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Seeking career advice from Senior SWE’s & SRE’s to get to Google (1st choice) or Airbnb

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Anonymous User at Taro Communitya year ago

YOE: 10 months remote at an AWS Partner (DevOps/AWS account remediation stuff)
TC: $136k

Hello, I’m in my early career and in need of some career advice. I would like to get into a SRE-SWE role at Google, preferably in Zurich (I’m a US citizen) for better career growth and new life experience. 

My background: I switched into this field a bit late... 30 years old and now 10 months on the job. I decided I really wanted to learn to code after working in product and I made the switch. I took up a Javascript course online, within 7 months studying full time  I had completed a couple portfolio projects including a full stack project. At that point I decided I didn’t like front-end and I got into learning AWS cloud architecture. My coding background + achieving an AWS Associate Architect certification quickly found me a high paying role at an AWS consulting Partner in the devopsy space.

Currently I work remotely at a tiny AWS Partner where Terraform and AWS Cloud remediation is my main work. Though I had no intention of giving up coding, the job I got into pays well but is not exactly what I was expecting...  


After the first couple months of trial-by-fire with terraform - my job stopped being challenging and I have tons of free time (which I used to get 4 AWS certs so far.) Terraform hasn’t been difficult once I got the hang of it, and most of it I don’t consider actual brain-exercising coding work like I had done when learning to code (i.e codewars). Lately, I feel my only growth has come from the knowledge I’ve gained from self-studying for my AWS certs.  Though I have enjoyed studying for my AWS certs and gaining depth about cloud services (I really enjoy research and distributed cloud architecture to make things work on a mass scale is amazing)  and I just cleared the AWS Certified DevOps Pro exam which was a significant milestone for me. BUT…

  1. My coding skills are getting rusty and I never had proper programming mentoring on a professional team to begin with. I joined this company as a junior and have only really grown in Cloud Architecture (does that count as Systems Design?), AWS/Iaac Terraform, but not as a SWE.  I have never done leetcode, I don’t know DS and Algos. My interview was about a 3 tier app architecture. My company runs Terraform like a code-cowboy environment and my code almost never gets reviewed properly. And as I said, I’m not doing much here these days, which although is great if you I want to earn money and coast (or self-learn picking up the difficult cloud certs) I am definitely underutilized and not in a collaborative “team” environment. Work is siloed by customer with one senior engineer being the guy assigned to handle all the cool stuff for a customer and I receive undesirable work like dealing with logs or fixing pain in the arse security stuff that no one else wants to be bothered with. (I.E and maybe a bad example, but no one wants to be bothered with accidentally taking down production to remediate ssh ports being open to 0.0.0.0/0, so let the jr take the fall or do nothing since the customer doesn't care about it and won't pay for it)
  2. Here’s what I’m thinking - I could use my copious free time to get GCP Pro certs, maybe learn Kubernetes and then decide on another programming language to main and grind 6 months of leetcode to prepare to get into a Google SRE-SWE role or maybe Airbnb as a 2nd choice. Is this plan sound? Please advise. I don’t even know if I’ll like/need to learn Kubernetes, but I’m prepared to do what it takes to team match in my current cloud specialization. Do I need to learn Kube administration for Google SRE work?  I’m ready to get back to coding and I can nose to the grindstone leetcode for as long as it takes. The AWS Pro cert was a grueling grind as well, so I know I have the discipline to do it.
  3. I’m deciding upon a new programming language to main since I am not enamored with JS at all. I’m thinking either Golang or Python ( I’m already learning Godot and GDscript in my spare time as a hobby) and whichever language I go with will preferably be my main for leet code DS and Algos interviews and my career in tech. What I heard about Golang that I like is that there is typically a correct way to do something rather than a million ways to do one thing. I find that very appealing. Please advise on the language I should go with if you can as well.. My current job has been a good place to excel in self-study while being paid and now is the time to take aim for new goals  and steer the wheel on the ship of my career.

Also I really love working remotely but I would go to the office if it meant Google and a new life experience in Switzerland.

And I would really love any insight you can give about such SRE-SWE roles and if that sounds like the best fit for my current cloud specialization and interests. Thank you

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Discussion

(6 comments)
  • 1
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    Robinhood, Meta, Course Hero, PayPal
    a year ago

    There's a lot here, so I'll split up my response into multiple parts. The good news is that you have a lot of the most valuable resource in tech (time), so there's a lot you can do.

