#MySideProject profiles awesome side projects from the college community!
Carlos Villalobos (@carlosvivaldi), globetrotter and student entrepreneur, goes above and beyond what Google’s internship application asked for to stand out from the crowd. How? He proposed a game changing initiative to promote Google Maps. Oh, and he posted it online for the whole world to see.
Can you tell us a little about yourself?
I grew up in El Salvador, went to a British high school that put a lot of emphasis on international experiences. I applied to Northeastern University because of its leadership opportunities as well as their co-op program. I am currently pursuing a major in Finance & Entrepreneurship. Well, I started off as a marketing major, and did my first co-op, six month internship, at Adobe Systems in San Francisco, California. I discovered that marketing in a classroom environment wasn’t something that I was looking for, so I switched into Finance to gain more technical, hands-on skills. In general, I’m fascinated by technology and seek every chance I get to fiddle with the newest gadgets out there. My other interests include going out for coffee, brunch, running and photography.
What position at Google were you applying for? How did you stumble upon it?
During my second co-op program, people kept telling me that now was the time to start building my network and they were right. I wasn’t going to wait until graduation to put this networks to work, so I decided to start reaching out to people in the technology industry in the efforts of getting my second co-op. I cold called and e-mailed recruiters in the industry until one thing led to another. An opportunity came abroad – the Google BOLD internship program. I was rejected during the first round of applications but I wasn’t going to take no for answer — not for something I had worked so hard on. In about a week I put together the Google initiative project and sent it back to the recruiter who originally sent the rejection e-mail.
Can you describe MyGoogleInternship?
MyGoogleInternship is a fictitious project that I made out of self-initiative in order to strengthen my internship application at Google. I took on the role as an Associate Product Marketing Manager at Google assigned to the Google Maps team after Apple insourced its own maps application for iOS. In this situation, I’ve been given a billboard space in New York City’s Times Square with a few objectives. Essentially my idea was to set up a panoramic display booth in Times Square that advertises Google Maps in an unconventional fashion to increase our user base, measure our growth and spark awareness to our product. I designed a modest proposal, dealt with the financials, and measured the return.
What inspired you to go above and beyond? And how long did this take?
I guess I just tend to do that, to be honest. At this point in time, with all the resources available, it’s easy to learn about anything you’d like to know. There’s no excuse not to. There is absolutely no reason you shouldn’t go the extra mile. It sets you apart from all the other candidates. It shows you care. This project took about a week to do; on top of classes, extracurriculars, and looking for other co-op opportunities. I’m also part of a case consulting management team and we build actual initiatives for different companies each week, so I kind of leveraged that expertise to get this done quickly. Getting everything straight, researching, and building the website took just a few days.
How did Google respond?
When I sent my initiative to my Google recruiter, I didn’t hear back from her for two weeks. All of a sudden I received a response from her saying that Google’s Hiring Manager loved my passion and wanted to interview me. Her exact words were: “I’m obsessed with his website”. Although this story doesn’t have the ending I would’ve expected, it was still a happy one. I interviewed with them late January and got turned down. However, I was still reaching out to other companies. I received an offer from a company in London that offers investment management consulting. It was too good of an opportunity to pass down.
What were other reactions that you received?
When the website went live on a Sunday, someone found it online and posted it on Hacker News. The next thing I know, I was getting numerous emails and the view count went up to 3,122 in one day. My personal website got a similar amount of views. I was like ‘what the hell just happened?’ Of course there was a lot of criticism, but also positive reactions and feedback. People said: “I used to process HR [at Google], reviewed thousands of approved applications, none of them have anything close to something like this.”I understood that when you put yourself out there, you should expect things to go either good or bad.
What advice do you have for students looking to apply to big corporations like Google or any companies in general?
Hey it’s not easy, but the adventure is worth the struggle. I would strongly recommend three things:
Networking is very important. The ability to reach out to people and introduce yourself on a cold email is absolutely ground breaking. Don’t be afraid of emails and don’t sell yourself short, aim high and do everything beyond your reach to get there. If you want something, go get it. Nothing is stopping you. Let them know that this is who you are, and this is why you want to work for them. There is an importance in taking risks and fighting for what you really want. Google’s product management is still my dream job and I went all in for it. I managed to get the attention of their Hiring Manager.
Next, always go the extra mile. It never hurts to go beyond and do something unexpected. Stop thinking outside the box but try to redesign the box. Write down your story and don’t be afraid of sharing it around. Look, I’ve come to realize we are the face of a new and upcoming generation; one that will take over key leadership positions, not only of this country but all throughout the world, and it is up to us to put ourselves forward and challenge our capabilities to new frontiers. We’ve got to set new and higher standards. We are writing the future. Life is now and today you are the youngest that you’ll ever be; you better be making the most of it. Do it because it is up to you, and if you don’t, then no one will.
Finally, never underestimate the power of a smile, of being relatable and personal, and showing that you care for something; this goes further than any skill or GPA. People want to know who you are, what you’re moved by; whether that’s red velvet cupcakes, salsa dancing or technology. Try to improve yourself every day and aim higher than ever before. You know, Google has a lower acceptance rate than Harvard University, and I won’t stop working towards this goal because there isn’t anything in the world that I want the most.
What are you working on now?
I’m actually starting my own company — Bökeh. We intend to change the mobile photography experience with a groundbreaking innovation. It’s crazy. Right now I’m meeting with potential investors and sending business plans around. We just joined an accelerator program — it’s pretty exciting right now. I would encourage anyone who is interested in starting their own venture to go out there shake the ground.