Former student Claudia Pottinger (class of 2013) returned this week to share her experiences of being a Google Internee with Mr Phil Adams’ Year 13 Digital Technologies class. I was fortunate to be able to listen in on this session and record a few reflections.
Claudia attended St Andrew’s College for five years and during that time never studied programming or computer science, instead focusing on the ‘two Science, two Maths and English’ approach. When she started at Auckland University it was to studying for a degree in Engineering and a BA in Logic and Computation. It was in Computer Science 101 that she was introduced to the language of Python – something that was going to prove very helpful when it came to apply for the Google Internship.
Having seen a link online offering Google Internships for “under-represented groups in the technology industry”, Claudia applied, sending off a CV. She was eventually contacted and went through two different phone interviews to see her suitability for this role before being hired for the summer of late November 2014 through to February 2015.
MAIN ROLE AT GOOGLE:
Google allowed time for the interns to become familiar with the environment and understand how work happens within Google (took about 3 weeks) and the project was completed before the end of the 12 week internship. In responding to questions from students in the room, Claudia noted:
- The work environment was terrific – she was provided her own desktop (running a Google customised version of Ubuntu) and was also given a ChromeBook so she could work away from her desk.
- There was flexibility in terms of what application she coded in e.g. she could use eMacs if she liked or other software platforms if she preferred.
- Security was very tight – she was given an ID badge to enter/exit doors and also USB devices to authenticate onto computers.
- The security around customer information was very tight, however she could browse code from different projects if she wanted to.
GOOGLE LIFE – THE PERKS!
The students at St Andrew’s were amazed to hear of all the perks Google employees had access to and even Claudia was impressed that as an internee she was also given full access to these. These included:
- Gaming rooms – a wide range of consoles from various versions of Playstations, X-Boxes, Pinball Machines and even an old Nintendo 64!
- Micro Kitchens – located usually no less than 50metres away from any workspace, these had snacks, candy and other food and drinks.
- Four different restaurants each with unique menus and a smoothie bar
- Rock climbing wall, pool tables, table tennis tables etc for recreation.
All of this was provided free for the employees and interns.
A typical day for Claudia was described as walking 40minutes to work from the provided accommodation, having breakfast and grabbing a smoothie for her desk before signing into work and checking her emails and then getting down to coding.
Whilst not required, Google encouraged the various teams to lunch together regularly, after which she might relax in one of the games rooms and then return to code till around 6pm. One of the four restaurants was open for dinner for staff.
In response to a question on whether there was close monitoring of work hours / effort, Claudia said that provided staff were delivering the outcomes required for their projects in the time frames set there was no questions asked about long lunches or breaks to play games etc.
KEY MESSAGES FOR STUDENTS:
Throughout the internship there was a lot to learn and some of the key messages that were passed on to current students at St Andrew’s College included:
- Other people must be able to read your code – keep it clear, clean and use lots of comments in your code.
- All code she produced had to be signed off by a colleague before it could be committed and for this to be accepted the code had to be readable.
- Use the Coding Style Guides provided by Google to assist with this
- Document what you’re coding about as well – be as clear as possible.
- When applying for internships, include information on your interests and involvement in life outside of just programming.
- Mr Adams reinforced this as well after his visit to Google in Mountain View and New York last year. He mentioned that so many of the applicants are simply brilliant academically that one way to stand out is to show what you’re passionate about and involved in outside of work.
It was great to have an Old Collegian return to share with our students about the possibilities of internships and how to go about applying. To round out her experience, Claudia is likely to return to Google in Sydney at the end of 2015, but is also considering internships at alternative companies such as Microsoft.
This experience has also helped to shape her future career ambitions, focusing in on possible jobs in Artificial Intelligence and Robotics. Her final message to the students was that you don’t need to have everything decided right now and that by being a life long learner you can change direction within your degree and even into your career.