Q: Should I apply to Google if I am starting out as a coder or coming from a coding bootcamp?

This is a very popular question that I often get asked from many people getting into the field of programming. Will Google hire me if I am coming from a coding bootcamp or if I am early on in my coding career and don't have much experience or even a college degree?

It's a good question for sure. And involves many different factors, so there's no clean cut "No" on this one. Which is the answer that most people are actually expecting if we are to be honest. They want to be told that Google is out of their league for now, and they should come back around after they make their way around the board once or twice. Except that's not accurate either. There are fine folks at Google with varying degrees of knowledge and experience, just like at any other company. Some are brand new to coding and some have PhD's in it (that's a thing!).

Why do you want to work at Google? is a follow up question that I am prone to ask those who ask me. And what follows after is usually a deep introspective look into why people feel so inadequate in their skill level and why it's even a question at all. So let's talk about that on today's post.

The answer that I receive 80% of the time to my question is "Because it's Google, duh". Fair enough. That's a good answer. There are many reasons to want to work at Google, a few being:

And many more, some personal to you, and others not so much. If you are interested in any of those items listed, then you should consider applying to work at Google. Even if it's just for the free food. Apply, and apply hard. I hear they have great coffee as well. And just look at their job search page! They even made it fun to apply to a job with clever wording and animations.

So let's dive a bit deeper into why you really want to apply to work at Google. Which you can. Right here, at this link. Do so if you wish.

Why do you want to work at Google?

Aside from the many online videos on their fantastic open-space campus and the many perks that come with being a Google employee (mentioned above), what else is there for a brand new programmer to gain from working there? Assuming you've worked nowhere technical before, why Google is my question. Why not Amazon? Or Microsoft? Or something not so obvious.

Are you able to picture yourself working for a smaller company doing pretty much the same thing but without the lavish office lifestyle? And the usual answer to this is, yes. In fact, most people seem to feel more relaxed with this train of thought. You mean I don't have to be amazing and have a high IQ? You can if you want to, that's a personal choice. But you are not required to, at least not yet.

I feel like there is less stress overall if applying to say your local web design shop 3 doors down. As oppose to packing up your bags, saying goodbye to your mom and making the move to Mountain View for a cozy office chair and plentiful office snacks.

I personally have never applied to Google in my 10+ years as a professional programmer. Not because I didn't feel like I couldn't (maybe in the beginning), or because Google is bad in any way. Did you see the perks list?? But mainly because for me, the thrill is in the work, and not so much in where I am working. It's in learning and solving challenges for someone, whether an employer or a client from any comfortable and quiet space that I can find.

I've met some of my greatest friends and co-workers in what you would classify as the "typical coding job". Small to medium sized companies with (less) snacks and office dogs and sort of functioning computers. Not quantum computers. But at least an i5 processor.

I've worked in the city where my family lives, or in the general vicinity for years, and found it to be convenient, both for keeping a healthy work and family life balance. In my older age these days, the charm of moving across the world to code from unknown locations has mainly died down. In exchange, with increased knowledge and coding ability, there is now a sense of a more purposeful career driven life, where I am working with personal clients and building my own applications on the side.

So before you panic about working for Google. Have a clear answer to that question. Why is it that you want to work there? And is it a deal breaker if you don't get in. And what's the worse that could happen if you get a "normal" coding job?

Should you apply to Google?

To answer the initial question. My answer is "why not apply to Google?". Apply to Google and apply multiple times if you need to. Here's the link again. Apply every 6 months as your skillset grows and grows. Make friends with people at Google. Email their recruiters and let them know that you are interested in working for them. Google hires thousands of developers every single year. Some have college degrees and some don't. Some are young and some are old. The biggest obstacle for most early developers when thinking about working for large corporations is their own disbelief in their abilities.

Many times I hear "Once I am better, I will apply to Google". Maybe some of you reading this right now had that same thought. So let's break that apart just a bit for a little more clarity because I close out this already kind of long article.

Once I am better... This assumes that you currently are mediocre at best. You can code a few algorithms and you are comfortable with Git and Github maybe. But given a real world project, you might start to question your abilities and panic. And that's perfectly fine. That is a part of learning and knowledge acquisition. And then ask yourself, would I hire someone that isn't confident in their abilities? Would Google, one of the world's largest and most innovative tech companies, hire someone that's sort of comfortable with code, but not really?

So tackle that obstacle first. Become confident in your skillset. And if you aren't, then work on ways of becoming more confident, whether through furthering your education, or through building more projects and sharing them online. Whatever makes it more concrete in your mind that you are indeed worthy of walking through the massive bronze doors of what is undoubtedly one of the most popular employers to date.

Walter G. is a software engineer, startup co-founder, former CTO of several tech companies and currently teaches programming for a coding bootcamp. He has been blogging for the past 5 years and is an avid BMX rider, bio-hacker and performance enthusiast.
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