Some entry-level employees get all the breaks. Others make their own luck. Salar Kamangar did both. He joined Google Inc. (GOOG) after graduating from Stanford University in 1999, five years before the initial public offering, and his meteoric rise mirrored the company's own comet-like trajectory. In seven years, Kamangar, now 29, has gone from newbie to key player in one of the most remarkable corporate success stories of the decade. Among his accomplishments: writing the first business plan, becoming a founding member of the Google product team, and leading the engineering team that launched AdWords, Google's proprietary method for tailoring Web ads to search terms. Google's youngest vice-president talked with BusinessWeek's John DeBruicker about what makes Google one of the best places for entry-level employees.
You were a biological sciences major. How did you get into technology?
When I first [got] to school, I was passionate about the idea of being a doctor until I spent some time watching doctors working with patients. I was then passionate about the idea of being a scientist. But I realized the day-to-day wasn't exciting. Then, after spending two weeks part-time at Google, I found I was energized by the tasks involved in the job. The lesson learned was to make sure you're excited and passionate about the day-to-day and not just the idea of the job.
What's it like being the youngest vice-president?
I don't think about the "youngest" part. We have a startup mentality with the resources of a larger company. I think that's very important. If you're a college grad going into your [first] job, you don't want many, many levels of hierarchy [where] you feel like even if you have a lot of passion and energy it doesn't get channeled effectively.
Would your experience have been different had you joined Google later?
I was able to progress more rapidly because I got started early. A new employee [today] wouldn't have the same experience I did. Relative to nonstartups, Google is very much a place where you can quickly make a big difference and be noticed.
What is your favorite part of the job?
It's fun to be in a room with a bunch of creative people and be as contrarian and as outside-the-box as possible, while talking about how to take an existing product or business and make it better.
What would your advice be to a recent grad beginning the job hunt?
After finishing your education, don't worry about finding the perfect role at the perfect company, because odds are low that you'll be able to predict anything. Instead try to find the perfect industry -- you'll be in a much better position to identify, and end up in, the perfect company. It's usually futile to try to predict the next Google. I lucked out, but I was able to identify the kind of industry that would matter and grow the fastest.