Alumni Advice: Katie Redmond ’14, Google product manager

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Name: Katie Redmond

Stanford Graduating Class: B.S. 2014, M.S. 2015

Major: Computer Science 

Current Job: Product Manager 

Whatever you need, Google is right there to give it to you with a simple click, clack and tap. The recipe for quarantine walnut banana bread? You’ve got it. The location of your nearest In-N-Out? No problem. But who are these people behind the blinking cursor in the search bar? These people answer your spur-of-the-moment late night questions, give you the information you need for research projects and settle family debates. By all accounts, Google is a magical place. But what are the realities of working there? And, how do you land a job at Google? Well, we’ve got Katie Redmond ’14, product manager at Google, here to reveal all. 

1. Tell me what your job is like. What does a typical day look like? 

“I’m a product manager at Google and I work in the ads team. I make it easier for small businesses to connect with customers and for customers to find small business service providers. In my role, I work on a number of different projects within different teams. On a typical day you can find me bouncing around to different meetings. I work closely with the engineers, but I can see the bigger picture and work collaboratively and creatively. A sizable part of my job is creating relationships with people and keeping things moving.”

2. What are the most significant dissatisfactions and challenges connected with your occupation?

“The nature of my role is that I don’t actually produce anything myself. I coordinate people and draft the requirements. For people who want to be hands-on, this role is not right. Most of the time I’m not bothered by that, because I can look at every aspect of the project and see how much I have contributed to everything and had my hands on everything. But sometimes day-to-day it might not feel that way.”

3. What was the spark that inspired your pursuit of this type of work?

“I joined Google through the associate project management program, which I found out about during sophomore year. Before I came to Stanford, I had taken a little bit of computer science and I thought coding was fun. I started with CS106A and I kept going from there. I hated the solitary aspect of computer science, but I loved the creative problem-solving part.

“I wasn’t sure if engineering was right for me. To help me decide, I did two summer internships: one as a project manager at SurveyMonkey and another in software engineering at eBay. That summer at eBay, I realized that being an engineer was much more collaborative than I imagined. In such a small team, there was lots of opportunity for me to do UX research and product testing. I was drawn to UX and project management more so than software engineering.”

4. What qualities do you believe contribute most to success in this field/ job? 

“Resilience. I am a cheerleader to keep people motivated, make progress and get through things that aren’t super fun. This is probably applicable to any leadership role. There are many times when there is a proposal and differing opinions. It’s often my job to take a proposal and change it completely, to keep coming up with solutions.” 

5. What jobs and experiences have led you to your present position?

“At Stanford I majored in CS, concentrated in human-computer interaction and cotermed in MS&E. The best classes to prepare me for Google were CS147 and CS227, which were really good hands on experiences … These classes develop design thinking, which is so useful for product development. 

“One of the most impactful things I did as an undergrad was my presidency at a sorority, where I learned how to manage situations and [where] I built my confidence. Taking on leadership roles was so useful for my career.”

6. If you could go back in time, what would you have done differently? What advice would you give your younger Stanford self? 

“The summers after my freshman and sophomore years, I didn’t use the time to build my resume. Then Stanford junior year came along, and suddenly everyone was trying to compete with each other. It was super stressful. I wish I had put more thought into those summers to help me stand out.

“[But] all that stress was unwarranted. I would also advise that you do more things to help you stand out. [Do] projects … to build those skills like a side-hustle or a hackathon.

“Don’t be so stressed about failure. It’s really easy to feel like you are failing. But there are so many paths to success — if it doesn’t work out the first time, then maybe it’s just not the right time. But the most important thing is for you to keep trying. I’m five years out of Stanford and have stayed at Google since my coterm, but that’s not what most people did. So many people hated their first job, many people moved jobs or went to grad school. I have to remind myself that everyone is doing great things and you should too.”

If you’ve been nodding along so far or let out a gasp about how cool this job is, you aren’t alone. It could be you in a couple years’ time applying to Google’s associate product manager program. So, 

  • Find leadership roles that will set you apart and prepare you for life after college. What will you lead next?
  • Don’t get defeated. Be resilient. How will you bounce back during quarantine?
  • Use your freshman and sophomore summers wisely. What online class, internship or side hustle can you start?
  • Don’t underestimate the power of side projects. These are the things that can make you stand out. Engage with design thinking. What idea will you make a reality?
  • Never compare yourself to other people. Everyone at Stanford has their own track to success with different timescales and accolades. Take a deep breath and remind yourself that you are already successful.

Contact Emily Broadhurst at ebroad23 ‘at’ stanford.edu.

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