Join 3,381 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


What It's Really Like To Be A Google Intern
June 3, 2013 11:39 AM   Subscribe

Rohan Shah, a student at the University of Illinois, wrote about the interview process and culture for interns at Google.
posted by reenum (48 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite

 
Shah explains, which is about as in-depth as Google will let him go. Google has a strict policy against sharing company information, although it allowed our interview with Shah.

I was about to complain about this ("For an internship?!") until I got to the part where he was paid more for interning that most people get for their normal jobs.

BTW, am I alone to thinking that this "The Internship" movie is probably going to be a gigantic puff piece for the company? The commercials all explicitly state it's Google that's in the movie, and no one says a bad word against the company, in the ads at least. Sheesh.

He asked Carmi questions pertaining to Python, such as "Write a function with the following specification: Input: a list. Output: a copy of the list with duplicates removed."

I did this last night! HIRE ME GOOGLES

Shah was assigned three roommates, two from Argentina and one from Ukraine. "I got to meet people from a completely different culture. I got to learn from them and picked up a bit of their languages as well," says Shah. "It was a great housing experience for me."

He went on to add that his housing experience was much better than Cats, and he would be housed again and again.

The Cons of Being A Google Intern? There Are None
If there are any downsides to being a Google intern, Shah can't recall any. His only complaint is more of a frustration with himself.


I wonder what portion of this interview was dictated by the terms of his NDA?

If it seems like I'm unwilling to give Google the benefit of the doubt here -- it's a huge corporation, we shouldn't be accepting their word for anything. Also: Reader. Never forget!

P.S. Business Insider Inc, I know what the address is of the article I'm quoting from, it's right there in my toolbar, YOU DON'T HAVE TO PUT IT ON THE CLIPBOARD WITH A "READ MORE:" NOTE EVERY TIME I COPY TEXT FROM IT RARRGH!!!
posted by JHarris at 12:20 PM on June 3, 2013 [6 favorites]


I've been working in the computer industry since 1973.
OK... mostly in hardware, but The Google Interview Process made me feel stupid. I'd never pass.
I just applied for another job, and I hope they use a different system.
Sounds like a great place to work, though.
posted by MtDewd at 12:35 PM on June 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


Having mentored quite a few interns at Google, I can tell you that, yes indeed, it's a sort of wonderland for the interns.

Google takes the injunction that you aren't allowed to put the interns to work to replace a salaried employee very seriously, so interns generally get to do fun stuff. They have all the perks of full-time engineers, plus all sorts of social things. And they get free room and board, plus cash money - the total package being easily comparable to an entry-level salary.

I'm quite sure that NDAs aren't any sort of influence here - most of the interns have a great time.

Google's big problem was always getting talented engineers, and apparently it still is: I got contacted by them a couple of weeks ago "to reach out" and "tell me that there's always still a place for me" - which I very much appreciated. The fact that I've had two nightmares since where I was back working at Google indicates that it's not all wine and roses, but they do try hard to make the place as attractive as possible for engineers.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 12:39 PM on June 3, 2013 [5 favorites]


Kids are far too clever nowadays.
posted by popcassady at 12:44 PM on June 3, 2013



To: Alyson Shontell
Re: Internship Article

Hi Alyson,

Please find, attached, proposed text for the upcoming BusinessInsider article on Google internships. Feel free to make a few edits where appropriate, and don't hesitate to be in touch if any questions come up!

Best,
Frank
Google Public Relations Team

posted by threeants at 12:51 PM on June 3, 2013 [28 favorites]


P.S. Business Insider Inc, I know what the address is of the article I'm quoting from, it's right there in my toolbar, YOU DON'T HAVE TO PUT IT ON THE CLIPBOARD WITH A "READ MORE:" NOTE EVERY TIME I COPY TEXT FROM IT RARRGH!!!

The next giant in tech will be the one that solves this problem.
posted by shakespeherian at 12:52 PM on June 3, 2013


This guy had a better experience as an intern than I did as a full-on employee, that's for sure. I think it boils down to this:
His favorite memory from the internship is the day he rolled out the Android feature internally. He received tons of feedback from his peers, and then it hit him: The work he had done at Google was going to impact millions of people.
Well, yeah. That's the peak experience, that is. Congratulations on getting to do that during your internship, but don't think that professional life as a software engineer is generally going to be anything like that. The work I did at Google was... well... I would bore myself to sleep if I tried to explain what it was, and if I tried to count the number of people who will ever care about any of it, I might - might - run out of fingers. Maybe.

