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How I left my job during the COVID crisis and landed at Google

A year ago I made the decision to leave my job. Without any back-up plan, without any idea of where I was going — I resigned.
Khrystyna GRYNKO

Cloud Customer Engineer, Google

A year ago I made the decision to leave my job.

Without any back-up plan, without any idea of where I was going — I resigned.

Well, there was some time to figure it all out thanks to the 3-month notice period in France for this type of role.

Many business magazines, including the very prestigious, have recently published articles about young people leaving their jobs during COVID to pursue their dreams and/or to drastically change their careers. Was I one of these cases? Maybe.

How did I know it was time to go?

After spending so much time “locked down” with my job, suddenly I didn’t see meaning in it anymore no matter how hard I tried.

What scared me the most was the fact that I had lost interest in learning new things in my domain. It was so confusing for me, who used to read professional books before going to bed, waking up to the latest articles about the trends and best practices in my professional area.

That shocked me, I was thinking “Hey have I become one of these unfortunate people who wake up one day having lost all of their curiosity, enthusiasm and motivation, never to get it back?”

I spent months reflecting on that and read a bunch of self development books trying to fix what was broken.

When this loss of interest affected my performance and my impact in the company, I took the difficult decision to quit. Why difficult? I had been there for more than five years, I loved my team, I had a fancy title and a decent salary, I was rather successful in my domain and had enjoyed the opportunity to grow.

I announced my resignation before finding something new — the decision that surprised many. I just couldn’t imagine myself discussing the next year’s strategy with my team (as if I was going to be part of it) and then having a job interview with another team. It was all about integrity for me.

Choosing a next step

Once the resignation letter was signed, I started to make a plan.

I had never considered myself to be an entrepreneur and also couldn’t afford a year-long retreat somewhere in Bali to search for the meaning of life.

So there were two main questions to answer:

Where to go — what type of company?

To do what — what type of job?

Eliminating the types of companies that “didn’t spark joy”, I concentrated on the main criteria:

- Medium or large-sized company

I was working in a small digital marketing agency at the time, where one person ruled it all. It just wasn’t my thing anymore. I was warned by some people that I was going to be “just a cog in the wheel” in a large company. My ego was okay with that.

- Technology company

Getting from marketing to tech was an idea that had pursued me for a long time. It was a great opportunity to bring it to life.

- Product company — a company that develops and sells a product, not man hours. But not just any product — the product I admire and I’m passionate about. So the list was made. What I was going to do in one of these companies?

While working at the small agency I had a great chance to perform different types of tasks at every stage of client projects: sales, pre-sales, project management, implementation, customer success.

I tried to figure out what part of the job made my eyes shine. It turned out to be the pre-sales stage when we discussed with the client how their problem could be solved in the best way with the best tools.

Checking a wide range of pre-sales engineer job descriptions, this role seemed like something I was searching for. It was called Customer Engineer at Google Cloud. Even better!

Becoming a pre-sales engineer in a large tech company after working as head of data analytics in a small digital marketing agency, it sounded like a career change.

I knew I was going to start from zero or almost.

Searching for a job

People — they are the most important asset in our lives. Having my list of companies, I reached out to my LinkedIn connections for all the advice and inputs.

I didn’t have a lot of pre-sales contacts so I emailed some people I didn’t know to ask about their jobs. Some of them answered and kindly agreed to schedule a call with me to explain what being a pre-sales engineer meant in their companies.

I asked some of my connections to give me feedback on my CV and to refer me as well. I didn’t apply to a job without being referred — that was my strategy. A marketing-profile woman, with no pre-sales job in her background, and no engineering experience — the “HR scan” would quickly throw my CV into the rubbish bin. Worth mentioning is that I’m Ukrainian searching for a job in France so there was a danger of concern about my french-language skills (a must for a sales or pre-sales jobs). And yes, even with my 7-years experience in France it could possibly happen.

Getting a referral is not a problem even if you don’t know anybody from the company of interest. You can always try to connect to someone on LinkedIn. Make sure you have a well-crafted LinkedIn profile and a well-presented CV. Employees receive bonuses for recruited referrals, so they are incentivised to pay attention to those who ask. It works, trust me.

As a back-up plan I still applied to several large marketing agencies for roles similar to mine. If a “career change” didn’t work out, I still needed to pay my mortgage.

It turned out that I couldn’t apply to the agencies — my company activated the “non-competition clause” in my contract that included all marketing agencies of all sizes.

So the career change was a necessity and not an option anymore.

Preparing for the interviews

I had several rules for interview preparation:

- Read the job description carefully and be sure to have an example to provide for every requirement (even if it’s only distantly related)

- Check the articles and Youtube videos on how to pass the job interview at this company

- Read a lot of information about the company, its values and latest news

- Talk to people from the company and ask them questions about their work and how they passed their interviews

- Read the interview question examples on Glassdoor and other websites

- Prepare my answers to the possible questions (I rehearsed the answers with my English teacher who by an amazing coincidence had a recruiter background).

But none of my preparation took as much time as the one for Google. As you may know, there are three types of interviews there:

GCA and Leadership/Googleyness — to check your soft skills. You answer some behavioural (what did you do?) and hypothetical (what would you do?) questions.

RRK — role-related knowledge. For Google Cloud, you answer some technical questions, and you may need to draw the Cloud architecture as well.

For the GCA and Leadership/Googleyness I prepared plenty of different stories to answer the hypothetical and behavioral question examples, all written using the STAR framework : Situation, Task, Action, Result.

I got none of the questions I prepared, but I learned how to follow a STAR schema to answer the questions efficiently. It helped a lot.

For the RRK part, I spent 2 months waking up and falling asleep with cloud videos, cloud documentation and cloud schemas. I even dreamt about cloud! All that while managing my daily job of course — I was still on my notice period.

I chose Google Cloud because I loved and knew BigQuery. But Google Cloud is far more than BigQuery. So I needed to ramp up my knowledge about other GCP services as well.

Google Cloud was number one on my list as I truly appreciate the quality of the products they create. I wanted to get there so much I even came up with some kind of “mantra” (repeated every morning and evening) “Hi, I’m Khrystyna and I’m a Customer Engineer at Google”.

Just before the end of my notice period, Google called me to say that I was hired!

How is it going?

I’ve been at Google for 8 months now.

A completely new role, a completely different company. A completely new type of client — I work with public institutions now, have never worked in this sector before.

It was and it is challenging, but I’ve got all the necessary energy and motivation to embrace these challenges.

Fortunately my role is still related to data as I help clients with Google Cloud data-related services among others.

So yes it was a career change, but still logical and reasonable on my CV.

Last year I made a career choice partially catalysed by COVID lockdown and this choice has turned out to be right.

I feel like I’m in the perfect career place now.

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