Hey, I am Diti Sanghai, a second-year undergrad in the Electrical Department. I am not a very good writer, so forgive me for all the mistakes I might make ahead. I am one of those people who is interested in so many things, it’s a bad thing. Be it coding, designing, or core engineering, even history and cosmology and quantum mechanics. It turns out, I didn’t really like the branch (Chemical) I was in, and so I changed it to Electrical, and it was the best decision I have ever made. Of course, it got hectic, but who said that is a bad thing! I read a lot and watch the stars every night and annoy my friends and sleep a lot. (16 hrs straight is my personal record.)
Pre Intern Time
Moving to the story about the intern. So, I am currently a STEP hardware intern at Google (aka a Noogler). I found out about it on the internship blog. I applied because, what’s the harm in putting your name in?. So, we had two options, apply for a hardware or a software intern. Looking at the requirements, I realized I didn’t know crap in electrical, so I went with software. But the fates had another idea. The shortlist for software came first, and I wasn’t on the list. I reassured myself, it was a long shot anyways. I mean Google isn’t a joke, and I was like the dumbest of the people in the Electrical and CS departments, according to the JEE ranks of course. So I went on applying for a lot of other interns too, apping at different places, and one day the hardware shortlist appeared, with my name on it! I was at the top of the world. That was it, even if I didn’t get selected, this was a very big achievement for me.
And then a long long time passed with no information what-so-ever, I kept applying here and there. When finally the dates for the interview came, I found myself admitted in the hospital because of the side effects of antidepressants. Yes, I had found myself alone with depression and anxiety with only the support of a handful of people. I was still learning to fight it off. How was I ever gonna give a good interview when I was dizzy all day, stuck with these thoughts in my head?. My parents had come to see me, so they requested the staff to allow me to leave for a couple of hours to give the interview. Of course, I was scared to death, but excited too. I literally had zero expectations from myself. I hadn’t even completed my DIC yet, it had been a week since I had any connection with academics and other people were in tech teams, with much more knowledge in electrical than me; I was nothing. Who was I kidding with even the thought of getting selected?
We had 2 one-hour-long interviews, back to back. One was mostly based on coding and the other on hardware and circuits etc. And so the dreaded moment arrived, and a couple of minutes before the interview I realised I didn’t bring my earphones. Bad omens already! Things already started to feel out of control. I was literally shaking for the first few minutes. I tried to calm myself down and went on with my first corporate interview ever. I wasn’t able to answer the first couple of questions, my anxiety increased, but later, I answered some really well as I had some idea about them. I was careful to explain each and every thought while solving. The second interview went better than the first, as a lot of things were taught just a couple of weeks ago in DIC. This really cheered me up. I still wasn’t at my best, but the adrenaline kept me going and I did have this teensy little hope that I could actually get to work at Google!
And then another month of waiting. I started applying to a lot of places for an intern as it was taking too long and I needed a backup. Somehow, only the places where I applied waited for months to shortlist people. Anyways, one day, I decided to ditch lectures and sleep all day. I was rewarded! I got a phone call from the recruiter. I was half asleep when she told me that she was from Google and that my “ candidature was positive”. What is that supposed to mean? I texted all the people I knew who might know what it means, and they asked me not to get my hopes up. How was I supposed to do that? I was in suspense for the next couple of days and one of my friends texted me Congratulations. I opened up the Internship blog, and there it was, a dream come true.
A core intern in one of the biggest companies in the world in my second year. Could I BE any happier? I had heard so much about it, the culture, the experience, and I was going to be a part of all this. Again, fate had a different idea.
Covid happened. A lot of internships were getting cancelled. There was no contact for a month and a half. I wondered if Covid had just spoilt this great opportunity for me. Any questions to the recruiter always ended with diplomatic answers that literally were no help at all. Insti decided to reopen in June, the time that was supposed to be devoted to the intern. And then offices closed down too and we weren’t very sure if we would actually do an internship.
But it is Google for a reason! They made the intern virtual! Within a very short span of time, they revamped the whole program rather than scrapping it for a year! Although it was cut short from 10 weeks to 6 weeks, it was still something. The offer letter arrived a week before the intern, and that made everything so much more real. A lot more surprises awaited me on my very first day at Google.
I came to know that I was among the first 4 STEP hardware interns at Google in the world! It gives a lot of pride when that “first-ever” phrase is added to something, doesn’t it? I also came to know that they were gonna send laptops, a monitor, keyboard and mouse and everything else to make a small office for ourselves at home. To every single intern. There were delays due to lockdown but things did reach us. And they were amazing, I don’t know how I am going to work on my old laptop when this goes away. And not just laptops, they sent us t-shirts and bags and all the goodies that interns got when they were in the office. I was really shocked by their generosity. Maybe this is what makes Google different.
The managers were keen to work with us and patiently answered all our questions with such eagerness and promptness, I never had a moment of confusion or the feeling of being lost.
About my work as an intern, I was teamed up with Bhavika, one of my friends in the department. We are currently in the gChips team that basically is responsible for all the SoCs (Systems on a Chip) and IPs(subchips) that Google devices use. We are working in the DFT team that is responsible for making sure chips actually work the way they are expected to and find faults if they don’t. I had expected to get puny projects with not much value, after all, we were just second-years and this was Google. Surprise again! We are working on projects that will be a part of almost all chips that Google will make. And it is exciting to work on something so huge. Something that might affect so many others later.
Since there were delays in getting the laptops, Bhavika and I are working on two projects together rather than one project each, which I am very grateful for. I think it might have gotten boring working alone at home. So we worked mostly with python and tcl. (skip to the next section to avoid big technical terms!) Our first project was related to automating the process of categorization of timing paths and creating path histograms on the basis of their slack to allow comparison of performance between design and silicon with varying frequency and voltage. The second one was a more significant one wherein we aimed to provide more accessibility to individual IPs that were a part of SoCs so as to make testing of each IP and the SoC as a whole, both possible. We inserted blocks of simple logic, known as wrapper cells, to all the IO ports and chained them together to form scan chains retaining the original logic of the chip with various modes of testing provided. Our main job was to shift this process left and reduce the time it took for the existing tools to do the same job. And to our surprise, we were able to bring it down from a few 10s of minutes to about 20 seconds!
But let me tell you this, the making of a presentation was a much more humongous task than the project. I know it sounds silly, but the depth needed to make a ppt is much more and I learnt this well, making an impactful presentation is no joke, but a subtle art.
The WFH Fun!
It is so much fun working together, we end up working on weekends too. And since we are working together, things are moving faster as well. Our managers have even extended our internship by three weeks! And thanks to WFH, we start no earlier than 10:30 in the morning and also make sure to take naps in the afternoon. Probably the only thing that I really wanted to experience was free coffee and great canteen food at the office! Recruiters are literally taking care of everything else.
The thing I really loved about this internship is how everyone is trying to give us the best experience possible. With talent shows for interns, to global intern trivia I am having so much fun. Not something I had expected after all the descriptions of the corporate world. The biggest surprise for me was receiving official emails with absolutely hilarious GIFs! The interns are amazing too! We often end up playing pictionary or other games late at night. We have something called Virtual Ninja Coffee wherein we can connect with random Googlers around the world over coffee based on our interests! Groups of 20 interns have been made and we weekly meet on a video call to play games and have fun! This is being conducted by our recruiters and boy, are they creative. Just to tell you how cool people are here, Googlers even have their own meme page!
The Amazing Culture @Google
With a chance to talk to the leaders at Google, to attending workshops on Artificial Intelligence and Deep Learning and Leadership Skills, it’s not just about completing your project. It is about experiencing Google, from our homes. We are exposed to all the different types of groups at Google who work in the interest of the less privileged, be it women, black people, or the LGBTQ+ community. Something that is probably the best thing about Google is that they strive to create for literally everybody, and I think that is beautiful.
We are given access to a lot of stuff which is confidential, which I find pretty weird, given that we are interns. We are invited to meetings that discuss all the big issues in the team or at meetings where Sundar Pichai himself livestreams on the challenges and achievements to all Googlers. Not that I understand half the stuff, but it is a privilege to be a part of this massive entity with access to so many confidential things even when we are here for such a short time.
I have learnt a lot from this intern, not just about hardware, but about myself too. It is finally believable that I am capable of doing things that can be a part of changing the world. And that belief is something that will keep me motivated to push myself harder. Curiosity isn’t such a bad thing, after all. The trust of Googlers in us has made me trust myself. I have learnt how to be Googley! I think that is much more important than learning how to code or know a certain concept.
Tips… (not sure if they really are that tho :/)
About tips for getting a good intern, I do not believe I am the right person, because I have only been shortlisted once, with no experience at all. But I think these things should be kept in mind, always. Be curious and don’t just study for the sake of doing it. Be confident and DO NOT put fake points on the resume, they somehow figure it out. One of the very important things that our professor mentioned in one of our lectures is to explain how you arrived at an answer in an interview, and not just give the final answer. It is the thought process that matters the most. Again be curious, ask the interviewer if things are not clear, sometimes questions are deliberately made unclear. If making any assumptions, do state them. These small things are much more important than they seem. Preparing for something only a couple of days before does help, but only when you have been constantly giving time to things beforehand. No one becomes an expert in a day or two.( Leaving the midsems and endsems of course :P). And the most important thing is to believe in yourself, but knowing that other people are equally qualified or probably better too. All you can do is give your best, and destiny shall do the rest. And once you do get an intern, make the most out of it by not just completing your project, but talking to other people, being curious about things you are doing and why you are doing them. Try to get involved in a bigger team and show genuine interest in learning new things apart from your project. Give your ideas to your teammates and managers, as lame as they might be, just so that they know you aren’t just doing what you are being asked to but actually using your head in doing it. Communicate and of course, stay curious!!