Melissa Shenoy’s journey to Google job started with UMSL physics degree

by | Nov 15, 2016

A business analyst, Shenoy tracks insights for the company, supporting projects including Google Express, Google Play Books and Google Trusted Stores.
Melissa Shenoy, BS physics 2007, sits atop the entrance sign outside Google's headquarters in Mountain View, California, where she works as is a business analyst. (Photo courtesy Melissa Shenoy)

Melissa Shenoy, BS physics 2007, sits atop the entrance sign outside Google’s headquarters in Mountain View, California, where she works as a business analyst. (Photo courtesy of Melissa Shenoy)

A physicist working for Google.

Did anyone else just pause? Many consider physics degrees a sentence to a life of academia and highfalutin research. But according to Melissa Shenoy, who graduated from the University of Missouri–St. Louis with a bachelor’s degree in physics in 2007, that’s not the case.

“I was very surprised by how ‘in demand’ a physics degree is in the tech industry,” Shenoy said.

She recently moved into a full-time business analyst position in Google Technical Solutions after paying her dues as a temporary employee for the company.

“I thought it was a long shot, but I put my application in at several companies (mostly contract work) for data analyst positions,” Shenoy said. “I was pleasantly surprised that I was called almost immediately by a majority of the companies I applied to. They said my physics degree showed that I had the technical skills and mental capabilities for the job.”

Truthfully, when you break down the skill sets, the surprise of physics degree holders ending up in tech positions dissipates.

“Physics majors are ninjas in several fields,” Shenoy said. “Programming, mathematics, critical thinking. We can take a problem and break it down to the basic components and then rebuild it, hopefully in a more unique fashion that saves time and obtains the same results.”

Shenoy currently puts those skills to use examining insights for projects like Google Express, Google Play Books, Google Trusted Stores and many other offerings of the global company. While there, she’s also had the opportunity to stretch her knowledge, learning business modeling, user interface design and several programming languages from teammates and mentors.

And of course, working for Google comes with some perks that are hard to pass up. Access to more than 20 different cafés, micro kitchens, an extensive bike-share, several free gyms, a shuttle system, free laundry facilities, flexible work schedules and tons of team development and social events are among the many benefits of which Google employees, like Shenoy, can take advantage at the company’s headquarters in Mountain View, California.

Oh yes, and living in California. That’s certainly a perk, too.

“I love living in the Bay Area because of the weather and diversity,” Shenoy said. “The temperature is normally between 60 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit. There are so many people here from all across the world, and there is always something new cultural-wise to experience or eat.”

It’s a long way away from those early undergraduate days for Shenoy, who initially had her sights set on a history teaching career before switching her major to physics.

“I struggled through my first set of physics courses but was encouraged by my fellow classmates and professors,” she said. “A lot of departments pit their students against each other, competing for grades. Not the UMSL physics department. In the physics department, everyone wanted you to succeed if that is what you wanted.”

Shenoy said she had many great opportunities open to her while at UMSL, too. She was a teaching assistant, helped run the Astronomy Outreach Program and also gained undergraduate research experience in astronomy and physics Professor Erika Gibb’s lab.

“A lot of my success is due to her belief in me,” said a grateful and humble Shenoy. But it also seems that physics was just the right fit, not only academically but professionally as well.

“Physics was great for me because I loved the way the math told the story,” she said. “It’s not because of a fascination with a pendulum swinging, a ball going down an inclined plane or Schrödinger’s cat” – popular physics queries.

“It’s using math to build stories and produce results” – something Shenoy gets to do every day at Google.

The UMSL Experience

Marisol Ramirez

Marisol Ramirez