The storms of Silicon Valley - Doing my internship
This is the second in a series of 3 blog posts about my past summer. You can find the first post here, otherwise read on.
DISCLAIMER: This post is not thorough and is my own views and does not represent views by Google, Meebo or Fulbright.
At Meebo, What Shall We Die For?
The first 4 days of my internship were pretty much as expected, mostly trying to grapple with starting my internship, essentially. Met up with my mentor and team members and started forming ideas for my main internship project. My main interest is in Machine Learning so I was thinking of a project that would work with Meebo's relatively new interest graph product. The atmosphere around the office was welcoming and it was interesting to see this side of a tech company. That is, not seeing it only as a website I visit occasionally.
You can check out Meebo's offices on TC Cribs (Yes the very nerdy Cribs series): TC Cribs: Meebo’s Headbanging, Rocket-Flinging Office (With Magical Passageways) | TechCrunch http://tcrn.ch/N1KDmq
On my 5th day at Meebo, Meebo was bought by Google [Story Link]. This obviously was not my plan for an internship as quickly things spiralled. I just didn't know at that time if it was going to be spiraling up or down. Most importantly was the complication that I was an international student in the US so there are hurdles to jump. Anyway, I should have seen this coming. While I was in South Africa in May I had missed the news articles on rumors that Meebo might be acquired by Google.
Sources: Google Is Close to Buying Meebo - Liz Gannes - News - AllThingsD http://dthin.gs/PuCzYl
On my 9th day, Meebo stopped existing. I had one of the shortest internships I have ever done. Previous shortest was 3 weeks, I think. That was planned though. Being at Meebo, minus the short stay Meebo, was great. I really liked the environment at the company, there were wonderful things happening there and I was really looking forward to working on some interesting projects.
I also got to explore Mountain View during my first few days at Meebo as I lived very close to the office. My mentor at Meebo quickly introduced me to Red Rock coffee which was downstairs (http://www.redrockcoffee.org/). One of the great things about the area is that it’s the tech capital of the US (obviously).
So getting back to the meat. Meebo stopped existing and soon enough wheels turned and I was about to start a new internship at Google. A lot of people made it possible for me to move to Google.
Thank you to everyone who supported and assisted in my move especially Sarah my Fulbright advisor and her office.
A lot of questions still remained, one being what would happen to Meebo now as Google. Time will give us the answers but I will say the team at Meebo was a talented bunch and I did enjoy interacting with them even after acquisition at Google and other places offline.
Reboot, Hoist The Colors!
I started a new internship about a week after Meebo closed shop, now at the Google main offices. There was a lot to process at the beginning of the internship. I met my new mentor and new team. I got to also venture around the Google campus during breaks to seek interesting things and meet other employees and interns.
The experience of being an intern at Google was great. I worked on a project that required a good amount of programming but it also brought back some of my love for C++ (I am mostly program in Python now). As my time was cut short, because of the acquisition, I focused on improving one of the systems that my team was using. Further, trying to think deeper about the Machine Learning implications of some of the pieces of the project. One thing Google does have is big scale, they deal with large amounts of data/records. It was a very interesting task to think about how one process' very large amounts of data efficiently with the algorithms one creates.
Working on a focused project that would ultimately be used by others was great motivation and meant I got to experience the challenges that come with live projects. There is a good feedback loop with the work being done and it is also interesting to see how open the environment is as you can nearly always find out more about obscure pieces of the Google land. One interesting thing is that I used a Chromebook for the whole internship. In order for me to appreciate its merits I ended up ditching my Macbook Pro for about a month while I was going to work and exclusively used a ChromeBook as my research and document creation machine. I used my desktop for programming. The reason I switched was to try to remove some of the bias I would have had towards the laptop as I was used to my Macbook. My conclusion about it? It's a great machine. I can see where Google is going with its vision of the internet as a platform. I have even become less dependent now on built-in apps as I can get more things done through the Google Drive and Chrome Apps.
The Google campus itself was always buzzing. I attended a number of tech talks offered by either visitors or other Googlers. This made the campus feel more like a University and it was an interesting dynamic. I enjoyed the transparency that Google has with some of its products and the ability to ask direct questions to engineers who work on it. I also sat in on some user studies and gave my input about some of their products on what I liked and didn't really appreciate. I attended a number of intern events and looked for opportunities to learn something new. I also got to bump into a lot of things, like Project Glass and self-driving cars.
I got to understand more about what Google is as a company, way more than a search engine. Bigger than anything I thought before. I was lucky to finish my first week there just as Google I/O 2012 developer conference was preparing to be hosted the next week. I got to see the other Googlers cheering for their colleagues who were showing off their work.
Outside my view of the internship experience, you can check the Google Student Blog. Also another article that came out during the summer:
At Google, interns are ‘superstars’ http://bo.st/OzNLCT
Up is Down, Tales of The Valley
This is the end of this post. The next one will mostly deal with my views of "The Valley", what I think makes it great and what the experience there meant to me. One more thing before you leave, another Oatmeal: This one is more concerned with what happens when people find out you are working for Google. They try to sell you on their ideas. Sometimes it gets overbearing but generally it was interesting and I talked to people I would have never talked to before, as I was not that cool 🙂
Just some Trivia. All of this posts titles have a little tag-lines that are the titles of songs from the "Pirates of the Caribbean III" soundtrack. I love listening to soundtracks and while writing this blog post I thought back to that specific soundtrack. It might be of the pirate spirit of technology startups 😀
Now on to the last post: