A Latino college dropout at Google

Juan Angustia
Jan 15 · 8 min read
Celebrating my first day at Google. March 11, 2019. Googleplex, Mountain View, CA

As a Latino and tech lover, I always dreamed of someday working in a big tech company like Google. It was a dream that I never thought could come true. To think that a little kid from a small valley in the Caribbean with basically no English language skills could have an opportunity to work at this internet giant, was simply an impossibility.

I was born in Constanza, Dominican Republic, a small town surrounded by beautiful mountains. Constanza is known for its agriculture and humble people, wake up every day to the sounds of the rooster and the smell of mountain coffee.

A view of Constanza Valley, Dominican Republic

In this town, on or about 1998, I had my first experience with a computer. This happened when I was studying Windows 95 and Microsoft Offices. This was a foreign concept to many, especially in a town with limited computer and internet access.

While studying Windows 95, I found Microsoft paint, which is the software that introduced me to the world of design. Designing landscapes on Paint was the way I discovered my passion for the computer.

Microsoft Paint Interface on Windows 95. image from Google.com

After I felt like I mastered on Paint, I discovered Microsoft PowerPoint, where I designed my first logos. Before taking a computer class, I took a “Clores” gum package just to recreate the logo. Other logos that I recreated on PowerPoint include Univision, Cerveza Presidente, and Coca-Cola.

Photoshop 5.0 changed my life

Image from Google Search

“Using Photoshop was something new, something I never imagined would change my life.”

In 2001 while living in Clinton, Massachusetts, thanks to my friends Hugo Deleon and José Estrella I got a version of Adobe Photoshop 5.0. Learning how to edit photography I discovered my love for graphic design. I would play around with Photoshop for hours, creating visual effects on my photos, something like putting fires on my hands or adding lightning in the background. Below you can see one of my first designs in Photoshop.

Splash screen for En Otra Onda website. Date 2002
First illustration on Adobe illustrator 6.0

Playing with Photoshop was something original, something that I’d imagine could change my life. I learned how to design banners for websites and my first UI for the Web 1.0 era.

My first portfolio design
Layouts for Guíaconstanza.com, a tourist project that I made to promote Constanza attraction to the world. On the left v1, 2008, on the right v2, 2011

After using Photoshop for a while including versions 6.0, 7.0, 8.0 I saw how much I loved designing and my passion for technology. It was such a life changer that instead of studying Sound Engineering, I decided to study advertising with a focus on Graphic Design.

Google Search

Google.com website in 2001

“I attribute 80% of my knowledge to all accessible information that I found on my Google searches.”

I about the days where I walked from my home just to get access to the Internet in a little computer lab in my hometown Constanza. This was the only place where I was able to get internet access.

Every day after lunch I took my CPU and walked to the lab. I connected my CPU and my first thought was to open Google.com to search for tutorials about how to use Photoshop.

How to make fire letters or how to change the background on photography were some of the things that I searched on Google. Thanks to all of those searches I found tutorials where I learned how to understand software like Photoshop, Freehand, Fireworks. Also, I learned to understand HTML and CSS language. I also learned to make beats on Fruity Loops Studio.

It was a time with a lot of imagination and passion, my love for the computer and the design was incredible. I used to spend hours in front of the computer, doing designs or making hip-hop beats, doing photo visual effects or some graphic design on Photoshop. This is how I started my design career and all thanks to all the information that Google provides me on all my searches.

Today I attribute 80% of my knowledge to all accessible information that I found on my Google searches.

My days at College

I took this photo in one of my class at Universidad Autónoma de Santo Domingo (UASD)

In 2004, I moved from my town to the capital city, Santo Domingo to study Advertising with a focus on Graphic Design. At that time career in UI or UX didn’t exist. Instead, everybody studied graphic design or digital design, where the only thing that you learn was how to create a print design or some animation for interactive banner on Macromedia Flash to post on HTML websites in the Web 1.0 era.

I was never passionate about print design, for that reason I always focused my interest on digital design. The idea of producing static designs for me was boring and cold. I wanted something where people can interact or play, something more exciting. This is why I started to design banners and websites.

