Collaborate with internal customers and external advisors to assess the problems and risks faced by Google and our products. Wealth building tricks for lawyers, engineers and a 26% MBA. This interview is with Amrit Dhir, director of partner development at Google. And then, I did a series of random jobs.
I worked at an acting school, which was one of my least satisfying jobs. I worked for two summers in Vienna for an Emory study abroad program. In fact, it was in those summers that I developed a taste for international life and work. And so, a year after graduating, I returned to Vienna, went back to work and then moved to the Netherlands to do a master's degree.
And this time it was a master's degree in media culture. While I was there, I also had a couple of different jobs. I was working as a journalist and I was also working for the university on their initiative on India, which was a way of taking me to my next plan, which was to go to India. I was in India for two years.
I volunteered through a scholarship called Indicorps for the first year, and then I worked for that Dutch university, the University of Maastricht, the second year. And the backdrop to all this was that he had entered law school and had postponed two years to live in India. How has your professional career developed and how has it led you to your current position at Google? What were the thought processes you went through at those key moments, from working as a rock star to acting school, abroad and, ultimately, Google? A. And it's not one to which I always give the same answer.
It talks about the complexity of decisions, as well as our attempt to truly understand our own decisions. One thing for me is that I only follow what excites me. And so, in the beginning, music had a big part of that, and international life, experiences and learning. Two factors that drive me are curiosity and adventure.
And maybe they're the same thing. But I never made a five-year plan. I only follow what seems right to me. In general, it is something very different from what was before, and it is also usually something that involves some uncertainty and ambiguity.
So you graduated from college and the first thing you did was become a rock star. Well, a lot of what I'm going to say is different from how I would answer this question five years ago. Because, when we look back, we choose the things that speak to us and those that also seem consistent, so we lose a lot of the roughness and, in that sense, the truth. I graduated from Emory, then worked in Vienna for three months and returned home in September.
I started writing more music and reaching out to bands on Craigslist and trying to be their lead singer, and failed time and time again. At the same time, I was also looking for something to pay the bills. And that's how I ended up working at acting school. I probably shouldn't name the place, but I was the assistant director of admissions at this acting school.
I would do several things. One of them was going to high schools in the Los Angeles metropolitan area and being right next to the Army, the Marine Corps and the Navy, and convincing high school students that they shouldn't go to college but should go to acting school, which I had mixed feelings about. Is it one of those things specific to Los Angeles? A. I don't think this work exists anywhere else.
It was a bad job for me. What I ended up doing basically nine hours a day was a lot of fantastic basketball — I think I did very well that year in my different leagues — and applying for a master's degree in the Netherlands and applying for a scholarship, which I don't think I would have achieved if I hadn't had all this time to review my essays and everything else while I was at work. I haven't had a job like that since. So, after graduating, you tried to enter the music industry, but you worked in acting school.
Was it the first year you left college, and the next year you went to get your master's degree? A. My boss and also a very good friend, Peter, who had been working on this study abroad program at Emory, which is only taught in summer, asked me to come back the following summer. So, the summer after graduating, I worked for him. And he said, “Come back next summer.
I said, “You know, Peter, I could be touring the world with my rock band. And all this is a little ironic. So you did the acting school thing for a while and then you packed your bags and went to the Netherlands for the master's program. And that was a one-year program? A.
Technically they were 12 months, but they were divided so that the first four or five months were courses and the next semester was actually your choice between an internship, a group project or a master's thesis. And I ended up doing a combination of the first two. But the objective was this interaction between music and literature, but also between old and new media. It was a website, and they were people who composed their own music and recorded it online, but it was largely advertised through offline media.
Was there time between the master's degree and law school, or did you go straight? A. I moved to the Netherlands and started applying to law schools. I think I finished everything before the end of October and then did the rest of my master's degree. When I arrived and decided to go to Harvard, I asked for a deferment, because I knew — and in fact I knew before I even applied — that I wanted to go to India.
I knew that I wanted to move to India for a variety of reasons and I knew that I wanted to do some kind of service work. I found a wonderful organization called Indicorps and applied for it at the same time I was applying for law school—actually, a little later, the same year—and postponed law school for that reason. I went from Maastricht, a city of 200,000 inhabitants, to a city with a hundred times more people, which is crazy. And then, I spent two years in India.