But I'm not grumpy or anything. Good for him. Just don't mistake this for normal.
posted by Mars Saxman at 12:52 PM on June 3, 2013 [5 favorites]


Also, the fact that he made $80k/yr equivalent plus covered rent at age 20 is probably supposed to make me think "wow, Google sure is awesome!!" but it actually makes me want to eat the rich.
posted by threeants at 12:55 PM on June 3, 2013 [5 favorites]


P.S. Business Insider Inc, I know what the address is of the article I'm quoting from, it's right there in my toolbar, YOU DON'T HAVE TO PUT IT ON THE CLIPBOARD WITH A "READ MORE:" NOTE EVERY TIME I COPY TEXT FROM IT RARRGH!!!
The next giant in tech will be the one that solves this problem.


Noscript?
posted by dobi at 12:56 PM on June 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


Mars Saxman: my experience there was fairly similar, though I did have some better moments. It was pretty shocking how many of my five years of work there were pissed away - work that was doomed to be wasted before I ever started to do it.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 12:57 PM on June 3, 2013


It was pretty shocking how many of my five years of work there were pissed away - work that was doomed to be wasted before I ever started to do it

To be fair, this describes a good amount of non-Google work I've done, too.
posted by zempf at 1:00 PM on June 3, 2013 [5 favorites]


> Also, the fact that he made $80k/yr equivalent plus covered rent at age 20 is probably supposed to make me think "wow, Google sure is awesome!!" but it actually makes me want to eat the rich.

This is a tactic that the 1% use to divide the rest of us - don't fall for it.

The reason that so many of the 99% are having serious issues is not because Google compensates their workers enough to have a good life - it's because the 1% have looted the economy and now use the leverage of permanent unemployment to force most people into dead-end jobs where you will never make a "good living wage".

If you want to be jealous of people, be jealous of trust fund kids or even better the Wall Street scum who actively work to destroy the economy in order to further balloon their already bloated salaries.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 1:04 PM on June 3, 2013 [25 favorites]


I'm curious, what would be the typical income trajectory for this guy's career? A couple of comments here suggest that life isn't all roses for software engineers, but $80K/year for an intern seems like great money.
posted by leopard at 1:10 PM on June 3, 2013


The recent trend of Google internship fetishization has been strange to watch, since I'm starting mine in a few weeks. On the one hand, the campus perks and culture seem to be accurately portrayed, if my former-intern friends are to be believed. But the interview process is so often distorted or misrepresented in these articles that I'm not sure whether to trust the rest of it. I'll report back in three months, I guess.

P.S. Please don't eat me. I'm from a working class background and have read my Marx, I promise.
posted by Starmie at 1:22 PM on June 3, 2013 [9 favorites]


BTW, am I alone to thinking that this "The Internship" movie is probably going to be a gigantic puff piece for the company

Haha. I can't imagine anyone thinking anything else. It is a feature-length ad for Google, and also a pretty good indication of the state of studio films right now. It's less obnoxious than the ones that are ads for the military or CIA, but not by much.
posted by drjimmy11 at 1:23 PM on June 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm curious, what would be the typical income trajectory for this guy's career? A couple of comments here suggest that life isn't all roses for software engineers, but $80K/year for an intern seems like great money.


This sounds about right for an entry-level software engineer at a big company. I'm not in tech, but my partner is (not Google though) and I've seen him recruit fresh-out-of-college CS grads. A few of them had interned for him before as well.
posted by peripathetic at 1:25 PM on June 3, 2013


The Cons of Being A Google Intern? There Are None

Shah was put up in Google-paid corporate housing, in San Jose's North Park


*ahem*
posted by whir at 1:28 PM on June 3, 2013 [4 favorites]


Google takes the injunction that you aren't allowed to put the interns to work to replace a salaried employee very seriously, so interns generally get to do fun stuff.

Actually, if you pay them regular salaries, you can put them to whatever work you want. Having been involved with intern programs at Microsoft, the reason they get to do fun stuff is because the companies are desperate for them to want to work there when they graduate.
posted by jacalata at 1:35 PM on June 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


The $80K starting salary is a bit of a golden handcuff in that the intern would be hard pressed to want to work anywhere else after getting that while still being in school.
posted by dobie at 1:36 PM on June 3, 2013


> Actually, if you pay them regular salaries, you can put them to whatever work you want.