    Going to Google/Airbnb + Europe

    • There are 2 of the hardest companies to get into, especially Airbnb. Google is also going through a hiring freeze, leaving many stranded in team matching, and a big layoff is likely coming soon. I would expand your horizons to cover more companies, especially in this current economic climate.
    • It's generally hard to switch to an office you want that's outside of the country. I would also temper expectations there, especially given that you're targeting a very specific European office.
    • Another idea is to move to Zurich first, which should make you a more appealing hire for the company as you aren't shouldering the immigration complexity on them.
    • You will have much less negotiating power as you would almost certainly be hired as an L3 by Google/Airbnb. L5/L6 is generally when companies are more flexible accommodating specific location needs - I saw this at both Meta and Robinhood.
  • 1
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    Robinhood, Meta, Course Hero, PayPal
    a year ago

    Improving Your Coding Ability

  • 1
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    Robinhood, Meta, Course Hero, PayPal
    a year ago

    Getting Certifications

    • In general, I am very skeptical about the value of certificates, which I cover in-depth in my blog post about common learning traps junior engineers fall into.
    • I have literally never seen a certification make a difference when it comes to hiring. This includes:
      • A certification pushing recruiting to give a candidate an interview
      • A certification giving a candidate an edge over another when deciding who to present an offer to
    • The problem with certificates is that they're inherently mass-produced and accessible. If you have been able to do them, that means many, many thousands were able to do them too (and a lot of them are probably also applying to Google).
    • FAANG has a much higher bar when it comes to quality of skill, so certificates tend to make even less of a difference there.
    • That being said, it seems like you are targeting more niche roles. If a job posting or recruiter says the certificates help (or are a hard requirement), do them by all means. If not, I recommend using the time for side projects instead.
  • 1
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    Robinhood, Meta, Course Hero, PayPal
    a year ago

    Choosing A Programming Language

    • Some languages are more open-ended than others, but there will always be a million ways to do things when it comes to software, especially at the system design level. I wouldn't use this too much as a constraint for choosing a language.
    • That being said, I'm sure Golang is a fine language for targeting Google as they literally invented the language.
    • Python is a good language as well, used by many companies both big and small.
    • It seems like you enjoy using Golang so just stick with that. Thinking too much about which language/tech stack to use is another common junior engineer trap. Once you find something you like and are able to build cool stuff, just commit to it and go deep on it. Simply doing the work is much more important than figuring out which lane to do the work in.
  • 0
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    Junior-Mid [OP]
    AWS Partner
    a year ago

    Hey Alex!

    Should I learn Kubernetes?

    Can anyone speak to as what SRE-SWE work at Google is like and what the projects are?

    Improving Coding Ability:

    Luckily I already know my passions, I've had on my mind a long time - a side project with Godot where I make an online multiplayer game with an AWS or GCP infrastructure. Other than games, I have a strong interest in working on mass scale cloud architecture.

    Should I focus on a side project to sharpen up or just jump into leetcode and apply to Google when I'm ready? I thought GCP certs would be a credit to my profile when applying to Google.

    Re: Golang, I actually haven't touched it but was thinking about picking it up. It seems cool that it compiles down to a binary for cloud functions. I've started working in GDScript in Godot is similar to Python. Python would be a good choice if I find myself wanting to pivot into AI where as I understand a lot of workloads are running in the cloud.

  • 1
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    Robinhood, Meta, Course Hero, PayPal
    a year ago

    Should I learn Kubernetes?

    You won't be able "learn" any skill at a Google-level on your own. I would look at the job posting and talk to a recruiter if you can - It's likely not a hard requirement, especially at an L3 level.

    Can anyone speak to as what SRE-SWE work at Google is like and what the projects are?

    I Googled for "Google SRE-SWE" and found this article, which seems pretty good. It talks about Zurich as well.

    Luckily I already know my passions, I've had on my mind a long time - a side project with Godot where I make an online multiplayer game with an AWS or GCP infrastructure.

    Great! Go build it and get it users! That's how you will separate yourself from others when applying to Google.

    Should I focus on a side project to sharpen up or just jump into leetcode and apply to Google when I'm ready?

    Check out this discussion for my in-depth answer.

    Also, you should just apply to Google right now. You will never be "ready" for a FAANG company interview. Just try applying, and if you get an interview opportunity, put it really far into the future (this probably aligns with what Google wants anyways with the hiring freeze). You are currently making a lot of guesses in the dark about what's required, which isn't productive.

    I thought GCP certs would be a credit to my profile when applying to Google.

    Any commodity won't have value for FAANG companies for 99% of cases as they're commodities.

    Also, if you haven't seriously touched either Golang or Python, do that right now! Build a side project with each and see how it feels. You have a lot of free time, and it's a slow work season due to the holidays. Finding stuff you like (especially the programming language) is really important at your career stage.

Airbnb is an American company that operates an online marketplace for lodging and tourism activities. Based in San Francisco, California, the platform is accessible via website and mobile app.
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