How a food cart gig prepared this Googler to be a designer

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When Conrad Bassett-Bouchard was interviewing for a product design job at Google, there was one question he didn’t think he could answer. “I was going through my final round of interviews and I was told they would ask me to talk about my ‘cross-functional collaboration’ experience,” he says. A grad student who hadn’t worked in tech before, Conrad didn’t think he had anything to talk about. “But my recruiter said to me, ‘Well, didn’t you work on a food truck?’”

Conrad had, in fact, worked on a food truck — well, actually a food cart. And it’s an infamous one, if you live in Portland, Oregon, like Conrad and me. The food cart, which closed in recent years, specialized in grilled cheeses of every sort, shape and variety. Instead of moving locations like the typical food truck would, the cart took up residence next to a converted bus that served as seating for customers. But Conrad learned more than how to make the perfect grilled cheese: I recently caught up with him to find out about how his culinary past helped him land a role at — and succeed within — Google.

Lesson 1: How to stay cool under pressure

As a UX designer currently working on the Google Fi team, Conrad’s job is to lay out what an app or other type of software will look like in a way that’s fun and engaging for a person to use. It’s a role that requires a lot of input, from research to product teams, so he knows what it’s like to balance various needs. “You’ve got lots of different people who have lots of different perspectives,” he says. “And my job is to synthesize these perspectives and understand what they’re saying, and ultimately use that to create something people will want to use.” There’s a certain amount of pressure that can come with his role — and his job in food service prepared him for it. He remembers that on the busiest days at the cart, hoards of people would be ordering, different requests would be thrown around and the crew would have multiple grills full of multiple grilled sandwiches…all grilling simultaneously. “We’d be taking in directions from every angle,” he says. “And…honestly, that was way harder than even my busiest days at Google!”

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