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My Path to Google

My Path to Google: Frances Johnson, Site Reliability Engineer (SRE)

Welcome to the latest installment of our blog series “My Path to Google.” These are real stories from Googlers, interns, and alumni highlighting how they got to Google, what their roles are like, and even some tips on how to prepare for interviews.


Today’s post is all about Frances Johnson. Read on!

Frances standing in front of a large statue of the maps icon next to a street view car.

Can you tell us a bit about yourself?

I grew up in Adelaide, South Australia, and studied at the University of Adelaide. Originally I enrolled in a bachelor of mechatronic engineering program, but after doing an introductory programming course, I added computer science to make it a double degree.

A year before I graduated I did an internship at Google, and it was amazing. I managed to get a full-time offer, so I moved permanently to Sydney after finishing my degrees.

I like playing Pokémon, Tetris, and board games, as well as watching and reading sci-fi, fantasy, and crime dramas. I also enjoy making things, including chainmail (the metal kind, not the email kind). About a year and a half ago, I took up rock climbing to fill my exercise needs.

What’s your role at Google?
I'm a Site Reliability Engineer (SRE). For the last three years I was on the Geo SRE team, which includes a lot of different services (customer-facing like Maps, Earth, and Streetview, and backends which do things such as calculate directions and maintain all the data we have about the world). Specifically I focused on the servers behind desktop and mobile Maps, and the third-party Maps APIs.

One of my coolest projects I worked on was helping to launch the Lite mode of Maps. I've also gotten to work closely with the SRE team for Google Search and make sure our products and features work well together.

Recently I've joined the Spanner SRE team and am really excited to learn about how global-scale storage systems work.

What inspires you to come in every day?
My coworkers. I'm excited to work with so many amazingly smart, dedicated, interesting, and caring people. It's great to see what we can all solve and create together.

Can you tell us about your decision to enter the process?
I never really thought I'd be able to get a job at Google—I didn't even think I'd get an internship. Some uni friends of mine interned the previous summer and convinced me to apply. My internship happened to be with an SRE team, and it was such a great experience that I asked if I could apply for SRE full-time.

How did the recruitment process go for you?
I applied online for my internship. There was a slight delay in getting my interviews scheduled, but from there, it was mostly smooth. I remember anxiously waiting to hear about my application, but my recruiter had just gotten back from visiting family overseas. She called me right before going home for the weekend, so I wouldn't be left in suspense.

What do you wish you’d known when you started the process?
How you approach problems you don't immediately know how to solve is really important, much more so than remembering details you can just look up later, like syntax. At Google, problems that nobody has seen before happen every day. Oh, and I wish the SRE book existed back then!

Can you tell us about the resources you used to prepare for your interview or role?
Cracking the Coding Interview was a really useful book that I went through. I also did a lot of algorithm study (Algorithms Unplugged, Introduction to Algorithms, and Algorithms and Data Structures: The Basic Toolbox). But probably the most helpful thing was convincing my friends to mock interview me a lot.

Do you have any tips you’d like to share with aspiring Googlers?
Impostor syndrome is extremely real, especially at Google. It's easy to think you'll never make it through the interviews, but don't let it stop you from being confident and doing your best.

*Interested in a Site Reliability Engineer role? Learn more at Google's SRE site and apply.

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