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Interview: Rithm Grads at Google

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Rithm School

May 27, 2022

We love staying in touch with our grads throughout their careers. This week, we caught up with Harry Teplow (Rithm’s 16th cohort, aka r16) and Lucas Pagac (r19), who recently landed jobs with Google. They shared with us their journey from bootcamp grad to new engineer to Google engineer, and the things they found helpful along the way.


What was your first job out of Rithm? What was your timeline from graduation to landing your first role to working for Google?

Harry: My first job out of Rithm was as a full-stack engineer at a startup called Osmind, an electronic health record system for clinics specializing in alternative mental health treatments. I landed that role about a month and a half after graduating from Rithm and I worked there for a little over a year and a half. So that means I landed my role at Google roughly 1 year and 8 months after graduating from Rithm, and I actually realized my start date at Google was exactly 2 years after my first day of classes at Rithm! 

Lucas: My first role outside of Rithm was as a Software Engineer at a Series A healthcare startup. I’m beyond thankful for the experience because it taught me to be independent, resourceful, and be at peace with ambiguity. My experience was the classic startup experience! I landed my first role approximately one month after Rithm graduation. I navigated the startup life for 9 months before transitioning to Google.


What made you want to apply to Google?

harry smiling on a blue background

Harry: All I had personally known in my work history (even before becoming an engineer) was small startups, so I was curious to see the other side and learn from working at a larger company. My time engineering at Osmind was a really great learning curve for me and I got to build some high-impact features for hundreds of users, but the opportunity to build for billions of users is a really unique and exciting one, and there's guaranteed to be a lot of differences in process from what I was used to. So I wanted to experience that, plus I knew there'd just be such a breadth of resources, tools and learning opportunities at Google.

Lucas: As someone who is passionate about information and education accessibility, Google’s mission and vision resonated with me. The catalyst for actually applying to Google was my friend and neighbor. He talked to me about a role on his team which really excited me. I knew I wanted to dive deeper on the backend and work at a larger company with a well designed architecture so I couldn’t pass up the opportunity.


How did you land the initial interview? (Cold application, referral, something else?)

Harry: This time around I just cold applied. I had applied to Google before with a referral from a friend after graduating from Rithm, but nothing came of that. This time was for sure different because I now had full-time experience as an engineer, but to be honest I still wasn't expecting to get an interview again, and so I just cold applied with a "why not?" attitude. I actually think that attitude and not putting too much pressure or stress on it helped me this time around as well.

Lucas: My friend/neighbor referred me.


How did your Rithm education contribute to landing your role at Google? 

Harry: I definitely wouldn't be where I am today without my Rithm education and I'm so grateful for it. For one, I re-reviewed a lot of the DSA (data structures and algorithms) lectures, notes and practice questions I had from my time at Rithm, which was huge in helping me prepare for and get through all my technical Google interviews. I also think Rithm is unique in that during your time you build so many applications from scratch – that is such a valuable experience to build whole front and backends from nothing. Having all that to talk about and pull from, in addition to my projects at Osmind, I believe also greatly helped me land my role at Google.

Lucas: Algorithm problems are core to the Google hiring process. My Rithm education served as a critical foundation to tackle algos. The data structures and algorithms week at Rithm set me up for success in 2 major ways: 1 –  foundational knowledge that gave me a wonderful overview of types of problems I would encounter and the data structures I needed to understand, and 2 – by providing coaching and mock interviews. Rithm made it clear that being an algo rockstar comes from practice.

Outside of algorithms, Rithm helped prepare me for interviews by enabling me to practice structured pair programming. Pair programming gave me the toolset to help me easily talk through my code and feel more confident in the Google interviews.


What does your day-to-day look like as an engineer there?

Harry: So, I'm still in what's called Google Tech Immersion (GTI), a 3-week ramp-up program for technical "Nooglers" (new Googlers) to learn about all the internal tools and resources, developer workflows, Google culture, and much more. So right now that day-to-day for me looks like two to three daily sessions on various onboarding topics, a couple weekly meetings to get to know my new manager and teammates, and filling the time in between working on my GTI project (during GTI, each Noogler is put on a small, short-term team of ~ten Nooglers to work on a project of their choosing to help prepare them for future project work). I'm in my last week of GTI now and then I will start onboarding more directly onto my team and get geared up for my first project!

Lucas: So far, my day-to-day has been around learning the Google tools, deploy/build processes, and getting to know my team. I am currently ramping into my new role and working on transforming from a product engineer to a cloud infrastructure engineer. I’m starting on my first project and already learning so much on structure and process. I am surrounded by so many talented minds who consistently show that they are invested in my success. Everyone is willing to give their time and offer mentorship or general one-off help on a task. My team is working remotely during this time, although I have been to the San Francisco office a few times.


What advice do you have for other bootcamp grads looking to interview for Google or a similar tech company?

Harry: Classic advice here, but doing Leetcode problems was very helpful in getting me ready for my technical interviews. But also, for me personally it's very different trying to solve those problems alone in your head versus in front of someone else out loud. So I'd definitely recommend recruiting your friends or fellow bootcampers to do mock interviews with you so that you get more experience working through those technical questions with the pressure of someone else watching and having to explain your thoughts out loud, as you would during a Google interview. I'd also say, as best you can, try to relax and just trust that you’ve got it (I know, easier said than done). But again, the second time around when I applied to Google and was interviewing, I could feel that I wasn't putting so much pressure or stress on it, and I believe that really helped allow me to be more myself throughout the interview process and ultimately land the job. Before each interview, I'd often go for a quick walk outside and listen to my favorite song just to help me relax and get in the zone. Find your rituals such as that and try to do them right before your interviews.

Lucas: My advice is to invest in interview preparation, network and find a referral, and stay positive through the interview process.

For interview preparation, I practiced algos for 1 hour per day for 6 weeks. I felt ready once I felt confident on most medium-rated questions. I purchased AlgoExpert, but I also did Leetcode. I practiced mock interviews with Google engineers (check out interviewing.io), Rithm classmates (thank you Winnie!), and my girlfriend.

Network and find a referral. Referrals are very powerful. In general, I found most success through referrals compared to cold applying.

Stay positive through the interview process. One thing that I would do differently next time is to try to be in the moment for each interview of the all day assessment. I had 4 technicals and one behavioral interview on the same day. I found myself over analyzing each interview which caused me to get in my head. Turns out in the one I thought I bombed, I was rated as “strong hire” and the one I thought I crushed, I was rated “average hire”. Stay positive because you really don’t know what can happen!


Anything else you think would be helpful for people to know about your journey?

Harry: Before starting Rithm, I was working in operations at a food-tech startup, and before that my career started as a full-time restaurant server and part time dog-walker just three and a half years ago. If you told me back then that I'd one day be a software engineer at Google, there's no way I'd believe you. I'm just so grateful to be where I am today, and all this to say that bootcamps really do work! I'm really lucky to have had a lot of opportunities that helped get me where I am today, but I do believe that regardless of your starting point, if you put in the time and the work, you too can make the pivot to become an engineer and be successful in that, so don't think that you can't!

Lucas: Trust in Rithm, your education, and yourself. I’m confident Rithm arms you with all the tools and fundamentals it takes to be a successful engineer. I constantly battle with impostor syndrome thinking “I shouldn’t be here” or “They’re going to find out that I am a bumbling idiot who can’t do my job.” Over time, I learned that Rithm gave me the fundamentals to solve any problem thrown at me. From day one, I was very good at my job, shipping my first feature by the end of my first week.

I’m more than happy for people to reach out to me with more questions. You can find me on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/lucaspagac/.

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