Steven Gist (USA)

What Google is Looking for in an Employee

by Steven Gist | October 22, 2009 | Steven Gist (USA) 0 Comments

logoOn a recent plane ride, I sat by a young man who has been working for Google for four years as a product strategist.  We had an interesting conversation about his education and work at Google.  As part of our conversation, he talked about the nature of 21st century jobs and the type of education that might best prepare a young person for those jobs.This young man started his education at the University of Washington (UW), an excellent public school in the U.S. that many international and U.S. students aspire to enter.  After a time, though, he found that he did not like the size and impersonal nature of the school.  He decided to enroll in a Christ-centered university.  At UW, he was studying computer science, but, as he continued his education, he decided to major in English and Latin, and pursue his technical interests on the side. When he applied for a job with Google, he found that his technical skills combined with an ability to write well and think creatively were strengths that the company was looking for.

As he reflected on his time at Google, he explained that he couldn’t think of any specific university degrees that would necessarily prepare one for a job at Google.  This is primarily due to the fact that jobs are changing all the time because of ever-evolving technologies.  He suggested that cultivating data analysis skills, the ability to learn new things quickly, creativity and the ability to communicate effectively seem to be the requisite skills to excel at Google and be successful in the 21st century work environment, in general.

I was interested in his comment on data analysis skills.  When one reflects on the unprecedented amounts of data that are available to companies, it would seem that anyone who can accurately interpret large sets of data and creatively apply it to a rapidly changing world will be valuable to any company.  In fact, this young man suggested that the statistician is to the 21st century as the computer programmer was to the late 20th century.

He makes a strong case for a liberal arts education that prepares one to communicate effectively, analyze data and think critically and creatively.

The only thing I would add to this is how important character development and leadership skills are as a foundation for the academic and professional skills one acquires.  What was interesting to me in this young man’s story was his decision to transfer from a large state university to a Christ-centered university.  He realized that, in the context of a small, private university, he would get more personalized attention from staff and faculty.  And it is precisely in this context that one has greater opportunities to develop character and leadership skills.  Here is were young people find the advantage in reaching for a successful career.

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