Cloud computing has revolutionized the way we conduct business and much more. The days of floppy and Zip disks are long gone—many have probably only seen them in memes, while some of us still remember needing that flimsy piece of plastic to play Oregon Trail in grade school. The present and future of data storage and computing power now belong in the cloud—remote servers we can access over the Internet. Ensuring access and related business services requires a mix of technical skills and management acumen—some skills that can only be honed through an MBA program. In this edition of Real Humans: Alumni, Sam Breslow shares how his journey through the MBA program at NYU Stern prepared him for his career at Google, and what stands out about the tech giant’s work culture. Read on for his story.
Sam Breslow, NYU Stern ’19, Technical Account Manager for Cloud Professional Services at Google
Hometown: New York City
Undergraduate Institution and Major: Brown University, ScB. Computer Engineering
Graduate Business School, Graduation Year and Concentration: NYU Stern, 2019 — specializations in Product Management, Business Analytics, and Strategy
Pre-MBA Work Experience: Citrix (three years, Tech Consulting)
Post-MBA Work Experience: Google (six months, Tech Consulting)
Why did you choose to attend business school?
Growing up, I was always fascinated with machines and how they work, particularly computers and other electronic devices. I majored in computer engineering in college, but I happened to take (and eventually serve as a teaching assistant for) two courses on entrepreneurship and managerial decision making that completely changed how I saw my career unfolding.
While I originally believed that I would become an engineer, these courses made me realize that a career in which I could apply technology to help businesses improve and solve problems might present even greater and more rewarding challenges. After three years of helping large enterprises design, implement, and improve IT systems, I felt confident in my technical and quantitative skills, but I realized that I would likely need some formal business education in order to pursue my revised professional goals.
Why NYU Stern? What factors figured most prominently into your decision of where to attend?
As a native New Yorker, I knew that I wanted to attend an MBA program that was actually located in (and not just near) a major metropolitan area, so Stern was one of the first schools that came to mind. When I started to research schools in earnest, Stern also stood out for its flexibility, with a menu of core courses and a broad range of electives and specializations.
In spite of its (well-earned) reputation as a more traditionally finance-focused business school, I also felt that Stern was (and is still today) one of the few top schools to place a real emphasis on preparing students for careers within the tech industry, which was particularly important to me given my background and interests.
What about your MBA experience prepared you for your current career?
I have noticed that many people tend to discount the academic components of the MBA experience as mere distractions from corporate presentations, networking circles, international trips, and themed parties, but I do not agree with that view. In particular, coursework at Stern centered around data-driven decision making and the fundamentals of machine learning has already proven useful in my current role, and I loved having the opportunity to learn from professors and visiting speakers, who were experienced leaders in the tech industry.
What was your internship during business school? How did that inform your post-MBA career choice?
I spent 12 weeks as a cloud professional services intern in Google’s New York office. While I was thrilled to have received an internship offer from my top target company in Google, I was also hesitant to jump right back into tech consulting at a time in my career when I had the opportunity to try something new. Over the course of the internship, I found that the problems I was working to solve were incredibly compelling, and vastly different from many of the challenges I faced prior to attending business school.
Moreover, I realized that at this stage in my career, it was more important for me to have a job where I would be able to challenge myself and learn from some of the smartest people in the industry than to have a “sexy” job title somewhere else. As a result, I accepted my full-time offer at the end of the summer without any hesitation.
Why did you choose your current company? What factors figured most prominently into your decision of where to work?
LMGTFY. All jokes aside, I feel grateful for the opportunity to work for a company that makes products that billions of people all over the world use every single day. There are only a handful of companies that have that kind of impact on the world, and whose employees can try to solve problems at planet-scale. These challenges have attracted some really brilliant people, and I was very eager to work with and learn from them. Moreover, I was really impressed with how well employees and managers at all levels seem to adhere to Google’s core values, particularly the notion of 20% projects and the mandate to “default to open.”
Advice to current MBA students:
–One thing you would absolutely do again as part of the job search?
Coffee chats were absolutely essential to my job search. Don’t be afraid to reach out to alums or second-year students in particular — they know what you’re going through and are usually happy to share a few words of wisdom over coffee (or something stronger), just don’t ask for a referral with your request to connect on LinkedIn.
–One thing you would change or do differently?
With hindsight, I would have started preparing for technical/case interviews before Thanksgiving. While it is true that tech companies continue to conduct interviews fairly late into Spring, it is a bit of a myth that they don’t start as early as more traditional MBA recruiters (e.g. finance, consulting, etc.). It’s easy to procrastinate during the holidays, but when I received my first interview invitation on January 2nd, I wished that I had taken more time to prepare in earnest during the semester.
–Were there any surprises regarding your current employer’s recruiting process?
See above. Additionally, I was surprised by how complex Google’s hiring process is — my recruiter was transparent about each step of the process, but it was still surprising to hear that full-time conversion decisions can take many weeks in some cases.
–What piece of advice do you wish you had been given during your MBA?
Don’t trap yourself in the business school bubble. It’s so easy to get caught up in school work and recruiting and all the other craziness on campus that it can also be easy to lose sight of things that are important to you. Take time away from school with friends from your past lives to remind yourself of that, and decide on your own whether you’re actually “passionate about management consulting” or just going to the corporate presentation because it sounds prestigious, you know that it pays well, and half of your block/section/cohort/etc. will be there.
What’s the best thing about working for your current employer?
I love the autonomy. In my experience so far, I have the authority to identify and tackle problems as I see fit, without seeking approval or permission. Generally speaking, Google seems to trust that they’ve hired the right people for the job and allows them to work just about however and whenever they want (within reason).