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I am finishing my bachelors in CompSci at Harvard Extension and just got hired by Google. And I've got about 20 years on you. So yeah, absolutely, this can work!

It was fun and challenging competing with top computer science students. In the long run, my organizational skills, focus, determination and world experience outweighed their raw brainpower and better memory.

It's an ultramarathon, not a sprint.




> just got hired by Google. And I've got about 20 years on you.

As impressive as your achievement is, I'm equally impressed that Google finally started addressing their perceived ageism problem.


Google must be doing something right in their candidate triage algorithms. I applied for one job and they suggested another that was a better fit, which I hadn't even considered.

I applied to a bunch of places and only Google seemed to perceive the whole package instead of myopically focusing on my recent education or last job. The whole process was much smarter than any other company in the interview cycle.


Just to clarify, this is a fulltime SW eng position at Google? If so, that's a phenomenal achievement and career change.


Do they still weed out candidates who don't have a background in math and algorithms for roles as SRE ones? When I read about your improved triage experience, it's the first question that pops to my mind.


I had studied a lot of ML but all the technical questions were focused on traditional algorithms, so this was still a little retro. The math requirement was minimal but I had more than enough from the ML coursework.

Bamberg's Math 23a / 23c is phenomenal set of classes at Harvard. You will work like a dog but learn almost all the math you need for ML.


Also, this shows (again) that Google-like interviews are tailored for fresh grads. Basically, your studies were preps for these interviews.


I think that's true for the technical portion, or more precisely someone who has recently refreshed their knowledge in college junior level algorithms and data structures. (equivalent of Harvard CS121 at minimum, ideally CS124).


Could you please share more about your application process? I applied for couple of jobs and in their career portal... never received even an acknowledgement.


There was Data Analytics Career Fair at Harvard, which is another advantage of being a student here. You get invited to the career fairs.


Thank you. Long time ago, someone informed me that their career site is merely an eyewash.


Yeah one anecdote, ageism must be solved! Good job Google, we did it!

You see why people criticize the orange site for worshiping corporate a bit too much?


>> As impressive as your achievement is, I'm equally impressed that Google finally started addressing their perceived ageism problem.

>>> Yeah one anecdote, ageism must be solved! Good job Google, we did it!

It's posters like you that turn people off HN.


Counterargument: the commenter was buried into oblivion, which I suspect might turn a few people onto HN :D


> n the long run, my organizational skills, focus, determination and world experience outweighed their raw brainpower and better memory.

Great. Would love to hear more of the story.


A lot of it was stuff that is basic to someone with years of work experience:

* Start assignments as soon as they are given out. Stupid, right?

* Don't be shy about asking lots of questions. Don't be egotistical or afraid about asking for clarification.

* Build personal relationships with the professors and TAs. They are there to help. This is not an adversarial relationship. Show genuine passion for the material.

* Find real-world analogies or applications of the theory. An intuitive understanding is far more important memorization. It is also far more motivational. By seeing how a technique can be used to solve a real problem, the value becomes tangible.

* Be curious. You are there to learn, which means digging beyond the provided material. So many students are sadly focused on the grade or assignment, not on the learning.

I could probably write a book about this...

Edit: formatting


This is great stuff!

I am a CS professor and these are exactly the kind of things my undergraduate students struggle with!

Especially these two points:

* Start assignments as soon as they are given out. Stupid, right?

* Be curious. You are there to learn, which means digging beyond the provided material. So many students are sadly focused on the grade or assignment, not on the learning.

You should definitely write a book!


I was recently and undergrad (now a grad student)---I've done research, work, taught classes, led competition teams, etc... and I still struggle with this.

You should definitely write a book!


How did you deal with the financial issues about returning to college? Non-STEM graduate here, looking to work in places that have more deeply engineering related backgrounds. I'd prefer getting a CS or ECE degree.

My situation is especially complicated.

I have been unemployed (save a few short freelance gigs) since early 2015. I cannot interview effectively anymore. This, I think, is my biggest problem

I live with my mom because I can no longer make ends meet, but she is retiring and moving countries soon so I too have to eventually move out.

I have no friends or relatives with whom I can stay living with.

