What I Learned From A Tour at Google — coming from an HCDE student

Ruotong Melody Xu
Jan 16 · 4 min read

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In my HCDE (Human Centered Design and Engineering) Capstone class, we had a mini introduction of everyone, sharing one class we enjoyed the most at the UW, and our dream internship. Well, guess what? I think interning at Google was mentioned the most times (by like a third of us?) and we are not surprised. Google is one of the best companies for someone looking to work in the UX field (or honestly any field).

SO last Friday I had the opportunity to tour Google with the HCDE department (Yay!) Super nice campus with lots of cool perks — all the food you can eat for free, a gym that you could go anytime, endless arcade games that don’t require inserting coins, etc. But in addition to the perks, I would like to share some of my notes/insights/thoughts I had from the discussion panel at the end of the tour. I hope this might help some of us that are looking for UX internships, or just internships in general.

The UX professionals at the panel were super down to earth and helpful. They were thoughtful in answering our questions and shared personal experiences that helped me get a better understanding of their roles and their journey in becoming part of Google. I really appreciate them and their time.

The below are some of my main takeaways. My notes were kind of random but I think making a list might be easier to grasp the concepts.

  1. Soft Skills are important in UX (and other fields that require working in groups), but often not taught at school. This includes listening skills, collaborating skills, conflict prevention/resolution skills, decision making, time management, how you interact/work/connect with others, etc. While adding more technical work stuff to our resumes and portfolios, we need to consider strengthening soft skills as part of our personal development as well. Portfolios get us to pass the initial screening stage, but interviews look at our soft side. *Also as a side note, Google really looks at if a person is suitable for a team in all areas. Although you might meet all the criteria, you might still have to wait a few years in their database until they’ve found a perfect team for you to be in. *
  2. Networking. I think we all heard of this and why it’s important blah blah blah... I just want to highlight that for a UX designer, I think a direct benefit from networking is that we meet new people (from different ages, backgrounds, disciplines, etc.) that can broaden our perspectives and inspire us in many ways. It is helpful in the long run because we will be more likely to see and consider the different perspectives that others may have (we often fail to recognize) — and we grow to be more aware, culturally sensitive, empathetic, and inclusive, which can be expressed through our designs. We develop the values that help us to be better designers.
  3. And here is the Portfolio Stuff. One of my main frustrations is that I don’t have a lot of end-to-end projects from school demonstrating the UCD process to put on my portfolio… I have a few projects in visual design, physical computing, etc, which aren’t really UX. And I want to show my UX skills but I feel like what I have is insufficient. And then someone asked a question at the panel that helped me realize what I needed. This person was an electrical engineer transitioning into the field of UX, and the problem is that he doesn’t have projects that exactly follow the UCD process. How can he apply to UX internships with a portfolio in a different discipline? I thought the answer from the panel would be something like getting UX experience by “doing work for non-profit projects”, “participating in startups”, or “starting a personal project on your own” to build your portfolio first. These are all legit things to do but they involve huge amounts of time and efforts to be put in. What I did not expect was that one of the UX designers told us that we should start by explaining how you considered the role of the user in the process of your past projects. If not, how you failed to consider the user. As UX designers, we need to practice thinking from the user’s perspectives at all times, and learn from mistakes, insufficiencies or drawbacks. We are not perfect but we can try to be better at what we do.

Generally, what I learned about UX portfolios:

  • Are stronger than resumes
  • Good ones have breadth and depth
  • Good ones show complete end-to-end processes, the design journey, and articulate the story
  • Should avoid being text-heavy
  • I vs. We; Call out what you did, what you are responsible for versus what the group did on the project

Okay, now I got lots of work to do…

Lastly, I think this is what we all need to have at any given point in our lives: Maintaining a healthy work-life balance. The people working at Google have flexible time schedules as they have different working habits, but they all know how to manage their time well and get their work done on time. It’s like with freedom comes responsibility, but they work hard and play hard! That’s the dream life.

Here is a pic of some of the HCDE kids! I’m on the far right with a cool green duffel bag.

P.S. I don’t really write that often, but I think I’m going to try writing more frequently now. It’s good to be able to reflect and take a break from school and work. Please forgive my grammar mistakes if any as English is not my first language and I’m still learning it :)

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Ruotong Melody Xu

UW HCDE Junior | Aspiring UX Designer | xur5@uw.edu www.linkedin.com/in/ruotongmxu|ruotongmelodyxu.com

Ruotong Melody Xu

Written by

UX/UI Designer| UW HCDE student

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