Flying high: From SBE to Google to a trip across Africa

Should I do my master or get some work experience? This question was haunting me as my bachelor studies were coming to an end.

I was having a small “life crisis” and for two whole weeks I was obsessed with the question of what to do next.

On one hand I wanted to get some real life experience after studying for three years in my home city Buenos Aires followed by another 18 months in Maastricht and spending two semesters abroad in Singapore’s NUS and Aachen’s RWTH.

On the other hand, the only company that really interested me at that time was Google, but everyone was telling me it would be impossible to get into it.

Since I like challenges, I decided to send in my application before returning to Argentina. I got through a few phone interviews and was invited to the European HQ in Dublin for more interviews.

I was told that I would be kept informed on the outcome and I flew back to Argentina. Six weeks later I was visiting my girlfriend (a UM alumna) who was doing an exchange programme at the Universidad del Pacifico in Lima, Peru. I heard the good news as we were standing in the parking lot of a small supermarket and we celebrated right there jumping and screaming, next to a group of puzzled or scared Peruvians.

Embracing all learning opportunities

I moved to Dublin two months later and started working in the support team for AdWords customers in Spain. This is a common entry level position where newcomers are able to get a deep understanding about Google products and online marketing in general.

The first thing I noticed in the Dublin office is its international atmosphere, since it covers all of Europe, the Middle East and Africa, It’s not uncommon to hear 40+ different languages as you walk through the building.

And it’s not only the people. I also worked from different offices for special projects or events. and was able to visit the Google offices in Buenos Aires, Madrid, London, Wroclaw, San Francisco and the global HQ in Mountain view, where I stood in line in the canteen next to Eric Schmidt, Larry Page and Sergey Brin. (Yes, they have to queue like everyone else.)

At Google I had the chance to get involved and learn from a variety of teams. This was a great way to acquire an experience in other areas of the business and get a better understanding of it.

A few months after starting at Google, I was able to arrange for some Google representatives to participate in a career day event in Maastricht, which I also attended as one of the presenters.

It was great to see things from the other side only a few months after graduating.

I was also given training regarding recruitment procedures and had the opportunity to conduct several interviews for the HR department, both on the phone and on-site. This allowed me to meet very talented and interesting people, some of whom joined my team later on.

One year later I switched to another team that focused more on consultative sales. There my job consisted in giving advice to SMBs on how best to improve their online marketing strategy. In this team I had the chance to pilot some of the latest solutions that Google offers in the field of online marketing together with a global team made up of Irish, Polish, American and Indian colleagues. (Always tricky to schedule VC meetings with people living in these time zones).


Award winning video: Cultural Glasses

As a side project, I also became involved with the Learning and development (L&D) department where I volunteered as a part time trainer. I gave full day trainings about AdWords to newcomers once a month on average. SBE presentations skills came in very handy here. The feedback was great and I enjoyed giving presentations so six months later I switched to the CSI (Creative skills for innovation) team. This team uses the “Design Thinking” methodology, developed at Stanford University, to spark innovation in any kind of challenge that teams in Google may face.

I learned a lot from this team and after some time I had the opportunity to facilitate an innovation workshop for the services department’s global leadership team, with regional leaders flying in from all over Europe, North America, India and Japan. The experience was as stressful as it was rewarding.

Celebrating cultural diversity

Getting involved in so many projects is challenging but it has great benefits too.

Being invited to take part in the global L&D summit in Mountain View was a great way to meet face to face the people we were collaborating with via VC. This trip included a surprise visit to Stanford University, where we joined an innovation workshop together with representatives from Apple and Prezi (who attended via VC from Budapest). It was a unique experience.

The global diversity summit was another one. I had started a diversity group called “One World Project” in Dublin in order to celebrate cultural diversity in the office. We organized country presentations hosted by a native presenter and special treats such as an Ethiopian coffee ceremony and Russian caviar or Argentinian “Mate” tea tasting events. The group became very popular and reached over 400 registered members within the first three months. Thanks to the help of UM alumna Judith Enders, we later added language tandem classes and group conversation days.My passion for travelling and foreign cultures gave me a chance to present at a TEDx event in our Wroclaw office in Poland.

Video awards

Another passion of mine is video making. I was able to develop my skills a bit further at Google too. First I was pleasantly surprised when two years in a row my videos won the first prize in an internal “Google commercials” competition organized during our annual sales conference. Seeing the public (over 3000 Googlers) cheering and voting for my creations gave a boost to my self-confidence in film directing and encouraged me to take part in two other external competitions, which I also won.  (Cultural Glasses & 40 countries)

After my second year at Google, the internal communications team of my department (SMB sales) asked me to help them in creating video content on a regular basis. I accepted and in my spare time I started a project to create educational videos for our customers too. Over a dozen of them can be seen in our official Youtube channel for Spain.

