Commencement Stories – Manuel Sanchez

First generation college student landed job with Google

Manuel Sanchez is the first of his family to attend college.

RIVERSIDE, Calif. ( – Manuel Sanchez has already accomplished something most would consider a huge life achievement – getting hired by Google. And he accomplished this before he even set foot into the “real” world. He’s a graduating senior at UC Riverside. He will receive his bachelor’s degree in computer science on June 15, 2015, and will start working in Google’s Irvine office this September.

“When I was told I got the job, I asked ‘is this real?’ I was super excited, I was yelling on the phone!” Manual explained.

But it took a lot of work to get to where he is today.

He and his siblings were born in the United States; but his parents were immigrants – his father is from Mexico, his mom from Honduras. They came here seeking the American Dream, expressing to their children the importance of higher education.

“They wanted us to have a better life than them,” Manuel said. “I got prizes for good grades. If I got an A in a class, my parents would get me a new video game.”

They didn’t have much growing up. Both parents constantly worked. Manuel’s dad was at the job from 5 a.m. to 7 p.m. every day. His Mom tried to work only six days a week, and would be at it from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. She worked for Princess House, selling household items like tableware, cookware, bakeware out of a catalog. So after school the Sanchez siblings spent their time in a car as mom tried to make sales. That meant they didn’t get to sit at home and do homework in a convenient space every night; they had to get everything done while traveling around for mom’s job. But Manuel said he never felt like his life was lacking anything; in fact, he’s thankful for everything his parents did.

“They were terrific. If I needed something, they found a way to make it happen,” he said.

Manuel is the eldest of four, and is the first in his family to receive a college degree.

Manuel will receive his bachelor’s degree in computer science.

Growing up, Manuel was always intrigued by computers, and technology. To make extra cash while in school, he would buy broken cellphones in bulk online, fix them and then sell them for a profit. “Looking back now, I don’t think I made very much money. But I learned a lot from it,” he said.

He’s the first from his family to attend college. Manuel came to UC Riverside after high school. He knew computer science would interest him the most, so he dove right in. He also spent his four years as a member of the Association for Computing Machinery, and in his senior year became chair of the organization. The group put on various workshops and professional events.

“I realized just going to class wasn’t enough – and it’s my biggest advice to other students,” Manuel said. “You’ve got to do stuff, personal projects, get involved with the school, other students, faculty. It’ll only help you in the long run.”

Victor Hill, the manager of technical operations at Bourns College of Engineering, helped Manuel reach this realization. Manuel helped Hill test and update Galah, a new digital grading system. This allowed computer science students to upload assignments to a computer, and get real-time feedback.

All of these experiences led to great opportunities for Manuel. He applied and interviewed at many big-name companies – Facebook, Amazon, and Western Digital, where he had a job offer after interning with them over the summer – but his dream job, and the one he accepted, was Google. He even had to overcome an initial rejection to get the job.

In November of 2014, Manuel applied for a software engineering position available at Google online. He received an automated rejection, telling him he wasn’t qualified, based on his resume. In December, a recruiter found his resume among a pile of others, and told him the complete opposite – based on his experience and passion he was completely qualified. So, the phone interviews began.

“Every time I thought I bombed it, but then would receive another phone call telling me I’ve made it to the next step.”

Finally, Manuel had an in-person interview at Google’s Los Angeles office. Two months later, he had the job. On graduation day, Manuel and his parents are not only excited to celebrate his accomplishments at UCR, but also what the university provided him in terms of the knowledge, experience, and passion that led him to his dream job.


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