In college, I taught myself some of the industry design software and when I had completed six semesters I noticed that the university did not offer the things that I wanted to learn, so I decided to keep teaching myself the things that I loved.

I recognize that the time I spent in College was a benefit to my career. Thanks, to the school, I understand more about the industry and all the design terminology, this developed my professional skills and directed me to where I wanted to be.

Surround yourself with people who add value to your life

A photo where I work at Listín Diario newspaper 2009. Photo by: Juan Santos

I was able to develop my skills as a designer thanks to all of the amazing and talented people I was surrounded with at all of the different design agencies. Some of these people included Jorge Suárez, Antonio Rodriguez, Nizar Khalife, Waldemar Figueroa, Roberto Quiñonez, Alexis Blas, Juan Marcano, Jahaira Vasques, Alberto Orsini, and Felix Mejia, to name a few.

Kolapse/Nobox Puerto Rico team

“Surrounding myself with creative and talented people helped me grow, to truly love for what I was doing. To strive for more is something that the industry itself teaches you.”

My experience working with all of these design agencies helped to polish my creativity and my ability to create quality designs in a short period of time. To me, every challenge was a new opportunity to grow and learn something new, also to show my potential as a designer. Simply, with each project, I acquired new knowledge.

Always trust yourself

There was a time when I doubted my talent, as there will always be people who will make you doubt your potential. But always trust yourself. Your instincts are rarely wrong. In the beginning, I felt unappreciated, but my desire was so great that I never allowed myself to abandon my dreams.

After a year of feeling underestimated, I began to feel that my work and talent were finally valued. Of course, not yet at the level I felt it should be, but at least I felt that my work was paying off positively in my career.

As the saying goes, “He who perseveres triumphs.” Never stop trusting yourself.

Hello from Google

I was contacted by Google again after being rejected once for lack of qualifications. I was to begin the hiring process all over again.

I still don’t know how to describe my emotions when I read that “Hello from Google” email again. It was a mixture of excitement and fear. I thought to myself, “Google has contacted me with interest that I work for them.” I was now considered a good candidate for the company and for that reason they wanted to interview me again. It had already been three and a half years since the first application, and I had a stable position at my current job in Philadelphia. I also had just bought an apartment a year prior that I absolutely loved.

But Google being Google, I couldn’t say no to the opportunity. It was also my dream job, along with that of the people who apply for a job there.

The process

After the first initial call, I was able to move on to the second round of calls, which would be with a designer who would evaluate my experience. Until then, the interview process felt very friendly and comfortable. Another detail that I noticed from the first moment, was the high attention to detail and how important they make you feel throughout the process.

The more nerve-racking but also exciting part, was the , where I was to show my skills as a designer and show my design process. To make a long story short, it took me two weeks to plan, idealize, design and prepare my project and then send it and wait to see if it helped me make it to the next step in the process.

Much to my relief, a week after I turned in my design I received a call from the recruiter who was working with me in the interview process that I had passed the exercise and that they would proceed with an in-person interview at the Google headquarters in Mountain View, California.

The whole interview process took me about three months, which were months of mixed emotions. I didn’t know if I was ready for the job, or moving cross country and leaving my mother alone in Philadelphia whom just three years prior I had brought to the U.S. to fulfill her “American Dream.”

Finally, and after spending months waiting to complete the entire interview process and contemplating whether I should accept the opportunity to join Google, I decided to accept the position of in Seattle with the team.

Android lawn statues in Mountain View

I have been working at Google for 10 months now and every day is like living a dream. I feel very grateful for the opportunity that life has given me, working with very talented people and products that billions of people use around the world. I feel very fortunate in life.

To end, I will continue to repeat that one should never stop dreaming. Continue to pursue your dreams and channel your passion by doing the things you truly love.

“The only way to do great work, is to love what you do” Steve Jobs

Special moments at Google

Juan Angustia

Written by

Visual designer & urban fashion lover with interested in travel. Entrepreneur and founder of @DominicanaTV. Proud Latino. Instagram: @jcagarcia

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