Sometimes the curves are the best part of following an irregular path in life.
That's true for Fabian Elliott, a rising senior at UNC Charlotte. At 20, he's swerved from decorated high school athlete in Fayetteville to dean's fellow in the Belk College of Business, and now to the coveted position of Google intern.
Starting Tuesday, Elliot will spend 11 weeks with an organization that is not only a Fortune 500 company but arguably the world's hottest Internet search firm.
"I'm a different breed," said Elliott, a marketing major. "The normal 'Googler' definitely would not have a football background."
Elliott will work in the company's direct sales department in Atlanta. Once inside the organization, he wants to learn enough about modern marketing strategies to make the leap from textbook theorist to elite marketing professional.
"A lot of companies like to advertise through Google," he said. "If I have expertise on how to do that, that would be important knowledge to have."
Most of the 20 finalists who visited Google's New York office with Elliott for interviews came from prestigious Ivy League universities.
Elliott came to Google through Inroads, a nonprofit that gives corporations access to diverse talent. Elliot is vice president for Inroads' student leadership team in Charlotte.
While Elliott doesn't have Ivy League credentials, he does have a sterling record of academics and service. He graduated sixth in his class at Fayetteville's Pine Forest High. He spent a summer as an Inroads intern in Target's executive training program and boosted sales at a Concord store by an average of $20,000 per week.
"I think Google saw everything that I saw," said Inroads Southeast Region Manager Amber Murdock. "They are looking for a creative thinker and someone with an entrepreneurial spirit. He has endless curiosity and the humble nature that allows him to receive instruction and mentorship. These are qualities that many college students have not attained."
The company's recruiters asked Elliott what makes him "Googley." He talked about the importance of innovation, efficiency and partnerships for promoting a new student organization he created on campus: The United Black Professionals.
Elliott said he also told the recruiters he writes poetry, to show he has a creative, artsy side, he said. The visit to the New York office showed Elliott that convention is not what drives Google's operations.
Employees move around the office on scooters. There were recreation rooms with games, massage chairs and fitness equipment. There were even play areas with ball pens filled with the colorful plastic balls usually found at fast-food restaurants.
"It was a very open environment - not many closed doors," Elliott said. "It's a lot more laid back than most business students are used to."
The advertising campaigns Elliott produced in the past relied on traditional strategies, including flyers and videos. At Google, he hopes to learn how to move into the 21st century.
"Basically you work on projects and you will be interacting with everybody like you're part of the team," he said. "You won't be filing or getting coffee."