When Falon Fatemi would come across a particularly tricky homework problem for her computer engineering class at Santa Clara University, she would take her books to her day job — at Google — and ask for help from the engineers there.
As a 19-year-old in 2005, Fatemi was working on Google's strategy for global expansion during the day and completing her degree in the mornings and at night, she tells CNBC Make It. What was supposed to have been an internship had quickly turned into a full-time role, she says. She worked there for six years.
"At that age, you know you don't need that much sleep," she laughs.
Today, Fatemi is the CEO and founder of Node, an AI data analysis start-up that has raised $16.3 million, with backing from investors like Mark Cuban. But she still values the lessons she learned at Google.
Here are five things the experience taught her about creating success at work and in business.
Scoring a position at Google had a lot to do with her parents' influence, says Fatemi. They came to the U.S. from Iran during the revolution there in the 1970's, and their immigrant mentality emphasized education and working hard, she says.
Her mom and dad had two rules: Fatemi and her brother had to study a year ahead every summer in math and science, and she had to have a summer job that furthered her future career.
"So while my friends were like babysitting or life guarding, I was actually doing patent research for lawyers at a firm," she tells CNBC Make It. "So I always had sort of a strong sense of discipline."
At Google, Fatemi's network included influential women like Stacy Brown-Philpot (now CEO of Task Rabbit) and Kim Jabal (current CFO at Weebly), and she was even in the occasional meeting with Sheryl Sandberg (COO at Facebook).
But connections were also how she got to Google in the first place.
As part of an entrepreneurship class Fatemi was taking at school, she had the opportunity to work on a research project for Microsoft. Through that project, a colleague recommended her to a senior employee at Google.
"Through that recommendation, I got basically a meeting," she says.
"The big take away from that experience is that at the end of the day, really, through people these opportunities happen."
Once she had her foot in the door at Google, Fatemi made the most of it.
During the interview, she was asked what she was interested in. So Fatemi decided to say what she really wanted: to "learn everything" and to work at Google. She got the offer.
"I had the courage to be like 'I want this job and I want to learn as much as I can,'" she says. "I took action. I chose to do that [Microsoft] research project, and I chose to ask for the job that I wanted."
One of Fatemi's early tasks at Google was to come up with an entrance strategy for Africa and Eastern Europe.
"Imagine being asked that when you are 19," Fatemi says. "The way that Google works is you just have to figure it out. It is like sink or swim. And so I did."
With just a few weeks to create the analysis, she researched the problem and then found experts within the organization to give her input. The important part, she says, is learning enough about the problem to ask the right questions.
"You can short cut a lot of your time by starting with setting up meetings with the right people, and making sure you are prepared for those meetings," she says.
"You've got to be scrappy!" she adds.
Now 31, Fatemi is the CEO of her own company.
And, according to Node's website, Fatemi is hiring. It remains to be seen if any 19-year-olds will apply and make the cut, but Fatemi says she would consider making a young hire in the future.
"At the end of the day, you are the only one that is limiting your ability to dream, or to actually execute on your dreams," she says. "Don't let yourself get in the way of that."
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