Because I already have a previous degree, financial aid opportunities for me are more limited, I hear.

If I were to register for the fall and aim to get into a university with a decent to great engineering background, how would you lay out a plan?


Not long ago I was "self-employed" (just work, no money), and had to go back to interviewing for a job after I ran out of money.

My biggest issue was gathering as much will as I could to start doing it. After the first 2 or 3 interviews, which were utterly terrible, I realized that the hardest thing was bearing those first rejections and shameful (to me) interviews. After that things got a bit easier each time until I landed a job.

So I would truly advice you to start with the process as soon as you can. Tomorrow if possible.

Keep in mind that you will almost for sure, blow the first few ones. Don't sweat it and keep going.

Of course, I would also advice you to do interview-type exercises at the same time. Again, the first few programs will feel terrible. You will definitely feel the pain. But just try doing 10 minutes at least. Then rest, even for a full day. Then try again.

Sooner than you think you will be back on track.


I get interview rejections left and right (usually in the phone interview round), and since I have been in the same period of unemployment since 2015 I feel like I haven't really learned much or improved much with interviewing.

It's pretty terrible to get little feedback but expect to introspect for fix it (My introspection itself needs work- I don't know what I don't know).


I highly recommend taking a look at and following https://www.reddit.com/r/cscareerquestions/ ...they're very supportive and there's such a range of experiences along yours (and mine), and you'll no doubt get some good pointers. Today is "Interview Questions" day, so you can post your interview experiences in that thread and often someone will respond with some tips and/or pointers.


I already go to that sub regularly, and a lot of the time, interview advice that I read or get is very company specific, or not applied in a very active, personalized way. For something involving soft skills like interviewing, I learn better by watching, or someone taking an active role in correcting my mistakes. A lot of interviewing advice is situation specific. It needs to be more personalized, more "you-specific".


Ask A Manager has a lot of interviewing advice, and I think they're pretty good. Here's a thing she did for interviewing: http://www.askamanager.org/how-to-guide

I thought there was also a video part of this where a person on the screen would ask you questions, but I can't find it right now.


I'm sorry that the advice didn't fit with your situation.

Since I don't know more about your particulars it's hard to give more useful tips or suggestions and don't want to come across as condescending or rude.

But if there is indeed something I could help you out with, please reach out through my Keybase in my profile.


At the very least, I would call the local community college and talk to a counselor. You could get a two-year CS degree that will give you the important concepts and plenty of programming exposure for not a lot of money. If you really want to transfer for a full bachelor's, the community college can still give you cheap units for everything you need up until you switch schools, and it may just be that your previous degree can help out here (NB: IANA couselor).


I can think of a few local community colleges I can go to for starting. And then ask about housing options, or perhaps get into a campus job. If the campus job can waive most of your tuition, do you think just having that would suffice?

Also, do you recommend more on transferring out of the CC later to go to a very reputable CS university (UC Berkeley for example)? I'd like to be one of those people who can land an internship at Jet Propulsion Labs (I'd like to combine my interests in computing and space exploration).

Like the OP said in his old topic, I have a passion for coding (check my username for Github), but I can't interview worth a damn anymore. So I don't know if it's delusional to think that a CS degree (and the education that comes with it) will automatically open up many doors for me.

I wish I can maximize my utility for a business or an org even if I can't pass most interviews, because failing interviews is just making my skills go to waste.

A local job recruiter (a specialized one, not from a big agency) once told me to seek companies that offer SWE apprenticeships as a refresher. But those sorts of companies are hard to come by here.


I can definitely relate to your position and I imagine a lot of other engineers would also relate as our skills sets tend to mean the engineering part comes more naturally but the soft skills take a lot of work. I would recommend reading books or forums about non CS specific interviews, body language and soft skills.

I'm in my mod thirties now so have had quite a lot of experience interviewing and recently being the interviewer so have noticing a lot of patterns. It is amazing how often the questions get repeated, if you spend an hour writing down all the likely questions I am sure you will cover 80% of the questions of any interview. Then spend a few hours writing two or three ideal answers to each of the above questions. Such questions would include : -what has been the proudest project you have worked on? -what have you been doing the last few years with your time while not working? (I'd, recommend referring to your open source contributions or doing background learning here) -what are your goals? - how do you deal with confrontation? - how do you deal with pressure etc?

