Internship at Google 2013
4 Internship at Google
The path to the Google was not straight but I made it. Before I flew to California I went home to Czech Republic to say hi to my family and friends. I spent there only 10 days and the flight ticket was around $1200 but it was totally worth it!
After I landed in California at San Jose International Airport I was wandering how I can get to my apartment which was provided to me by Google. Of course I could take a taxi but I don't like to waste money this way. Thankfully there was free Wi-Fi on the airport so I used Google maps to search for a route using public transport. It turned out that public transport will cost me $2 and taxi would be like $50 so I jumped on the bus.
Figure 1: Photos from arrival to California.
A slight problem was that the apartment complex where I lived was not on Google maps yet because it was recently built. There was some old factory and huge parking lot instead (Figure 2). But I found it without any problems. The real problems were caused by my stupid luggage which was giving me hard time. Its wheels got stuck and I was forced to carry it in hand, it had 31 kg (68 lbs).
Figure 2: Google map of the Crescent Village — the place where I lived. It was not on Google maps yet. The star shows where I lived :)
After I arrived to the Crescent Village my first thought was — Wow! The apartment provided to us was nice, I mean very nice. First, it looked to me like a hotel room. Everything was brand new, kitchen equipment and dishes were unused, towels in the bathroom were nicely folded and carpet was absolutely clean. There was even some food in the kitchen provided for us for the first evening so I immediately ate it.
Next to the apartment house was a nice swimming pool with a spa — I was there nearly every day. In the apartment complex provided many other services for the residents including fitness center, tennis and basketball courts, small movie theatre, room with bunch of computers and printer, social room with pool and poker tables and more. They even designated parking lot for every apartment.
Figure 3: Photos of apartment provided from Google for their interns.
The apartment had two bedrooms and each had its own bathroom. Every bedroom had 2 separated beds. This means that I was supposed to have three other roommates but the third one never showed up. Living with fellow interns was definitely an advantage because (especially at the beginning) it was helpful to have a buddy to talk to about everything and anything. My two roommates were from China. They were nice and they were not speaking Chinese too much which I really appreciated.
The Crescent village was about 16 km (10 mi) from Google campus which is quite far but a shuttle service was provided for us directly from the Crescent village to the Google campus. The shuttles were going from early morning till 10 pm with a break around noon. I missed the last shuttle in the morning a few times so I biked to work on a bike that was provided to us by Google too.
Figure 4: Google shuttle - comfortable and convenient service from Google with Wi-Fi on board, branded including the lights.
4.2 First day at Google
The first day was really exciting. The first event was around 11 am but the last shuttle was at 10 am so me and my roommate spent an hour walking around the Google campus and taking pictures (we felt like tourists).
At 11 am we received a temporary employee badges. The badge is one of the most important things and you need to carry it all the time on a visible place. Without the badge you cannot enter any buildings.
After the badges were distributed they sent us for a lunch. In that time I was thinking: "Wow, free lunch for new interns, how nice!". But then I realized what the sweet truth was: the food is absolutely free for all badge holders — the employees. The food was so amazing that it deserves its own subsection later in Section 6.1 Food at Google.
After the awesome lunch the real work started. They took our photo for real badges, we chose a password for the corporate account and then all the paperwork started. Google also provided us with a Chromebook — a laptop that runs Google Chrome as operating system. I would say that it is the ideal device for interns, especially in terms of security.
At the end of the long day (around 7 pm) our hosts (managers) picked us up. My manager took me with rest of his team to the dinner to one of Google's cafeteria. Then I took a shuttle home.
Figure 5: The first day photo — Famous Android "version" statues in front of Android building. Notice the android art in the window made of Post-it notes.
4.3 First week at Google
The first week of my Google internship was really busy. All new interns were scheduled for classes, code labs, and trainings so we could start working. The classes were quite interesting. For example, they told us how Google search works — what happens when you press the search button, etc. Generally, they did not tell us any key or surprising information but I really liked the side stories and numbers that are not public. Coding and code labs are covered in detail in the next Chapter 5 Coding at Google.
I was interning in Google Research team. In the first week I had my first one-on-one meeting with my host about my project. He presented me with his ideas for my summer project. He offered me three different projects and he let me choose the one I felt the most comfortable with. Not only I could choose the project I liked but also I could bring my own ideas and discuss them with the team. And the best thing was the fact that all the projects matched my background very well. I have to say that interviewers and my host did very good job in finding a very good candidate for the position (which is not always the case).