What city in India are you in? Q. What was the nature of the work you were doing with Indicorps and what was it about? Therefore, Indicorps is the scholarship organization, but the NGO I was working with is called Manzil, which is an empowerment and learning center for young people in Delhi that works with young people from low-income environments and teaches all kinds of classes, such as English, mathematics, computers, things that are very practical, but also music, painting and theater. So I spent most of my time with Manzil, and my role there was more than volunteering. I taught English, but I was there to help the organization move from a model in which it depended on the founders, the founding family of three members, to one that was sustainable beyond their departure (they planned to move to the mountains), so that it could be run by their students and alumni, so that the NGO could operate on its own even without the founding family present.
And that's what I did that year. Did you work in India for two years? A. And the second year, I worked for Maastricht University to open an office in Bangalore. So I was living in Bangalore for a year, but I also travelled a bit.
Were you creating a development office or a student recruitment office? A. We were creating a branch of what would be the Institute of India at the University of Maastricht. The university had decided many years before that India was a major strategic initiative for them, much more than any other country outside the Netherlands or the EU. I got involved in this when I was studying there.
In fact, in large part, knowing that I wanted to go to India and trying to find a way to get there, I found my way at the university where they were planning this initiative. The Bangalore office was created for several things. I suppose the two most important are partnerships with other universities in India, so there's research, collaboration and hiring. Initially, we focused on master's and doctoral students from India to the Netherlands.
India, as you can imagine, has an enormous number of students. And it's hard for all those students to find all their opportunities, needs, and collaboration in one place. The idea was not to encourage brain drain, but to encourage what we call cerebral circulation. Therefore, have Indian students come to the Netherlands and learn about that culture, economy and academic environment, and bring them back to India or other parts of the world.
So, yes, I would say partnerships and recruitment, but a special type of recruitment. So you're going to law school at Harvard. You spent three years there and then immediately joined Google. How did you connect with them in the first place and how did you turn that into a job opportunity? A.
That's a big question with a really big answer. The gist of it is that I was very lucky to get a legal internship first. In my first year of law school, as most of the first years after December usually do, I was looking for work and knew that I wanted to be in the Bay Area. I thought I was interested in working with a technology company or a startup.
Or, in a completely different field, I thought that I might be working internationally and doing work of public interest, things that make the world a better place. I got a legal internship at Google with a team called Global Ethics and Compliance. I ended up interning with them for two months. I loved that team and I still love it, but I found another team that was doing work that interested me in the long term.
And that was called, at the time, New Business Development. And I managed and managed to make my way. I think Finagle has negative connotations, but I found my way to that team well. Thanks to a lot of luck and the help of good people, I managed to get an agreement where I worked part-time during the school year in the Boston office, which they call the Cambridge office, and then full time during the summer in Mountain View.
And that was the agreement until last August, when I started full time in what became the New Business Development team, which is Product Partnerships. The first internship you did in the legal department, did they come to campus or did you find them? In fact, some people called the program an MBA, and the JDs just got down to business. In my year, there were about 150 MBA interns and 11 JD interns. And MBA fellows work for conversion, work for jobs, and are optimistic about getting a job at Google when they finish business school.
The JD fellows went every freshman summer, which means they have two more years in law school. And at first they told us very directly: “There's no way you're going to start here after law school. It looks like you applied to them; they didn't come to Harvard Law School to recruit. They go to MBA programs to recruit.
They go to Harvard Business School. But they don't go to Harvard Law School. But first, and this is important for everyone who is trying to develop their own professional career, I first tried to find everyone I could who worked at Google and spoke to them first before filling out any form. And that's the way you should do it.
For recommendations or to understand what it's like to work at Google? Or both? A. I didn't know what the internal referral process was like. It ended up being an advantage for me to do so before filling out the form. But I was just trying to get information and learn how Google is organized, how these internship programs work and, later, also how legal things are organized.
I ended up talking to at least five or six people — at least two of whom were in the legal area — with whom I had an indirect connection. You know, you talk to someone and they say, “Oh, you should talk to Person X. He is in the legal area and could tell you how that organization is structured. So I did it first.
It's actually about doing informational interviews with people, but it seems that you ended up receiving a recommendation even before submitting your application. And Google has a policy that if a Google employee recommends someone and ends up coming to Google as a full-time employee, they get a bribe, an amount of money. If two Google users recommend you, they'll share the same amount of money. For my part, it was more informative and they also ended up being references.
