Our ‘A Day in the Life’ series highlights alumni in various fields and positions, offering a glimpse of what life after graduation is like. This post comes to us from M&T alumna Alissa, currently working at Google in New York.
Please briefly describe what industry you’re in and what your particular position entails.
I’m a Software Engineer at Google on the Sheets team (http://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/). As a software engineer, I design and write software to create and improve products that help users throughout the world.
What time did you get up this morning before work?
What time did you start working, and what time were you done for the day?
I usually work from around 9:30 am to 7 or 7:30 pm but I try to fit in an hour of exercise during the day. This morning I rode my bike before work and yesterday I took a kickboxing class at work in the evening.
What were some of the projects you worked on today?
I recently built a validation framework to check for user errors in the product so I’ve been finishing that up and using it with some tools that other members of my team wrote to find bugs.
Who specifically did you interact with today, besides coworkers (clients, interns, researchers, executives, founders, etc.)?
We have two interns on the team this summer that I spoke to today, but other than that, I don’t typically interact with people other than coworkers.
Are you currently traveling or about to travel for work?
No, my current team doesn’t require much travel although we did take a trip to Puerto Rico for fun. On my previous team, I traveled to London, Germany and China to meet with coworkers and clients.
What was your favorite part of the work day?
Eating lunch with my team. My team usually eats together at a big table in the cafeteria. The food is all free and it’s a great opportunity to chat about both work and non-work related things.
What are some of the challenges within your position that you particularly enjoy?
I work on a product that needs to be as powerful as a desktop app but available as web and phone apps with real time collaboration. I enjoy thinking about ways to solve these complex problems and writing software to make it happen.
How did you end up in your current position?
I applied online and got an internship at Google for the summer before senior year. After the internship, I got a full-time offer, joined the company after graduation, and have been there ever since.
How did M&T help prepare you for where you are today?
Most software engineers only study computer science or related fields in school so having an additional perspective from the Wharton side gives me an advantage. During my time at Google, I have led a team, interacted with product managers, user interface designers, and individuals in customer support and marketing within the company and met with clients outside the company. Wharton helped me learn how to manage those relationships and speak their language. I can see myself putting those business skills to use even more as I move along in my career, perhaps by moving into a bigger leadership role or starting a company.
What advice do you have for those who might be interested in pursuing a similar path?
In order to get a job as a software engineer, you need to prove that you already have the skills needed for the job. That’s different than many other jobs you get straight out of college where you will be trained and the specific skills you come in with aren’t as important. Therefore, you should take classes with projects, or work on projects outside of class, that will help you improve your programming skills. Even if you decide not to become a software engineer, programming skills will be useful in pretty much any path you decide to take.
Alissa is currently a Software Engineer at Google in New York. She graduated from Penn and M&T in 2008 with a Bachelor of Science in Computer Science from Penn Engineering and a Bachelor of Science in Economics from the Wharton School with a concentration in Finance. In her spare time, she loves biking, cooking, yoga, and traveling to new places.