Yes, this is completely true, my bad. In fact, the "interns" probably don't fall under intern laws at all.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 1:40 PM on June 3, 2013


You can get that salary as a new grad at any of the big tech companies (Google, Amazon, Facebook, Microsoft). Probably at a lot of smaller ones as well, pretty sure Fog Creek pays at least that? (I'm not so up on grad salaries at other places).
posted by jacalata at 1:43 PM on June 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


The Cons of Being A Google Intern? There Are None

"Mr. Burns, your campaign has the momentum of a runaway freight train. Why are you so popular?"
posted by drjimmy11 at 1:47 PM on June 3, 2013 [8 favorites]


I'm comforted to see that I'm not alone in having nightmares about being back at Google.
posted by jjwiseman at 2:01 PM on June 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


From a comment in (a linked article inside) the linked article:

Anyway - don't sweat the search algorithm! ... Most of the time you don't develop off the top of your head anyway. You google it and go from there!

I wonder how that'd go in an interview. They ask you to write code to do something (like a binary search), and you Google the code right there in front of them. I suspect that person would deserve a second interview.
posted by klausman at 2:08 PM on June 3, 2013


P.S. Business Insider Inc, I know what the address is of the article I'm quoting from, it's right there in my toolbar, YOU DON'T HAVE TO PUT IT ON THE CLIPBOARD WITH A "READ MORE:" NOTE EVERY TIME I COPY TEXT FROM IT RARRGH!!!
The next giant in tech will be the one that solves this problem.


Add this to your hosts file:

127.0.0.1 tynt.com

(I had to dig around in their source for a while trying to figure out which of the sketchy-looking third party scripts they include was causing this particular behavior; they sure are using an awful lot of sketchy-looking third party scripts. You'll probably want to block skimresources.com too, while you're at it.)
posted by ook at 2:23 PM on June 3, 2013 [3 favorites]


What was so bad about working for Google that people still get nightmares about it?
posted by Omnomnom at 2:26 PM on June 3, 2013


In technical interviews I've been in I was encouraged to google the answer if I needed to. It's realistic, often during actual development the answer you can't quite remember off the top of your head is right there on Stack Overflow. (I did feel better if I could pass the test with no googling though.)
posted by whir at 2:35 PM on June 3, 2013


The Segway ballroom dancing classes.
posted by benzenedream at 2:35 PM on June 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


I wonder how that'd go in an interview. They ask you to write code to do something (like a binary search), and you Google the code right there in front of them. I suspect that person would deserve a second interview.

Great, now I'm imagining an apocalyptic future where Google engineers break the search algorithm accidentally and can't... quite... figure out how to get it back online.

The new survivalist gear includes a search algorithm in an armored lead lined portable server.

Rival factions are organized around the remaining search engines. "Duck Duck GO!"
posted by tychotesla at 2:38 PM on June 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


I wonder how that'd go in an interview. They ask you to write code to do something (like a binary search), and you Google the code right there in front of them.

Google doesn't allow people to google the answers I'm afraid.

If asked to do a binary search though, it's OK to call bsearch(), it's in the standard library.
posted by w0mbat at 2:53 PM on June 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


This sounds a bit like the "summer associate" internships done by top law firms. They get paid good salaries, are given lots of perks, the work is interesting, etc., and consequently the image given to them of what it is like to work there is not realistic. The real hours are longer and most of the real work is duller.
posted by Area Man at 2:57 PM on June 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'd actually just add each item to check for duplicates to a Python set, and let Pythons hashing do the duplication search for me.
posted by JHarris at 3:11 PM on June 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


My recent experience with Google hiring went like this: I gave them my resume at a career fair and sort of forgot about it, and discovered two months later that their HR rep's email to me had been spam-filtered. By Gmail.
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 3:26 PM on June 3, 2013 [13 favorites]


I'm curious, what would be the typical income trajectory for this guy's career? A couple of comments here suggest that life isn't all roses for software engineers, but $80K/year for an intern seems like great money.

If he starts working for Google when he graduates, he'll probably be making around $100K/year; Glassdoor suggests $115K as an average for a software engineering position there. If he accumulates 5 or 10 years of experience and demonstrates a lot of skill, or if Google has to defend him against being poached by other companies, he might climb up into the $150-200K/year range.

These salaries are pretty comparable to what you would find at other big software companies with a reputation for hiring top talent like Amazon, Facebook, or Apple, and they're also similar to what you would make at a well-funded startup competing for the same caliber of employees (although you might trade more salary for equity.)
posted by value of information at 3:30 PM on June 3, 2013 [1 favorite]



I'd actually just add each item to check for duplicates to a Python set, and let Pythons hashing do the duplication search for me.


That's probably a really good first answer; I expect that's just what the fellow in the article said. Typical interview strategies are to take a good answer like that and then rummage around to see how broad and deep the candidate's knowledge is. For example, what if you didn't want to allocate extra storage during the operation (as you would by putting the items into a set as you go?) What if you were getting an endless stream of items over the network, too many to easily put them all in a set, but you could accept a 1% error rate? What if you wanted to parallelize the work over four cores? And so on.
posted by value of information at 3:42 PM on June 3, 2013 [3 favorites]


After a bout of negative press, Google forbid its staff from asking candidates questions like "How many cows are in Canada?"

