Being Comfortable Not Knowing What’s Next

Comm Arts major Joshua Steinberg (’07) on his path to Google and beyond

My career at Google started with a twist. For as long as I can remember, I wanted to live in California. As fate would have it, Google came to Madison to interview on campus in 2006, and I jumped at the opportunity as soon as I read the words “Mountain View” on the job description (ignoring the rest, as I didn’t know much about digital marketing back then and Google’s job descriptions were notoriously vague).

I was surprised to be interviewing with Google. My twin brother is the software engineer – people thought that Google had us mixed up. I expected to go work in traditional media, having just completed an internship with Hearst Communications during the Summer. But California beckoned, and I threw my name in the hat – one month later I was making plans to move across the country.

Soon after I accepted my offer, my recruiter called me with an update. Google had recently opened an office in Ann Arbor, MI, and my offer would be transferred to this new location. I offered a nervous laugh at this cruel practical joke. But this was for real, and I’d be moving not all the way across the Rocky Mountains, but just across Lake Michigan.

Throughout our careers, there will be twists and turns, ups and downs, doors that close and new doors that open. The College of Letters & Science prepared me to take it all in stride. If I can offer practical advice based on the experience I had, it is to think two, three, or four steps ahead. Think about how the decisions you make in the short-term can create opportunities in the long-term. I considered declining Google’s Ann Arbor offer so that I could move to California immediately. But two years later, that door opened to me at Google. In 2013, an opportunity to relocate to Tokyo presented itself, helping me to fulfill my goal to live and work abroad.

“Our career goals and ambitions should be broader than our jobs.”

I capped off my career at Google to start a one-year sabbatical that lasted throughout 2017. I think I learned as much in that year than the nine spent at Google.

Finally, trust that people want to help other people. As you embark on the first stage of your careers, I’m about to start the next chapter of my own career. This year, I will join McKinsey & Co., in large part due to the help of my former colleagues. And nothing would please me more than to help my fellow L&S grads.

Joshua B. Steinberg (BA, Communication Arts, 2007) worked for nine years at Google in the US and Japan. In early 2017, Joshua quit his job at Google to pursue a dream: travel for a year overland across Asia and Europe. Joshua credits his L&S degree with giving him the tools to succeed in his career, as well as the confidence to take a leap of faith into uncharted territory.