You could say all boring questions but you are very likely to come across them in an interview and crafting a positive response to each one and practicing it out loud, ideally with a friend or two in the mirror will help tremendously.

Also get an experienced friend to review your resume, it is amazing how many talented engineers get overlooked because of lack of attention to detail on their resume.

It was good advice above by @saganus about interviewing a lot as it is definitely a skill which takes practice . After each interview push for feedback, some will say they can't say but a lot will give you honest feedback which is very helpful. You can also try this with a friend or someone online over video chat.

Finally I would consider getting a less glamorous CS job in the interim to help pay the bills through school and get back in the industry. Tons of web agencies are crying out for engineers and while it may not be your long term goal, a role like that could help you get your foot back in the door, pay the bills and give you time to get setup for your end game or save for more expensive university.

I've thrown a lot of advice here but hope some helps, as mentioned above getting interview and career ready is an ultra marathon not a sprint. :)


All I can say is to keep interviewing and reflecting on your experiences (take notes!), which will tune you in to the kinds of preparation you have to do in order to pass through the process successfully. You can do it!


It is correct that you don't qualify for federal aid for a second undergraduate degree. You can still receive financial aid as a graduate student. I'd strongly advise you to consider getting an MS. This may require taking on loans, but in the current climate this shouldn't be a concern if you're a good student.


Might I suggest getting an clerical or administrative job at local State or Private University? Most benefit packages provide tuition assistance to their staff. That is what I did, though it was a bitch trying to get a sysadmin position at my desired schools.


Glad to know students haven't changed w.r.t. meeting professors. I graduated in '04 and it astonished me how empty most professor's office hours were (modulo a particularly tricky homework question or an upcoming test).

I can learn from a textbook just fine; there are accomplished researchers in various fields who are literally paid to sit in an office and talk to you if you show up. And almost nobody took advantage of it!


I'm in my mid-thirties who has graduated years ago but still struggling with motivation and maintaining updates with technological advancements.

Your points were really motivating to me.

Will you announce it here when you have that book ready? I'm looking forward to buy it!


What kind of a role were you hired for? Is it a pure SDE role or a product/solutions engineer kinda role? I've seen Google largely prefers people with 6 ~ 12 yrs exp for SDE roles.


Really great achievement and welcome to Google. If you're based in Cambridge, we should try to grab lunch sometime. My ldap is kbolton.


I’d love to hear more about this. You feel it was worth the cost?

Did you do all classes online or did you go in person for some / all?

Did you work in technology previously?


>You feel it was worth the cost?

Harvard Extension is a bargain compared to most colleges. $1500-$2500 for most 4 credit classes. Don't tell those smart college students that you are getting the same class for less than half the price. I tried the online thing (Coursera, edX, Udemy, etc.) but was never as motivated as competing against real students in a real class with deadlines that have consequences. Fear of failure is a great motivator :)

> Did you do all classes online or did you go in person for some / all?

It was a mix. The online classes were more time efficient. The person classes built rewarding personal relationships with faculty and older students.

> Did you work in technology previously?

Yes, was primarily self taught. Only had access to a lousy community college in my teens. Turned me off school then.


Thanks for sharing your experience. I myself on a new quest to self-teach CS and change my career. I have been in the Technology field for the past 13 years or so but am pivoting to a software engineering career. CS50x is my first stop. I am intrigued by your experience with HarvardX. THe CS50x path now offers 3 more courses beyond the CS50x which i hope to take over the year or so to build my portfolio. Very inspiring to see someone achieve the impossible.


I'm actually not a fan of CS50. I never took the course, but I went through the online material did the first few weeks of assignments. It is very broad and very shallow. It is also very hard and discouraging without some guided assistance. The students who take it for credit get a lot of help.

For a first CompSci course, the edX Python course is better, IMO.

https://www.edx.org/course/introduction-computer-science-mit...


