Sayra López’s career (and love life) has taken her from a small town in Mexico to Philadelphia and now, to London.
The designer is leaving Philadelphia, her home for the last eight years, for London to work at Google and to join her husband, whom she met on Instagram, of all places.
We caught up with her on our public Slack to hear how she got the Google gig, if she’ll continue her weightlifting career in London and how she found such a sweet apartment over there.
Where you heading to? And why? How’d that decision-making process go?
I am heading to London to work as an Interaction Designer at Google with the gTech team. My husband and I had been thinking for months about what would be the best plan in order for us to be able to live in the same place. After a lot of debating and pros & cons lists, we decided that the UK was probably the best place for both of us. I wanted, however, for the move to also include some sort of career progression for me. So it would be not only a personal move but one that would further my career and my future goals.
Why was the UK the best place for both of you?
Well many reasons. First of all, his family lives there, whereas I live by myself alone in the USA, and all of my family is in Mexico.
Also, he had just been offered an amazing job as a Sports Scientist with The Royal Ballet at the Royal Opera House. If he was coming to the USA it would have been to get a second master’s, which would have stalled his career in a way.
As for myself, I have always wanted to live in Europe at some point. I also think that the design industry is very big in London so it was easier for me to find a job that I would find fulfilling and that would progress my career over there.
What was your take on the design industry in Philly? Did Philly not have a place for you to progress in your career?
I really like the design industry in Philly. There are a lot of options for growth for professionals: meetups, conferences, different startups, etc. I do think I could’ve progressed my career in Philadelphia as well, definitely. However, I was also finding it hard to give myself a reason to stay in the USA alone if it was only for work.
Yeah, I’m curious about this “Can Philly retain designers?” question because we have seen a few designers, like Tim Quirino, formerly of P’unk Ave, leave here for bigger consumer-facing companies Facebook. How’d you land the job at Google? What was that process like?
Personally, I did envision myself working for a bigger company like Google in the future, it just happened that the personal aspect made me go for it at this point in my life.
Well let me tell you that getting a job in London was way harder, in general, than I ever experienced in Philadelphia. There are a lot of designers over there and less positions, so I had been interviewing at a lot of places and having to do a lot of design challenges and varied rounds.
Tell us more about that job app process and how it was so hard.
I had been contacted by a recruiter a long time ago. When I started looking for jobs I checked in with them to see if they had any openings in the UK. They didn’t at the time so I continued looking other places. Like I mentioned, I sent my resume to probably about 200 places (no joke). And I had very early morning interviews because of the time difference. The interviews seemed way more specific and they asked harder questions than I had been asked at any interview in Philadelphia.
Since I had not heard back from Google, I was interviewing with other big social media companies, and product startups. I actually had been offered several positions before I reached out to the Google recruiter again and found out a position had just opened up.
What kinds of questions did they ask in the interviews?
Well as far as the Google ones, I don’t think I am able to disclose them, but if you look them up I am sure you can find them online. As far as other companies, they really wanted to know about my process and asked very specific questions about how I work and how I approach each step of the design process. They really wanted to make sure I was making conscious decisions when designing. They also had asked a lot of problem solving questions and I had to do several very long design challenges.
Over how long a period of time were you doing the search? When did you start sending out resumes?
I would say it took about three months total. I got flown into the UK for a final interview round for another company, but for the other ones it was a lot of Skyping sessions throughout that time.
And what are you gonna work at Google? What’s gTech?
I will be working on internal tools which is what gTech works on. So it involves working with engineers.
Hey, so, how did you find such a great apartment in London?
Kind of like how I would find jobs, a lot of constant searching. I would check the listings almost every day to see what new things would get posted and then immediately contact them. It was a bit too early to start looking for places, but we wanted to get an idea of what we can afford. The London market is really expensive and things get rented super fast. So when we found that place, we took the risk and went for it.
So tell us about your favorite tech scene memories from Philly. Favorite projects you worked on?
Of course. So first of all, I worked with a nonprofit called Job Opportunity Investment Network which is part of the United Way for about five years. I did a lot of design for them, and they were my first big web design project while I was still at Penn. We had a great working relationship and I really enjoyed working with everyone there and believed in the mission of the non-profit as well.
I also really enjoyed working at Squareknot and learning more about the startup world and working in a small team.
Shout out to Squareknot, one of my favorite Technical.ly Philly stories was about their fundraising saga. You’re a competitive weightlifter. Have you been competing recently? Will you compete/train in London?
Well let me tell you, the past three-four months with all this job searching, waking up early for interviews, design challenges, has left me no time to train. Let me tell you, it was a hard three months and even though I tried to go the gym initially, I just found that I had no time or energy to train for the time being. I also have a back injury so it made it harder to go in and do my normal lifting programming.
Once I move to London, I am planning to start a strength cycle again to gain all the strength I’ve lost. If you don’t train regularly, it is very easy to lose muscle fast. Also, my husband and I are planning to start bouldering and doing more of parkour training in addition to strength training.
We will see how it goes, I might start doing weightlifting more as a hobby rather than competitively.
So we’re nearing the end of this but tell us … what’s your fave place in Philly?
I really like that area with all the restaurants on 13th street between Chestnut and Locust. My weightlifting gym was located at 13th and Chestnut (Crossfit Center City), so I spent a lot of time around that area.
And any advice for the kids at home?
I would say don’t underestimate yourself either and what you are capable of. Keep improving your skills as a designer, and don’t compare yourself others. The industry is very competitive so if you are looking at what others are doing, do it more for inspiration, rather than having it question your own work.
I learned that anything is possible. I came from a small town in Mexico and I learned that if you work hard and you hustle, then it will pay off. That sounds very cliche, but it’s true.-30-
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