We caught up with Sarah Tan again to share her experiences at Google. Here is her updated interview.
For those who don’t know Sarah, she is a past HEXie, now a reformed Googler! She has a passion for all things illustration and design. Whilst she isn’t too busy at Google doing her thang, she is also running her side gig Happy Ever Alter.
Hi Sarah, thank you for joining me.
So, just to recap, you went on the Hacker Exchange in 2017. Tell me a little bit more about your experience in SF.
I found it very special – it’s not like anywhere else in the world, they have a different work ethic, different ways they talk to people. My favourite part was getting to know my cohort and developing friendships with my fellow peers and mentors – learning how they got to where they are and just generally learning from them.
Do you think this trip changed something about you personally?
Oh yeah! It definitely changed my mindset, because I learned a lot more about the western culture and how people live in America. For example, culturally they are more willing and open to share with each other. It’s very collaborative. I feel that this has definitely influenced myself to do the same.
How is this different to what you experience back home?
It’s very different! I come from Malaysia where it’s very conservative and it’s also very typical in my Asian culture to view everyone as a competitor. I got really shocked when I went to Silicon Valley when I saw how everyone was just so open willing to share. It’s also very different to Australian culture! I feel like the Australian culture isn’t quite as open as American culture yet either.
Tell me about a little about your side businesses.
I’ve been developing this design business where I design my own products and I sell them at markets around Melbourne. I have been doing this because I want to share a positive message. I feel I can do through my designs and I believe that design can influence people’s emotions. I’ve been doing that for around five years now.
Yeah! I’d say that it has opened up a lot of opportunities for me. I’ve been able to collaborate with NGV (National Gallery of Victoria) and the State Library of Victoria.
How did the HEX program influence and lead you to pursue an opportunity with Google? What was your thought process?
After about one month after finishing the HEX program, I met two people who wanted to develop a startup. And because I was so fired up, ready to hustle after HEX, I went for it. I feel that if it weren’t for HEX, I probably wouldn’t have taken these people up as I was in my final semester and focusing on my studies. But, anyway, fast forward a few months and one of my fellow founders sent me a link to apply for this job at Google. The job was working for Google creative labs. So I applied and got in!
How long have you wanted to work at Google for before you got the position?
Honestly, I have always wanted to work at Google, even when I was living in Malaysia and so when I moved to Australia it was sitting in the back of my mind that there is a Google headquarters in Sydney. I would attend Google info session events, where Google employees would come and speak about opportunities available. However, I didn’t have much luck. I applied non-stop for two years but was rejected.
What do you think was your greatest strengths in securing this position? What set you apart from the rest?
The application process is pretty straight forward. You key in your basic information and submit a link to your website and write 500 words on why you should get in. So of course, I wrote about my experiences visiting Google Launch Pad and Google through the HEX program.
I think what stood out to the employers, is the value the HEX program provides through its international business experience. You are not just visiting this city, but you are really immersing yourself into it and seeing first hand how these startups and big companies work.
What have you learnt at Google?
I am learning a lot of cool stuff about new technologies, the latest inventions as well as what I am capable of. My job at creative labs involves taking charge and creating new experimental projects for installations, exhibitions and most importantly to nurture that mindset of keep innovating and experimenting with tech.
What would you tell other students considering a career at a company such as Google?
I would firstly say, don’t be afraid to dream big. Google was my end goal for my career. It’s good to go for these things, so don’t be afraid to apply.
There is this term that we repeated over and over during HEX, ‘You have nothing to lose’. That really kept me going, you may lose some time and energy, but you never know what will happen. That was the real motivator for me.
And remember to be patient. If you don’t achieve it right away, or keep getting rejected, don’t give up! I didn’t. So if you have a goal in mind, just go for it and apply yourself!
You have nothing to lose!