Connie Chen on Smoked Salmon and Kombucha Machines

Editor's Key Takeaways
  1. It's important to immerse yourself in a culture that fosters your creativity and freedom to pursue what you're passionate about.
  2. One of the best ways to figure out what you like is by trying them all. Don't limit yourself to just one "suggested path".
  3. Many technical skills are learned on the job. Thus, it's advantageous to have the ability to self-learn quickly.

Connie graduated from the University of Pennsylvania Wharton School of Business in 2016. Google, Alphabet Inc's largest subsidiary, is a technology company specializing in Internet-related services and products.

Editor: Connie and I became good friends through Wharton Cohorts, a leadership organization that provides undergraduate mentorship and programming. Throughout her senior year and even after graduation, she constantly encouraged me to push against the crowd and follow my passions in tech and design. Her perspective as someone who has left behind her finance background to tackle the tech industry is quite inspiring.


Tell me about your background leading up to your role at Google. How did you get this job?

I wanted to be a lot of things before I started recruiting. I spent a summer at the Department of Justice wanting to be an environmental lawyer, a summer as a private equity analyst in a clean-tech fund in Singapore, and a summer in banking. However, I was involved in Cohorts my entire time at Penn and had a friend refer me [to Google], which helped me through the process. My job is cool because it's a mix of people skills and trying to make process improvements — something that Cohorts has prepared me well for.

What motivated you to step outside the usual realm of banking and explore tech instead?

I cared a lot about using my skills for a positive company with great people who encouraged me to be better, and a culture that let me create my own projects or try and improve something. After a summer in banking, I realized it's super difficult to spearhead initiatives in a really hierarchical culture. Tech was exciting to me because it's such a fast-paced industry. At Google, everyone can try and contribute, regardless of seniority.

What soft and technical skills were most useful for your current role?

I'm in the Operations group, inside People Operations.

I found out knowledge itself can only get you so far; being able to search for resources and information is far more important.

In terms of technical skills, I've been learning SQL and JavaScript. Those technical skills, coupled with a drive and sense for starting new initiatives, seem like the winning combination.
Editor's note: HackerRank and CodeAcademy are great, free online resources to learn coding languages. OIDD105 and CIS197 are good Penn courses for SQL and JavaScript, respectively.

What has been your favorite part about working at Google so far? Any insanely cool projects you can dish about?

Smoked salmon in the mornings and Kombucha machines are pretty sweet. Google does so many cool projects to leverage technology and make the world tangibly better. I can't get into specifics, but there are super cool projects in the works that help fix the root causes of racial justice issues, gender equality and economic opportunities. Google has an insane amount of resources, and your managers want you to work on these projects (or whatever else you're passionate about). Oh, and the workout classes and music rooms don't hurt either! Editor's note: Kombucha, a Manchurian fermented tea, is the latest hipster health trend.

What is a reality about your job that students should be aware of before seriously considering it?

Your first job, 99% of the time, will have many parts that are not glamorous — embrace those chances to differentiate yourself!

What would you advise current Penn students to explore to get a better feel of the work?

Starting my environmental social enterprise, the Environ Group, at Penn helped me get a head-start in understanding tech — I learned everything from strategy to email-writing to all the resources Penn has. I would just follow what you're excited about, and try and solve an issue in that space.

"East Coast Beast Coast" or "West Coast Best Coast”?

In San Francisco, it's constantly 65 degrees. I've gone on a day trip to Napa, a weekend in Yosemite, and I've surfed more here than I have in my entire life (I'm still terrible). If you like fun, this is the coast for you!


Disclaimers: The views presented here are solely those of the interviewee. They do not represent Google or any of the other individuals or institutions named above.

Laura Gao

Aspiring designer, entrepreneur, writer and everything in between.

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