SAN FRANCISCO—The Silicon Valley set is a notoriously eclectic bunch, so it may come as no surprise that among the ranks of techies are a number of former Olympians. But for some of these elite athletes, scoring a job at Google required almost as much training as winning a much-coveted medal.
Google's parent company, Alphabet, has more than 80,000 employees. Among them are dozens of Olympians, according to an unofficial count from the company.
Tim Goebel, the men's Olympic figure skating bronze medalist in Salt Lake City in 2002, and one of the most recent American men to medal in the individual event at the Olympics, now works at the Googleplex in Mountain View, California.
"Pretty much everyone dreams of working at Google. My expectations were low but I applied," he told NBC News.
Yes, it turns out even some of the Olympians NBC News spoke with were eager to work at Google but had to work just as hard as anyone else to get their foot in the door.
Natalie O'Brien, a bronze medalist in the 4x4 rowing in London, told NBC News that after her Olympic moment, she moved across the country with her husband.
"I did not want to go back to my old office and resume the life I had before the Olympics. I knew I would really have to shake things up, because I heard the [post-Olympics] transition could be difficult," she said.
A former college roommate worked at Google and encouraged O'Brien to apply for a few jobs, but she didn't land any offers. Instead, she ended up spending nearly four years getting some more experience before she landed her post-Olympic dream job at Google as an account executive in San Francisco.
It was kind of like she was training for Google, she told NBC News.
"We [athletes] are an impatient bunch. We’re competitive. We want to achieve and we want results right now, but training at the elite level also gives you an appreciation for the process," she said. "I have to say that is the most applicable trait that training at the elite level taught me."
Mira Leung, a figure skater who competed in Turin in 2006 for Team Canada and at 16 was the youngest athlete on the team, said she was laser-focused on school and training, so she never gave much thought to what her next career would be.
"I had always been drawn to computers since I was young, so I decided to major in computer science in university," she said.
Now a software engineer on Google's Daydream team, which focuses on virtual and augmented reality, Leung said her day to day consists of programming and technical design for Google's AR and VR initiatives.
"I feel lucky that I get to work with my awesome colleagues and be part of such an inspiring team. It's amazing to see what we're able to build together," she said.
Petri Kokko, a Finnish ice dancer, competed in the 1992 games in Albertville, France, and the 1994 games in Lillehammer, Norway, joined Google 12 years ago and is now the agency sales director in Germany, working on Google's advertising products.
"Google was a very different company [when I joined]," he said. "But as I had always been interested in computer science and marketing, I decided to have a chat with Google and here I am still after all these years."
The four Olympians-turned-Googlers that NBC News spoke with said their colleagues are aware of their Olympic pasts.
But Goebel joked, "It's not like I walk around saying, 'Hi, I'm Tim, I'm an Olympian!'"