Wednesday, November 30, 2005
On Wednesday, April 30th, 2003, I was swimming towards the shore as fast as I could paddle my surfboard. I was in the ocean near Todos Santos, Mexico; a storm had come up, the waves were crashing huge, the wind was blowing like crazy, and I realized I'd gotten in rather over my head.
On Wednesday, May 7th, 2003, I was standing in a room filled floor-to-ceiling with more computers than I'd ever seen in my life. My fingers were shaking as I played surgeon to a webserver, pushing tiny jumpers onto pins on the motherboard, cold blasts of air conditioning whipping my hair into my face like some tense scene from an Arctic action movie, and once again it occurred to me that I had quite possibly gotten in over my head.
How I went from being a recent college grad on a travel kick to a Google datacenter technician in one week is a whirlwind (and windblown) story. I'd seen the job posting a few days before I left for Mexico, but I figured it was a long shot; I had the skills, but didn't have much work experience.
So I sent Google a love letter. I told them that yes, I could fix computers, and yes, I'd been running Linux at home for two years. And I told them the truth: they'd get a hundred job seekers with those skills, but I had something those applicants didn't: a Google T-shirt.
I talked about how I didn't normally wear the logos of companies I had no affiliation with, but that I wore my Google shirt with pride, because I admired Google so much -- they were smart, they treated people well (users and employees alike), and they made good products. But beyond that, I could tell Google was special, that all that innovation was going to lead to something extraordinary. And I wanted to be part of it. Also, I wanted another T-shirt.
I got both. After I staggered up onto the beach that first Wednesday, I went into town in search of Internet access and, in a net cafe with a thatched roof and a 56k modem connection, found waiting for me an email from a Google recruiter who had plucked my application from a pool of dozens because of my T-shirt-themed cover letter. On Thursday I flew back to the U.S. On Friday I had a phone screen. On Monday I endured three hours of onsite interviews. And on Tuesday, the recruiter called back and said, "Welcome to Google. Can you start tomorrow?"
I survived the surf at Todos Santos, and I managed to get through my first day in the Googleplex without crashing that datacenter. And the message I have for all my recent college grad peers is simple: Don't underestimate the power of your favorite T-shirt, and don't neglect your email while on vacation. Either one may hold the key to your future.