One of the last things I got the chance to do was a three months rotation in the Social Action team, the corporate social responsibility department in Google’s European HQ. This team’s mission consists in giving something back to the community in the surrounding area and supporting NGOs in the region through a variety of programmes. The main focus at the time was the Age Engage programme which aims to reduce the digital gap by increasing internet literacy among people aged over 50. During my time in this team I focused on improving the internal communications and recruitment of volunteers for the programme.

It’s hard to summarize everything I learned during these two years at Google. I do know for sure that the teaching methodology I discovered at Maastricht University – working in small groups and giving frequent presentations in an international atmosphere – helped me make a smooth transition into the very similar Google way of working.

Overall one of the best things from my working experience at Google was the amount of talented people I was privileged enough to work with.

We now form a strong network and I am sure that we will help each other again in the future. I say this because I am not working at Google anymore. I left the company two weeks ago to enjoy the prize I won at the last video competition, a USD 16,000 travel voucher for two.


Award winning video: I am Intrepid – 40 Countries, 1 student Budget

Life is an adventure

After some months travelling in Africa I intend to go back to Maastricht to do a master in entrepreneurship and hopefully try my luck in this field afterwards. Doing what I still don’t know for sure, but that will be in two years from now, which is roughly the same amount of time that has passed since I first joined Google and so many things happened, so who can tell really?

I try to stay open at all times and make the most of the opportunities that come my way.

I know this will sound cheesy and you are free not to believe me, but as a matter of fact, as I am typing these words, I am flying somewhere over Mozambique where my girlfriend and I will do our first stop in our four month trip from Capetown to Cairo. The captain has just announced in Ethiopian that we need to get ready for landing. Perfect timing to finish this article and close my netbook. If you are interested in our adventure follow us on www.somehowitravel.com.

By Nicola Bori

Nicolás Bori is an SBE alumnus who went on to work for Google’s European headquarters in Dublin, Ireland. In June 2012, Nicolás won an award for a video that he created “40 countries, 1 student budget”. The prize was a USD 16.000 travel voucher that he is currently using to fly from Capetown to Cairo in four months.

There are 5 comments

  1. Ahmad Salahnejhad

    Dear Nicolás,

    Thanks for this nice and useful post especially the clip.
    Just there is one narrow point you have made in between about Iran wrongly with music, dress and indentities of arabic people.

    Iran is a country with different sub-ethnicity or cultures including, Azeri, Kurds, Arabs, Turkmen and Lors, etc. Ofcourse we respect each other and there is no problem in between. But this is wrong to indicate some point about Iran with showing the same arabic signs you already showed for Arabs …
    I myself have the Azeri language and culture but we all live in persia with different simbols than Arabs.
    Iran is not an Arabic country neither with arabic language and culture. and It is not true to show Iran part of Arabic countries.

    If you didn’t have some one in Persian language or Iranian to show the point of culture, still is not good to use arabic version for it!
    And If you need help, please feel free to ask in this case.

  2. Nicolas Bori

    Dear Ahmad,

    Thanks for your comment, I am glad you enjoyed the post. Sorry for the delay in this reply but I have been travelling till recently in Africa and the internet access was not the best.

    I am sorry if the Iranian part of the video generated some confusion according to you. I am very aware that Persian culture and language is very different from the arabic, I have been in Iran and find it a fascinating country. Even more, almost every time somebody asks me about my favorite trip I usually say Iran, the people I met there just made it a lovely experience. They did show me quite a lot about the country and culture and I was even lucky enough to assist to a wedding.

    I see the point that you make, about using the same music I had used for the Arabic section of the video in the Iranian clip. I had not intended to use music specifically for each country since in my opinion it made the flow of the video a bit harder to follow with too many changes. That is why even in some sections you will hear that the “middle east” music continues even though I am showing scenes from Ireland or Italy (clearly not Arabic either). In regards to the dress and the environment I used to represent Iran, again my resources were limited and I could not get orinal Persian clothing, Turkish, Irish, etc. Instead I choose to go by themes. I used a similar background and clothing to shot the Iran and other middle east scenes because they share some cultural elements (like the shisha, ḡalyān, nargile depending where you are). Again, I understand that its different, but the point of the video was to illustrate some broad cultural differences and not to make a detailed and profesional representation of each culture and subculture of the world, that would be definitely out of the scope of this video and probably more valid for a long documentary.

    As I am sure you know, the same point about subcultures and sub-ethnicities applies to almost all of the other countries represented in the video, and is not an Iran only issue. I would be delighted to do an Iran only video, to learn and represent each aspect of its culture in more detail but unfortunately I do not have the funds to do so. If you ever hear about any competition (like the one my video took part) that could allow this, please let me know. Like I said, Iran is one of my favourite countries and would love to see more of it anytime.

    I hope this makes sense, if you have any questions do let me know.

    Sincerely,
    Nicolas

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