Google engineer speaks on his biggest lessons learned

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Three year Google engineer, Stanford and Harvard-Westlake (HW) alumni, Max Mednik ‘02 spoke about his biggest lessons learned from work experience at Google Feb. 16 at the HW Upper School Campus.

Mednik, a software engineer and entrepreneur, first spoke about how he was able to get a job at Google and the pros and cons to working there.

“It was very hard to get a job at Google, selective like applying to college. There were phone interviews, five in-person interviews, and I studied through online courses to brush up on my knowledge beforehand, on algorithms, data structures, practice questions on binary tree, [etc]. I approached the interview very methodically.” said Mednik.

Focusing on the subject of his experience at Google, Mednik also said, “Pros towards working at Google are that the company is extremely organized, and the magnitude of the company provided stability and support from peers. One is surrounded by smart, hardworking people, and there are events that you can attend; similar to as you would in university. However, a huge con is that one is only working for a small part in an enormous community, and only a very small piece can be your own creation.” said Mednik.

Some important lessons he learned from working as a software engineer included, “High standards. Good quality takes time. Everything takes longer than you think.”, Mednik said.

He introduced the topic of ‘yak shaving’, which essentially means in order to complete one task as an engineer exhaustively, one may need to do five other unrelated things first to successfully complete their goal.

Mednik also stressed the importance of organization, saying that as an engineer, it is critical to split things up into smaller tasks, or components, and focus on one thing at a time to keep track of completed work and what is left to complete. Another essential tool that he mentioned was what he called a “design doc” an ordered outline of things that need to be done in priority of importance. These designed docs are then reviewed by fellow workers and given feedback on, before the executing work begins.

Finally, Mednik talked about the importance of “pre-mortems” and “post-mortems”, critical reflections before and after finishing a project. Some examples Mednik referenced: “What are the things that are going to go wrong before I start the project?” and after, “Why did this happen, what could have been done differently or better?” said Mednik.

He emphasized, “Good quality and high standards take time. All good things have a system; recognize success in patterns. Look for pre mortem and post mortems, always make sure to get a second opinion on work, surround yourself by smart, hard working people and tackle things one at a time in smaller components, with a plan and a vision, rather than all at once.” said Mednik.

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