It seems that that really helped you stand out from the crowd among the more than a thousand people who applied for this internship. For me, it just talks about curiosity. I know people who work there, so why wouldn't I want to know how things are organized? But also, from a professional point of view (I'm sure all the books on networks and careers say so), it's incredible how important real interpersonal interaction is. Resumes only say a lot; cover letters say much less.
Why does Google have this program if it's not designed to be a recruitment funnel? A. I have to say that I'm not a Google spokesperson and I don't know the exact reasons, but I can explain to you, as a former law student, why it makes sense. As a law student, your second-year internship or associate position is really the one that's set up to be the place where you'll work when you graduate. Most people who go to work at a law firm will have “vacationed” at that law firm in the summer following their second year.
That makes your first year of summer open to doing something else. And one of the tips I was given when I was a law student and that I give to other law students is that if you're not sure if you want to work in a law firm, don't work for a law firm your first summer. I think that's really good advice. If you know, if you love litigation or whatever, do it.
But if you're not sure, it's good to do something else. I think Google and I'm sure that other employers, who know that they can't accept law students directly from law school, and for whatever reasons, I think that for most in-house positions in most companies, it's that they want you to receive the training that you get in a law firm for three or five years before joining, so that they don't train you themselves. Because being a lawyer is largely about learning on the job. So it only makes sense to take someone as an intern in your first summer.
Because if you catch them in their second summer, you're taking away their chance to work in a law firm, which could hurt them in the end, because they won't have that offer in their hands by the end of the summer. So it's more of a law student's consideration than Google's, saying, “No, we want to make it difficult for you. So, is the idea to plant the seed for them to think about Google three or five years after having had experience in a law firm? Q. You mentioned that you became friends with some people from the New Business Development group and then found your way to that group.
How exactly did that happen? A. First of all, when I entered law school, I knew that I wasn't interested in being a lawyer for a long time, if at all. That was reaffirmed in the second week of Civil Procedure when I realized that I didn't really want to be a litigator and probably didn't want to be a lawyer. But I still enjoyed law school and learned a lot from it.
And then, during my legal internship, my manager's manager's manager used to send an email from Google's New Business Development group expanding on what everyone was working on. At the time, New Business Development consisted of a team of about 80 people in different Google offices, as well as in some remote areas, who were working on all early-stage projects in all product areas. In a way, they are a kind of business ninjas. They enter projects and leave them.
We would be involved when necessary and, in some cases, we would be fully integrated into the team. So a very agile and also incredibly exciting group. So I would get this email every week and see all the things they were working on: encouraging entrepreneurship in the Palestinian Territories, working on the Maps APIs, or working on Chrome. I mean, in general, and only very interesting projects and working with very interesting partners.
And I thought that was cool. Google has a pretty good internal database where you can find out who works on what team. I started to look at it very closely and tried to meet with people. And Google has been able to maintain, as a big company, a very good culture of openness and transparency, but also of being welcoming, and people will be happy to talk to you for coffee, lunch or whatever.
Another thing Google has is 20 percent of projects. My Ethics and Compliance manager, in the legal area, encouraged me a lot by accepting 20 percent projects. And I did this not only with the development of new businesses, but with other areas that interested me. And, in fact, one of the problems was that I had contacted a lot of people in my 20 percent projects during the first four weeks.
The projects don't come right away, but there was one week — I think in my seventh week — in which I had, I think, four or five 20 percent projects. I basically had 180 percent in my time with Google. In fact, I ended up spending 40 hours a weekend working, which isn't Googley. I remember that my internship partner I was living with said, “That's not Googley.
You shouldn't be working. But it was my fault, and it ended up being a good thing. How did the transition point actually happen? One thing that probably influenced me is that I wrote a letter to Human Resources and several people. I think Megan and Cathy also appeared in that letter, in which I informed them that I had spoken to the Harvard Registrar, which I had done, and that I was considering taking a leave of absence.
I wrote them an email in the context of a vacant position for someone with only a bachelor's degree and three or four years of experience, saying, “I would take a leave of absence from Harvard, even if it were indefinitely. I've been very careful with the way I wrote this, because I wanted to communicate that, basically, I'm willing to drop out of law school because of this. I think that's what I want to do and it talks to me. It's exciting.
So I think that letter was probably influential. I remember that when I got the internship during the school year, one of my current classmates approached me and said, “Don't leave law school. That would be a big mistake. I think someone else said, “Let's see if there's any way you can eat your cake and eat it too.
