honest, before the internship, I wasn’t a huge fan of team work. Probably because my main experiences with teamwork up until then were school projects where groups are often dysfunctional. We’ve all had those group work experiences where deadlines are barely met, people fight, and usually one poor kid gets stuck with all the work.
However, I remember one specific project during the internship where I really proud of our end product but I was shocked because the process was so smooth. Everyone did what they were supposed to, deadlines were met, no one fought, and the end product was better than we imagined. I ended up asking another intern if he was surprised and he told me that this worked because everyone worked on their strengths, respected each other, and were responsible. That’s when I realized that it’s not always about simply finding the “right” answer or solving the problem by yourself. When you truly learn how to work in a team, you’re able to find the “best” answers or solutions and also enjoy the process.
Now, after realizing this point, I had to figure out how to make it work! So, I Googled it and ended up finding out about a study done by Google called Project Aristotle which was created to answer the question “What makes teams at Google effective?”
Turns out that the answer is “psychological safety”.
Psychological safety is about more than just the physical safety of knowing that no one will physically harm you. It’s about the creation of spaces where people are truly encouraged to take risks and experiment. It’s about individuals truly believing that the people around them are not working to undermine them but rather that the whole group is working towards a common goal. It’s about creating a space where individuals will build on each others questions and ideas, not break them down.
3. Ostentatious Listening
After realizing that if I wanted to find the best solutions and truly enjoy the process, I had to learn proper teamwork, I began looking for ways to build “psychological safety”. Luckily, Charles Duhigg, author of Smarter Faster Better: The Transformative Power of Real Productivity does an amazing job of describing Project Aristotle, psychological safety, and ostentatious listening in this video he made with Business Insider: How Google builds the perfect team.
The key is a concept called ostentatious listening, which is more than simply being quiet and listening. It’s about doing that but also being proactive about creating a space for others to speak. It’s about allowing the individuals around you to truly feel that their words are being digested and built on, not simply heard.
For me, this has been the largest lesson because I’ve always been the loud voice in a room. The best lesson I’ve learned, and continue to learn, is how to create the space for others to share their inputs. It’s been a journey of learning to truly evaluate my thoughts and words to make sure that my contributions are truly about moving a team forward vs. simply an attempt to fill the silences.
If you wish to learn more about this study and psychological safety, check out our other article “Hey Google…”: How To Make Great Teams — Lessons of an Intern
All in all, the summer was filled with learning, growth, and a lot of fun. I got to learn about Google, made some amazing friends, and even bought a minute pressure cooker (hands down the best tool in a kitchen)! Today, I’m excited to say that I’ve accepted a full time offer and I’m looking forward to seeing what comes next. To everyone that has supported me, thank you and I hope I can make you all proud.
Originally published at https://cignaturemba.com.