Hi, I am Vrinda Jindal, CSE sophomore/thirdie (not really sure :/). I am currently a Google STEP(Student Training in Engineering Program) intern. Sitting here, staring at the large desktop screen (that Google sent) and trying to write about my internship experience, I look back at all that went down before I landed this internship. It’s weird.
Rewind to September 2019, the internship process through the PT cell had just started, and I was adamant that I wanted a university intern. In retrospect, I do admit that most of the charm of wanting a university intern was the (rather foolish) allure of traveling to Europe, USA, or some south Asian country ALONE. But back then, I ONLY wanted an univ intern. I applied to all the universities that came my way, got to the final interview round of almost all of them, worked hard (apparently not hard enough) for the interviews but never ended up getting selected. In the meantime, I was also writing to other professors in search of some summer research intern opportunities, or as we say at IITB, I was actively ‘apping’. But to no luck. I did hear from a professor who was willing to take remote interns, but the idea of a remote summer intern back in December 2019 did not seem interesting enough.
The next semester came, and I still was without any internship. At the same time, all my friends had research interns and I was still going through the same cycle over and over again (apply -> get-shortlisted -> give the interview -> get-rejected -> repeat).
This process was turning out to be very disheartening for me, especially because I had spent the majority of my freshman year battling mild imposter syndrome. But yeah, I don’t know why I kept going. (A big thanks to my parents and close friends for the constant support and help.) Google came along; I applied and got shortlisted (no surprises here). Prepared for the first round of interviews. Got shortlisted for the final round (none of this was exciting me at that time as I was very skeptical of getting finally selected). I gave the interview and resumed apping. I did not hear back from them for about three weeks, and I had started to mentally prepare myself – “isme bhi nhi hua, onto the next one”. On the eve of my second last mid-semester exam, I was informed that I got the internship. At that time I was happy and elated, and to be honest, most importantly relieved, for FINALLY, the interviews would end. A few days later, I got an internship offer from another university, but I decided to pass because by then, the COVID-19 situation was getting serious in many countries.
Detour: For someone reading this article and looking for guidance on how to prepare for these interviews, basic leetcoding worked for me. You might want to brush up on the basics of DSA and practice standard interview questions.
Fast forward to April, everything is uncertain, internships are getting canceled, hopes of Euro trips are being shattered, but Google being umm, Google, is already ahead. They already turned the internships to work-from-home mode a few weeks ago and are actively working on ensuring that everything happens smoothly.
My internship started in Mid May. The equipment arrived a few days into the internship. Fortunately, until now I have not experienced any significant difficulty due to the online mode of the internship.
The company has done a brilliant job in ensuring that we are not missing out on any action just because we were in some google-meet room as opposed to a real room. The first couple of days were orientation days, learning about why Google is Google, interacting, socializing etc. All this was really fun, but also insightful as slowly I was beginning to realize what a privilege it was to be interning at such an amazing, inclusive, and dynamic place (I was truly feeling lucky :P).
As a STEP intern, I am working on a project along with two co-interns. Two very lovely hosts closely mentor us. I am working in the Google Platforms and Ecosystems team, in the sub-team that focuses on education-for-all. I am working on a feature for the newly released Read-Along (formerly, Bolo) App that would (hopefully) be incorporated in a future version of the App. (Maybe have a look at it on playstore?)
Though I am not at liberty to disclose much about the project, one thing I can say is that the entire experience has been really fruitful and rewarding. I have learned how to communicate effectively (through speech, writing and especially code).
The daily meetings have helped me maintain a schedule and be regular. The game nights, virtual sessions, leadership series and all the other (rather extravagant and peculiar) fun activities have led me to become really good friends with a couple of my co-interns. This was something I did not think was possible in a WFH mode. Also, the interaction with senior Googlers working on state of the art technology and large-impact products has vastly broadened my mental horizons.
One thing that I feel the internship could have had more of is mind-bogglingly challenging problems. The thrill of solving something that seems almost impossible at first is not something that I have experienced frequently during the six weeks that I have spent here. Other than that, the work is gratifying, all my small accomplishments are acknowledged, and I have the freedom to experiment with new ideas.
Google is a place that values ideas and people more than anything. The work culture is firmly based on the principle of respect for each other and for ideas, and this is something that I have come to admire greatly. It is often said, Interns are at the bottom of the company hierarchy, I did not experience this at all, even for a fraction of a second. Every idea that I have come up with, whether good or bleh, has been received with respectful attention. This collaborative and warm environment has worked wonders for my confidence and is turning me into a better developer and even a better person, ( if I may say so. xD)
All in all, given the unusual situation the world is facing right now, I do believe this internship has given me more than I could have asked for. I suppose that I am still at a stage in my life where I am not very sure about what career path I want to follow. With the final two weeks of the internship left, I am beginning to acknowledge how perfect this dynamic internship has been for me and how much exposure it has given me. Though I had other plans and dreams in the beginning, now, I am truly grateful for this wonderful opportunity.
And as for future sophomores seeking this (or any other) internship, I would just like to say, be open to new experiences and opportunities, maybe things will not go the way as you had planned, but trust the process and have faith in yourself, keep working hard, stay happy and safe!