While passing water dispensers filled with fresh fruit and cucumbers, a cooking studio, wellness center, gym, and play area (complete with ping pong tables and video games), I observed people scooting by on their Razors and the cafeterias were filled with vegan options. I was not visiting a fancy college-I was touring Google in New York City with a former student (James) who now works there. Roaming the halls, it feels like an iconic and inspirational workplace, which honors its employees and trusts them to work deeply with the benefit of healthy physical and emotional living choices surrounding them. I am particularly proud of James, whose journey to Google was not a direct route and not one filled with a highly selective college education. He attended a school that promoted cooperation and gave him the confidence to grow.

Three lessons emerged for me as we chatted about his career thus far:  

  1. Frank Bruni is spot on when he titled his book, Where you go does not determine who you’ll be.
  2. James is a bright, hard working and curious 26-year-old who is a self-starter. Success at Google is not about your formal education, it’s where social emotional intelligence meets critical and independent thinking.
  3. James was given the opportunity to work at Google because he was recognized for a skill base that he had nurtured.

James graduated from college with loans and found his first job on his own by pursuing leads relentlessly. He was willing to do grunt work, and more than anything, he is humble. His job at Google was not attained by a magical formula; it’s a testament to finding and knowing his strengths and understanding people. It was not, however, the result of chasing his tail in high school to attain a brand name degree. His successful  journey has been guided by humility, self-awareness, tenacity, and independence.

Nicole Oringer

Founder, IvyEd