Speaking to a Google employee about his road to success

March 21, 2020

Mustafa Kurtduldu at Google office in London

Mohammed Aqab Ashraf interviews an ex-Exposure volunteer who now works at tech giant

Teenagers these days are quite into technology. Children in Year 7 and 8 are being given opportunities to learn how to code, and taught how to build apps, games and programs using different programming languages. Due to the increase in technology and the role it plays in young people’s lives, Google is one of the best places to work for anyone who loves technology, being different and wants to make an impact with what they do in the future.

I interviewed a previous Exposure volunteer and employee, called Mustafa, who now works for Google. See how he got to where he is now, and what his journey into the world of Google has been like.

Mustafa went to Stoke Newington secondary school, in Hackney. He said, “Back then, we only had a few optional classes as most lessons were compulsory. The three choices I did have were: language (I chose Turkish), Geography (it was either that or History) and Wood Work/Design Technology. I liked Maths, English and Geography, partly because of the teachers. Looking back at my education, the subjects I enjoyed the most were mostly due to the teachers being really good.”

After secondary school, Mustafa “went to Art College, which was like an educational awakening as up until that point, school was something you had to do regardless of whether you wanted to or not. Being in Art College was like an open playground and a lot of fun.”

Mustafa continued, “I couldn’t believe that painting would be considered work. I learned a lot about photography and screen-printing, and even had some of my work exhibited at the Whitechapel Gallery in East London.”

I think to excel in education you need good teachers who care about what they do

“My time at Uni, on the other hand, was a different experience, as the building resembled a hospital, and to speak to your tutor you had to book an appointment two weeks in advance. I think to excel in education you need good teachers who care about what they do.”

Mustafa said that he “joined Exposure roughly at the end of 2002. I had been volunteering for a youth magazine in Hackney called Project One (set up by a former Exposure volunteer, Martin Young). When Project One folded, Martin recommended I give Exposure a try.”

Mustafa looked back on his first day at Exposure. “Walking into a room full of iMacs was pretty cool and daunting at first, as Exposure was very well established.”

Mustafa met many other young volunteers who had the same interests as he did.

“The other volunteers at the time were really nice. Being a part of that group of young people who wanted to write, design and film things, because they had the burning desire to do so was great because it was like meeting people just like me. I made a lot of great friendships while I was there.”

Mustafa said, “I’ve always been a part of Exposure! I was there initially as a volunteer then I joined their staff as a web designer. Beyond working on real world projects, I got to learn about running a business and shadowed Andy (the CEO) a lot, trying to learn as much as possible from him.”

“By mid 2003, another former Exposure employee and I set up our own company, Social Spider, which was a non-for-profit that tried to do the same sort of social outreach work that Exposure did. For example, we set up a youth magazine in Hackney with the council. We followed the same sort of patterns we had seen at Exposure, such as writing pitches, speaking to clients and working with young people.”

Mustafa said that he was “quite grateful for a lot of the lessons learned back then.”

Before being interviewed at Google, Mustafa “was writing articles about design, as well as giving talks at conferences about my ideas and thoughts on the design process and creativity. To share some of the things that I was writing and talking about, I signed up to a social network for conference speakers called Lanyrd. Google, I believe, found my profile from there and got in touch as they were looking for designers who were active in the creative community.”

Google Android Garden, California: Photo by Dan H

Google Android Garden, California: Photo by Dan H

He said he “was anxious for the interview. To have Google recognise your work is a big deal, and it felt like a seal of approval from one of the largest tech companies in the world. I had to present some of my work to the interviewers, so I rehearsed my presentation about two or three times a day up until the morning of the interview itself and constantly timed myself on how long I took.”

“During the interview, I was asked a range of questions from my thoughts about design and my past experiences. The goal of any interview isn’t to try and trick the person being interviewed, but to figure out if they are right for the job. Personally, I loved the interview process, but I had stressed myself out to the max.”

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Mohammed Aqab Ashraf is currently studying BTEC ICT Level 3 extended diploma at the Petchey Academy 6th Form and is looking to have an ICT-related career, hopefully at Google in the future.

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