I just interviewed there last month and each of the 4 interviewers asked me questions exactly like that.
posted by skintension at 4:33 PM on June 3, 2013


Typical interview strategies are to take a good answer like that and then rummage around to see how broad and deep the candidate's knowledge is.

answers

a) write a visual basic GUI
b) bloom filter
c) nobody will ever need four cores; don't be ridiculous

How'd I do?
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 4:42 PM on June 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


answers

a) write a visual basic GUI
b) bloom filter
c) nobody will ever need four cores; don't be ridiculous

How'd I do?


Google hereby offers to hire you as Staff Director of Engineering for Google Poodle, an fractal animatronic dog made up of nineteen smaller autonomous poodles which metaphorically represent the nineteen Google Virtues. You must compute daily the ideal route for the Poodle to visit each Google building taking into account company naptime and to-the-minute bike path congestion data. Your salary is $400,000/year plus unlimited tequila.
posted by value of information at 4:53 PM on June 3, 2013 [20 favorites]


I wonder how the Venture Brothers "What Color is Your Cleansuit" will go down in the minds of interns within and without Google.
posted by juiceCake at 6:57 PM on June 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


For example, what if you didn't want to allocate extra storage during the operation (as you would by putting the items into a set as you go?) What if you were getting an endless stream of items over the network, too many to easily put them all in a set, but you could accept a 1% error rate? What if you wanted to parallelize the work over four cores? And so on.

Well, because it's fun --
Don't want to allocate extra storage: To detect a collision you have to have the thing to detect against, or at least a hash of it. We'd probably have to custom write a hash to do better than Python's built-in handling, but then we could customize it for the specific data offered, instead of relying on Python's handling which has to accept all unmutable types, and thus possibly improve upon it.

The endless stream of items with acceptable error rate solution would also require writing a custom hash. But the answer to the parallel work problem is easy: Python only uses a single core, d'oh!
posted by JHarris at 7:10 PM on June 3, 2013


value of information's ranges for salary look right to me for a developer at a top / rich company. Factoring in bonus/stock/etc, a dev with 10+ years is probably making > $200k. Again though, this only applies to that set of {Amazon, Facebook, Google, Apple, etc} which is are all competing with each other and startups for the same devs. Work for a non-software company or a less profitable one and you won't see anywhere near that much money.

Inside Google, opinion on the movie by the rank-and-file is kind of negative. The bits I've seen don't seem very reflective of actually working at Google, big surprise, and not always in a positive way. (A scene where they ask what is or is not OK, and indicate that "having a beer with your boss" is not OK, is ridiculous given that said activity is actively encouraged by the company with free alcohol...). But at the same time no one seems super upset, just kind of embarrassed really (I think that fits my reaction pretty well).

FWIW, I've enjoyed most of my actual work at Google, though doing more user-facing stuff is indeed more rewarding (fun when the press / tech blogs start talking about something you wrote, etc).
posted by wildcrdj at 7:58 PM on June 3, 2013


In my imagination Larry Page makes all the Google interns dress up and sing the Oompa Loompa song.
posted by Wemmick at 10:21 PM on June 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


You mean, actually being employed by Google isn't like being Sammy Hagar in Van Halen? Oh the horror, that must really suck.
posted by Brocktoon at 2:36 AM on June 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


The Internship is already generating some snark.


'The Internship' Poised To Be Biggest Comedy Of 2005


my Facebook friend:

I saw a preview of The Internship tonight. If you only see one 119 minute long advertisement for Google and its affiliated corporate partners and subsidiaries this year, this is hands down the best option. If you'd rather see a film, though, see literally anything else.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 5:34 PM on June 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


Oh, a company in which interns are not:
1. a method to lower average workforce cost,
2. exploit tax facilitations (read: subsidized employing),
3. perform functions nobody wants to touch with a stick

Like in Accenture, McKinsey, PWC as well as a zillion small companies.

That's nice, for a change.
posted by elpapacito at 6:07 PM on June 4, 2013


Reminds me of being an intern at Microsoft a *cough* few years ago... They never scored a feature film for their propaganda reel, though.
posted by SakuraK at 10:48 PM on June 4, 2013


Interns at Google probably make more than you
posted by homunculus at 3:17 PM on June 12, 2013


In other news: Judge Rules That Movie Studio Should Have Been Paying Interns
posted by homunculus at 3:18 PM on June 12, 2013


« Older By rotating, positioning and dropping a predetermi...  |  Full opinion (dissent at page ... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments