In mid-October, 2015, I applied to a company that I could only dream about working for – Google. I knew my odds were slim – it’s Google right? I had to at least give it a try. I applied to Google’s undergraduate business internship called BOLD or Building Opportunities for Leadership and Development Summer Internship.
Applying and Interviewing
When I applied to the BOLD program, I selected Marketing, since I was a marketing major, as my first pick and People Operations, as my second pick since I had already worked for a tech startup in the staffing industry. Four weeks later, I attended a Google information session with about 250 other Penn State students about non-technical internships and full time jobs. Attendance was recorded, swag was handed out, and anyone who wanted to had the opportunity to hand their resume to the Google representative and give their 30-second elevator pitch. About half the room got up to give their resumes and pitches.
Four days later, on the Friday of the biggest party weekend at Penn State, I was finishing up some work and I walked over to my phone. To my horror, I had missed a call from the caller ID “Google Inc.” because my neighbors had been blasting music. I frantically emailed my recruiter back and 20 minutes later she called back. As I picked up the phone, I ran into my bathroom to shield the call from my noisy neighbors. Seconds later, she said, “We’d like to extend you an offer for Google Online Partnerships Group!” I sank to my bathroom floor nearly in tears. I couldn’t believe it. It was one of the most emotional moments of my life.
Living in Silicon Valley
On May 21st, I hopped on a plane and flew out to California. Rather than going through a Google+ group for accepted interns to find housing, I decided that it would be a cool experience to live with either tech interns or even interns at other companies. I booked a room in an Airbnb house in Sunnyvale with 4 other Google Tech interns who were working across Inbox, Google Shopping Express, Search, and Ads. Our house was about a 10 minute walk from our company bus stop.
Everyday, I woke up around 6:30 AM to catch my bus to campus. My bus was usually a double decker bus complete with WiFi, comfortable seats that recline, plenty of power outlets, and even booths with tables if you needed to get some work done. My morning routine usually consisted of a quick check of email to get any time-sensitive messages out, a short 10 minute nap on the bus, and a bite of breakfast at the cafe near my building.
The first couple of days of my internship consisted of orientation with about 24 other BOLD interns that started the same day as me. We received Google backpacks, laptops, and hats (I can confirm the propeller hats from The Internship are real). Throughout the two days of orientation we learned more about Google as a company, the internship program, and did team building activities.
By the third day, I started work with my team and dove into 2.5 weeks of intense training. The team that I worked with was the Online Partnerships Group or OPG for short in Mountain View. OPG at a very high level works with websites and mobile app developers (publishers) to help monetize their platforms with ads. I spent the summer working with our team that focuses on our larger clients, but the project that I focused on was strictly around mobile app programmatic advertising.
Without going into the details, I can honestly say that the work that I did was both one of the most challenging experiences of my life and one of the most educational experiences I’ve ever had. I went into the my internship having almost no knowledge of the advertising technology (ad tech) industry and I came out of it with incredible insights about how agencies and brands (the buyside) buy into online advertising, how ads get served to websites and mobile apps, and how publishers make money from displaying those ads (the sellside). I was able to work and meet with with many teams across OPG, buyside, sellside, and even product managers.
Throughout my internship, mentorship was a common theme. My host (basically my boss) was incredible. He helped me successfully navigate the ad tech industry, fostered an environment where there truly were no “dumb” questions, and provided helpful career advice along the way. Everyone that I met at Google embodied these characteristics. Over the 30 project-related and career-related meetings that I had, no one rejected my meeting request and everyone was willing to open up their calendars to schedule either a face to face meeting or to talk over Google Hangouts.
During the first couple of weeks, you have the ability to select a mentor from a predefined list of current Googlers that want to mentor you over the course of the 11-12 weeks or you can pick your own. Many of the mentors were former BOLD interns, so they offer an incredible perspective because they quite literally have “been in your shoes” before. The Intern Team also arranged opportunities to meet senior leaders at Google to discuss their role and provide career-related advice. I had the opportunity to meet Susan Wojcicki, the CEO of YouTube, and Philipp Schindler, Google’s SVP and Chief Business Officer.
Google also provides all employees with opportunities to develop their skills. You can take classes about analytics, presenting, coding, design, project management, and even bias busting. There are thousands of self-taught or in person classes. I focused much of my time learning to develop my analytical skills by taking classes about Tableau and learning how to build dashboards with it.
Everyone has heard about the perks at Google. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner is free. There’re free gyms and coffee bars on every campus and even rotating food trucks that go from campus to campus serving everything from Mexican food, to Filipino food, and even Cuban food. Every intern is also even given massage points to get a free massage during their 3 month internship. There are pools if you want to go for a swim and even a rock wall if you want to go rock climbing. There’s plenty of community bikes that you can just grab to get around and if you need to go longer distances there’s a car service and shuttles that run frequently to other campuses. While not exactly a perk, you do see a lot of Google Self-Driving cars, which strangely become commonplace a few weeks in.
During the summer, there are a couple of concerts, team off-sites, a carnival, an intern boat cruise, and plenty of personal development events. One of the interns that I worked with spent two days doing a “Search Inside Yourself” workshop learning about meditation and mindfulness.
Every week, Google also has a company-wide all-hands meeting called TGIF where any employee, even interns, can ask Larry, Sergey, or Sundar a question. While I personally never asked them a question, I always had the opportunity to do so and see them all in person on several occasions.
Weekends in the Bay
The days fly by at Google. As interns, you’re constantly working. So, my housemates and I used our weekends to explore San Francisco and the Bay area and relax a little. We hiked around and crossed the Golden Gate Bridge. We went to Coit Tower and saw the sea lions at Fisherman’s Wharf. We rented a car and went to Muir Woods, Stinson Beach, Mt. Tamalpais, Carmel-by-the-Sea, Monterey. We even made two trips out to Yosemite and hiked the Lower Yosemite Falls trail and the Vernal Falls Trail.
Thank you Google!
Overall, I couldn’t have asked for a more exciting and challenging summer. Sure, the perks are nice. The food is amazing. But for me, that doesn’t hold much weight. The people that I worked with and interacted with on a daily basis like my host and my other team members truly, made my summer internship at Google the best summer I could have ever asked for and I’m thankful for the experience that I had.
Edit September 2016: I accepted a full-time offer and I’ll be returning to Google, but at the New York City office in January 2018!