Gabriel RednerStaff Software Engineer, Google

Can you describe your career path and how it has led to your current work?

As an undergraduate, I majored in computer science and physics. I always wanted to go to graduate school, but I didn't know which field I preferred. So after graduation I took a job in software, intending to go back to school in a year or two. But I enjoyed my first job and I learned a lot, so I ended up staying for five years. At that point I realized that my physics GRE scores were about to lapse, and I didn't want that door to close on me, so I decided to come to Brandeis for a PhD in physics.

I enjoyed my graduate studies and research a lot. Towards the end of my PhD program, I was still intending to stay in academia. I applied to postdocs, and had a couple of offers. But at the last minute, I sat down and had a hard think about what kind of career would be most likely to make me happy, and I decided that academia just didn't feel right.

I was fortunate to have maintained contact with recruiters and former colleagues from my software days. I reached out to some of them and ended up with an interview for what became my current position. I'm a software engineer at Google, leading a small team working on network security - a field I landed in by accident, and in which I have no prior training and learned everything on the job.

What services and/or resources did you use while at Brandeis for your career search?

My professors were very caring and supportive, but since they had taken purely academic tracks, they generally didn't have much practical advice on how to transition to industry.

What skills from your Brandeis degree have you found most valuable in your current work?

The technical skills I use in my day-to-day work don't overlap with anything I learned in physics classes. But I still feel that my PhD experience was deeply valuable. It gave me an opportunity to plan, direct, and lead a multi-year research project, in a safe environment, with mentorship and guidance to help me grow. I learned a great deal about critical thinking, time management, being self-directed and self-teaching, and how to present and promote technical work to a wide variety of audiences.

What advice do you have for current students as they embark on their job search?

Students should begin conversations about the job market and career paths early. It’s better to be discussing career plans - even vague ones - in the first year rather than the fifth year, when a student is under a lot of time pressure. Start early, and explore all of your options!

Is there anything you wish you had done differently during your time as a graduate student that may have made the transition to your career easier? Or is there anything you did as a graduate student that you believe other grad students should do to better position themselves for a career?

I found my PhD experience rewarding and valuable and probably wouldn't do much differently, except that I would have started exploring my post-graduate options earlier in the process. I didn't start thinking about industry jobs until the very end of my PhD program, and had to take a very hard and jarring turn. I wish I had explored my options and started having conversations about career paths earlier, which would certainly have eased the eventual transition.