MATC Promise student gets gig with Google

Web & Digital Media Design student apprenticing at tech giant’s Chicago office for next 20 months

Mark Feldmann,

September 16, 2022

Kris Johnson

MILWAUKEE – Please excuse Kris Johnson if he keeps grinning from ear to ear. He’s just a little giddy about going to Google.

Johnson, a Web & Digital Media Design student at Milwaukee Area Technical College, will spend the next 20 months working as a digital marketing apprentice with the huge tech giant, known as one of the most powerful companies in the world. He started at Google’s Chicago office on September 12.

As an apprentice, Johnson will work on search engine optimization technology, video advertising, digital marketing, e-commerce and artificial intelligence.

“It’s going to be a lot of work, but it will be a lot of experience and a great opportunity. I am really excited about it,” he said.

The son of Vietnamese immigrants, Johnson was born and raised in Milwaukee and graduated from Milwaukee Public School’s Ronald Reagan High School. During his senior year, he participated in the M³ (M-cubed) College Connections dual enrollment program, attending classes at MATC and UW-Milwaukee.

“In high school, I really didn’t know what I wanted to do. I was very undecided,” Johnson said. “I took some computer courses. I also researched digital marketing on my own and started to get more interested in it.”

He started at MATC in September 2020 through the MATC Promise program, in which eligible students earn up to 75 credits of free tuition after other scholarships and grants are applied. 

“I’m very, very thankful for the Promise program,” Johnson said. “I come from a very low-income household, and there was very much a need for something like the Promise. It has helped my family immensely.”

So far Johnson has exceeded expectations, said Vasana Her, Johnson’s advisor in the MATC Promise program.

“Kris is well aware of the Promise scholarship criteria and is making sure he gets the help he needs to stay on track and pass his classes,” Her noted. “He is also always prompt and pleasant. He takes ownership of his learning by looking for opportunities to help him gain experience, such as the apprenticeship with Google.” 

Susan Retzer, Johnson’s instructor for his Digital Media and Database Web Design with PHP and MySQL classes, agreed.

“He does excellent work,” Retzer said. “He is a good troubleshooter, asks questions when needed, and makes sure things are working as they should be. He’s also a very good communicator.” 

To expand his knowledge, Johnson completed classes on Udemy, a massive online course provider, and on Codeacademy, which offers free coding classes in 12 different programming languages.

Johnson heard about the Google apprenticeship program on social media and applied in May. He had several interviews and was offered a position in August. “I was told this year they had the most applicants they have ever had,” he said. 

Johnson left nothing to chance when preparing for the meetings. He spent two to three hours a day for two weeks undergoing mock interviews. “I tried to prepare myself as thoroughly as possible. I was very adamant about getting this,” he said. “I think all that work paid off tremendously.”

At Google, he will start with a three-week virtual onboarding experience, followed by an immersive six-week bootcamp with Google's apprenticeship partner, Multiverse, to build a foundational understanding of the profession. He then will join a Google team to train on the job, while also engaging in classes and career workshops. 

Johnson plans to live in Chicago and take MATC courses online that fit his work schedule.

“He thinks ahead and plans,” Her said. “He talked through how he can make this manageable while taking his classes. This is the first time he’ll be working a full-time job while balancing school. We talked through options, support that’s available to him, and Kris made the decision that was best for him and the situation.”

Getting the Google gig might delay completing his degree, but Johnson knows he has earned a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. “I think having Google under my name on a résumé means more than finishing school at a certain time,” he said. “I can always go back and finish. I just have to take this opportunity.”

Wisconsin’s largest technical college and one of the most diverse two-year institutions in the Midwest, Milwaukee Area Technical College is a key driver of southeastern Wisconsin’s economy and has provided innovative education in the region since 1912. More than 25,000 students per year attend the college’s four campuses and community-based sites or learn online. MATC offers affordable and accessible education and training opportunities that empower and transform lives in the community. The college offers more than 170 academic programs; and transfer options leading to bachelor’s degrees with more than 40 four-year colleges and universities. Overwhelmingly, MATC graduates build careers and businesses in southeastern Wisconsin. The college is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.