Figure 6: No time for the meeting? How about to have a conference with your team while riding to the lunch? The conference bike solves your issue!
I spent the rest of the first week by familiarizing myself with the workplace, surroundings and also filling various forms and attending trainings. In one of the trainings I learned that it is actually possible to date with co-workers. This is in contradiction to movie The Internship here they claim that interns should not date with co-workers. The movie is actually not describing internship in Google very well anyways so don't take it seriously.
My work station came with two 24" monitors and some kind of proprietary branch of Ubuntu Linux operating system called Goobuntu. Even though I was kind of familiar with UNIX systems I was never programming in them full time. I quickly learned how to perform everyday needs so it turned out to be no problem at all. Nearly all the Google internal tools are web-based which makes them OS independent — what an awesome idea!
Figure 7: Google sign with crows standing on top of it.
4.4 My team
As I already mentioned before I was working in the Google Research team. I was not the only intern in the team — there were five other interns that joined the team over the summer. Every intern had their own host that was taking care of them and every intern had quite unique and distinct project. Some of the interns' projects were nicely complementing each other which was really great.
I was quite (un)lucky because my host was actually the manager of the whole team so he was very, very busy. Even though we were supposed to meet regularly we ended up to meat rather spontaneously next to his or mine table. Table meetings were nice and informal way how to discuss any questions I had.
Since my host was so busy I was working with a team member Won from New York office. He was primarily doing code reviews of my code and we were discussing features of my projects over the e-mail. I really enjoyed working with him. The only down side was the three hours time shift between New York and California. It means that any code review submitted after 3 pm was usually reviewed the next day. Sometimes Won was working really late and he was kindly reviewing my code in the evening as well. Over the time of my internship I simply learned how to not produce code reviews between 3 pm and 6 pm.
Figure 8: The team I was working in.
I really enjoyed the work in this team full of nice, positive, and smart people. They were not hesitating to say "Good job" or "That's awesome" if I did something good. The team was excited about the stuff they are working on and I was happy to be part of it.
Once I asked my co-worker some question but he did not know the answer for it so he went with me to ask somebody else. The funny part is that the other person also did not know the answer so — as an avalanche — all of us went to third person who was finally able to answer my question.
Another great experience were daily stand-up meetings — a short meetings in the morning where the whole team discussed the progress and any issues (fires). I never experienced this style of meetings but I actually quite enjoyed it. I felt that I knew what was going on, I was more involved in the whole process.
During the summer the team had an afternoon team picnic and there was also a celebration of success of the whole team. Even though those events were not major or huge I liked those social events and the fact that the team actually meets outside of the office once a while.
I think that not all interns were as lucky as me to end up is such great team.
Figure 9: Google Research sign in the building I was working in.
4.5 Negatives of internship at Google
The most of my thoughts presented so far were positive and that's just because I really enjoyed it. But to be fair I want to address some negative aspects of Google internship as well.
The first negative aspect could be the size of Google — it is huge. Impact of an individual can be hardly recognized in the whole. Even though some engineers or interns are lucky to work on something bigger or distinct, the majority is lost in the crowd.
The scale also means that everything has to be developed with a lot of care and results are propagating to the public slowly. Even though Google's development cycle is pretty fast compared to other big companies it might seem slow for individuals (especially for interns).
The second thing could be the focus on the user. Google's motto is: "Focus on the user and all else will follow." which is true and great but I feel that the word user is interpreted as average user. A lot of products of Google are dropping great features just because they were used "just by 1% of users" and it is not worth to keep them. Individuals have very little power to do something about it no matter how much they like the features.
The last thing I have in mind is about remote offices. Even though remote offices are pretty cool the headquarters in Mountain View seems to me as much better place (especially for an internship). I understand that not every place could have everything but if you could choose your internship location the headquarters should be your first choice.
Figure 10: Google cat — a cat that can be seen around Google campus. She was very shy.
4.6 Other thoughts
There are potentially a lot of things that I could talk about but I am not sure if anybody is interested in reading them :) The coding and my project are covered in next Chapter 5 Coding at Google and the fun stuff is in Chapter 6 Perks and fun at Google. If there are any other topics you would like to read about just let me know in the comments below.
Figure 11: I found this view hilarious — a single palm tree surrounded by pine trees.
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Table of contents
- 1 Introduction and application process
- 2 Initial interviews
- 3 Host matching phase
- 4 Internship at Google
- 5 Coding at Google
- 6 Perks and fun at Google
- 7 Conclusion
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