Conor O’Shea has been working at Google in an operations role since September 2019. He left the Army at the end of 2017 as a Captain in the Royal Dragoon Guards, having served almost seven years including a tour of Afghanistan in 2012.
Conor approached his transition from Germany, which was somewhat challenging as he says, “it was difficult to know where to even begin when considering a career change. The veteran network is absolutely invaluable and should be utilised as much as possible. Attending OA events is a must as it is a great way to make meaningful connections early, and also to understand the world you’re getting into.” Conor eventually gained a place on the BlackRock internship programme in 2018.
Despite enjoying his internship, Conor ultimately decided that financial services was not the path he wanted to follow. He observes; “Internships give you a feel for the real world. Until you do it you won’t know what it’s really like, and equally if you actually enjoy it. There’s a lot of pressure to just get that first job, and it’s all too easy to overlook what you’ll actually be doing on a day-to-day basis. Additionally, I think a lot of people leaving the armed forces have the same expectations for what they can do or where they can work, guided by others who have gone before them. But there are so many other opportunities out there - expanding your network and horizons will reveal opportunities you may never have considered or heard of”.
In order to expand his horizons, Conor decided to take an opportunity to do an MBA at Edinburgh. Conor says ‘The MBA provided the space, time, and opportunity to understand my opportunities better, and I would highly recommend it to anyone as a transition piece. In particular, I felt it gave me a lot more credibility as a candidate, going from ‘ex-military’ to an ‘MBA candidate’. I found this to be the single best benefit, and I don’t think I would have been considered for the role I now have at Google without the MBA.’ Indeed, Conor feels that expanding your network beyond the Veterans’ networks gives an insight into other, less well-trodden paths.
Conor explains that internal referrals are key to success at Google, as with other organisations. Although an MBA helped Conor to be a more compelling candidate, he highlights that it is certainly possible to land a role at Google without one. He adds, ‘aligning a role with an internal referral is far more critical than the MBA, I would say. It is very dependent on the role, but the trick is to align with a team and a role before you even apply. This will give you the best chance for success.”
Conor’s role is that of EMEA Operations Lead, a role that involves engaging with multiple stakeholders - internal and external - from all around the world. He says of his work, ‘Google has been incredible as a place to work - I'm absolutely loving it! I've never been this busy, but the work is engaging and enjoyable, plus the people are incredible to work with. It is an extremely dynamic and complex organisation so no two days are the same! People at Google come from all sorts of backgrounds, and diversity is one thing they look for when hiring. For them, it is a huge benefit to have a broad perspective on their business. It is a challenging and fast paced environment; I certainly feel like I'm developing every day.’
In the current climate, Conor feels lucky to work for such a forward thinking organisation, where flexible working is standard. “The current climate has changed the game in terms of what constitutes a normal work environment. There are fascinating discussions happening right now about what the future office will look like, and how working from home may become the new norm.”
Ex-military are a good fit for operations and sales roles within Google, where flexibility, tenacity and resilience, curiosity, critical thinking and logical reasoning are all valued qualities. Conor explains that those with a more technical background may do well within the Engineering and Infrastructure areas of the business.
Google has recently launched a new Veteran focused career site to support Veterans interested in pursuing opportunities with them:
There is an active VetNet within Google, which has been focused in the US until relatively recently. However there are now chapter leads in London and Dublin who are intending to drive internal Veteran communities, as well as supporting those thinking of a transition.