Thanks for your feedback. I could see your point about the course being broad. With 6.0.0 the whole focus is on Python and CS. Congrats on "Getting the Google job", at which many a might folk have failed; https://medium.com/@googleyasheck/i-didnt-get-hired-here-s-w... https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=9695102

Are you able to share the role that you got hired in to? Was it a SRE?

thanks


Also, I got rejected twice (!) at Microsoft and didn't even get an interview at Amazon, so I can sympathize with "GoogleyAsHeck." Clearly hiring is a very noisy process with a lot of randomness. A lot of it is beyond your control no matter how much preparation is done.


I'm trying to stay anonymous and am concerned I may have already revealed too much. Let's just say it is a technical role that involves coding and leave it at that.


perfectly understand your concerns. Thanks again and wish you well on your journey!!!


I’ve looked into the extension school a few times but never went forward due to lack of good first hand success stories. Mind if I drop you an email in the future? Anonymous email is fine if you prefer (saw your below comment).

Or you can ping me (in profile).


I'm also a grad of the Extension School, although not in CS. In-class instruction is fantastic for certain programs, with access to Harvard faculty, instructors, and other resources. I've blogged about it extensively here: http://harvardextended.blogspot.com/

Some undergraduate and graduate programs enable Extension students to attend Harvard College or GSAS classes. I don't remember the requirements/restrictions, but look up "special student" status on the HES website for details.


Yeah, I got special student status which allowed me to take grad level CS classes. Requirements:

* min 64 credits, 32 of which from HES, 12 of which must be in the relevant field, i.e. CompSci

* >= 3.33 GPA

* The hardest part: two recommendations, hence the value of building personal relationships with the professors.

https://www.extension.harvard.edu/sites/extension.harvard.ed...


Were you working while you got your degree, or did you pursue it full-time?


I was fortunate enough to be in a situation where I could pursue it full time. I started part time, really liked it, and decided to complete it full time.


Awesome, did you have health insurance/coverage? When I think of going back to school as a slightly older person, this is one of the only things that scares me.


If you are in MA, students enrolled in 12 credits or more (3 classes) per semester are required to have health insurance.

https://www.extension.harvard.edu/resources-policies/complet...


feel free to ignore me: does this mean a plan was available to you, or you couldn’t enroll without your own plan? Going to assume the former, in which case, awesome!


if you follow the above link, you'll see that you could join the Harvard health plan, even as a family. If you had your own, your could opt out. You can't be a 3/4 or above time student without health care coverage in MA. It's the law.


Wow. Amazing thanks!


I didn't realize that this was even an option - are there any other well regarded online Masters programs in CS, infosec, or software development I should be aware of?


I don't why Coursera gets so much attention for an online CS masters when it has been available for years at Harvard. Even Stanford relaxed the prior constraint of being in a member company for their online masters in CompSci.

http://scpd.stanford.edu/admissions/apply-and-enroll/master%...


Yes! The Georgia Tech online master's is priced at their cost to deliver the courses: ~$7k.

https://newatlas.com/georgia-tech--graduate-computer-science...


How long did this take you? I was considering something like this and would love it if you could tell us about your experience doing this remotely.


It took three years. As I mentioned elsewhere, I tested out of a semester of work. Unlike undergrads, I was used to working year round, so I took January term and summer classes to reduce elapsed time.

While some remote students have been able to build quality relationships with professors, it is far easier if you are local.


Awesome! I’m considering doing the same - Harvard Extension.

Is there a reason you chose to do the bachelors program over the masters?


I didn't have any prior degree so I couldn't go straight to masters. Not even any transfer credits. But I was able to test out (via CLEP) for the equivalent of 4 classes including the language requirement, which saved me a semester.


Awesome! I'm still unsure as to whether I'll pursue the program, or whether I'd aim for the Master's of the Bachelor's level. I definitely want a strong grounding in the basics before pursuing more advanced studies though.

Thank you for your time!


This is so great to hear! I don't know who you are but I'm proud of you.


Can you provide a link to this program? Is it on campus or online? Thanks


It was the standard Harvard Extension ALB [0]. You can optionally choose a Field of Study, which was CompSci in my case. And then if you qualify as a special student you can take almost any course in the college or grad school. It's a very flexible program. You get out what you put in.

[0] https://www.extension.harvard.edu/academics/undergraduate-de...


That is inspiring!




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