And that ended up working. Just for people who aren't familiar with Google's business development organization or product association, what do they do in that role on a day-to-day basis? Q. What is it like to work at Google and what do you find most exciting about the job? A. I love things that people don't even like.
I love looking at contracts and negotiating compensation. But there are also the sexiest things. I should specify that my team works with four different groups at Google. Research, which is a little different from the research branches of other companies.
Infrastructure, which are data centers and all kinds of backends or all the really important things. Google's autonomous units, which are wholly-owned subsidiaries and only entities that are managed separately from other product areas, because we want them to operate like a startup; we want them to be separated for other reasons. They also tend to fall into the category of early-stage projects, such as, today, Google Fiber and Google Helpouts. Then, Google X, which is Google's lunar laboratory, from which things such as the autonomous car and the Google Glass of.
One of the things I like most about my job is that I learn about new industries and new products all the time. And I have to catch up on these things, often with very fast deadlines, but it's exciting; it's different every month. I normally use between two and five products at a time. It means juggling a lot of time management and clear communication, but it also means that you can learn a lot and not do just one thing every day.
If you took a step back and looked at your career in general, what is the biggest learning you feel you've learned in your career to date? Once again, I don't want to downplay the role of luck, because I think I've been very lucky and I think that there are other factors that contribute to it. One of them was that those kinds of things are possible at Google; it's possible for someone with a JD to enter the business organization. But I can't deny that I've been very lucky with the people who have defended me and with the opportunities that, in some cases, have been presented to me. But when they don't fall into your lap, go after them.
It seems that the more curious you are, the more you pursue things, the luckier you get. There's a whole group of people—I think probably including my father—who believe that you create your own luck. I don't have the answers to that yet. Talk about injustice and injustice in the world, and if I tried to go down that road now, I would stumble.
Or the more you work, the more prepared you are to take advantage of opportunities. Yes, and that's a very good one. Another good element to put there with ambition, curiosity, luck, is hard work. Working part time during law school is not an easy thing, I suppose I should say.
To be fair, it's much easier in the second and third year than in the first year. I don't think I should tell Human Resources, but technically I was working 10 hours a week. In reality, I worked 20 to 30 hours a week. I spent a lot of time in the office and also went to all my classes.
Because, once again, according to the funny thing, I hate skipping class, especially in 2L and 3L. In 2L and 3L, you choose your own classes, and I only chose the classes I wanted to be in. Where do you see yourself in the future when it comes to your career? A. I don't know, but it doesn't worry me that much.
I love what I do now. And as long as I love it, I'm going to keep doing it. If you ask me or many of the people who know me well, it means that I would be in a big company. Five years ago, if you had asked me that, I would have said, “No.
I would be in a startup. I would be in a smaller company. But first of all, Google isn't really a typical big company. It's a difficult thing to do, but I think he's done a good job retaining some of that startup feeling.
In addition, I must be fair in saying that some of the teams I work with are a kind of startups. Where will I be? I can tell you that wherever I am, I will remain faithful to the elements of curiosity, ambition and creativity. There is creativity in what I do today. That is something that is no longer part of my work today as it used to be.
I could see it again, because I think that, like many people who have lived abroad, it makes you want to be abroad again for the next adventure, to speak a language that is not your own. I could see that thing coming closer and biting me hard. What advice would you give to other people as they explore their own careers? A. I suppose to end all those things I was talking about (curiosity, ambition, hard work and luck), don't be afraid.
I think that might be a good way to think about it. It just occurred to me now, by the way. If you see something interesting, go ahead. If getting the job means you have to work hard for several years, do it.
How to get into Harvard Law School (whether you have the highest scores or not) What is my good faith? I started out at McKinsey and HGGC private equity (a spin-off of Bain Capital) and along the way, I got a CFA before dedicating myself to the product on LinkedIn, Redfin, Pinterest and Google. She has a law degree from the University of Austin and a law degree from Harvard Law School. Licensed to practice law in NY, CA and HI. Save my name, email, and website in this browser for the next time I comment.
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Basically, large corporations only hire experienced lawyers for in-house positions, usually someone who has served as outside counsel for a while. One way to do this is by partnering with law firms so that diverse law students from across the country spend a few weeks during the summer working with their in-house team and outside counsel. .