Friday, August 2, 2013

Spotlight on Mountain View

When I first got my internship, I expected the offer to be from Mountain View; after all, ‘The Internship’ had just been announced when I was interviewing, and I knew that Google was based in Silicon Valley.  Even though I had heard wonderful things about the MTV campus, as someone who had spent their childhood in the Bay Area and was ready for a new adventure, I couldn't have been more thrilled when my offer was in New York City.

During the second month of my internship, an opportunity to see MTV arose: the female interns had a chance to fly to MTV for the Google Women Engineering conference--the same weekend that my parents would be in NYC to visit me.  I was a little bummed, mostly as I had become utterly convinced that I would like to stay with Google after graduation and knew there was a good chance that I would end up working in Mountain View without ever having seen it.  And then, one day a big surprise occurred. As I was cranking code and focusing on my last weeks to complete my work, we got a new project. During our first meeting with the engineering team we are supposed to work with, their tech lead suggested that my host and I fly out to meet with his team and next thing I knew I was packing my bags.

The flight was a blur, mostly because we left at 6am EST and were at the office around 1pm PST.  I drank a lot of coffee (every moment of which my host, Baris, caught on camera), but thanks to all that caffeine, I managed to be relatively alert as we dropped our stuff off at the hotel and made our way to the campus.

Some fun Google sights outside
the aptly named 'Android Building'
My first realization on the campus was that I could hear birds, something that you almost never hear in NYC unless you've encountered a crazy pigeon.  My second was that everything was so big; there were buildings in every direction, and the colors blue, yellow, and red were everywhere.  It was like I had walked into a Google Candyland style world.  On our walk in, I saw people playing beach volleyball, rows of Google bikes parked in front of the doors and, for no discernible reason, a T-Rex skeleton stuffed with pink flamingos.  The whole experience was odd, and even though the surroundings were so ridiculous, I felt strangely intimidated because no one else seemed to even notice that things were odd; I felt like a tourist, not a Google employee.

It only took a day for me to feel at home.  My host and I met with the team, and quickly went to work; by day two, I had my own desk, chair and monitor, and was knee-deep in code.  We only surfaced for meals, and I would wander and explore at lunch.  I spent a lot of time having my friend Tara (a web development intern for Google on the YouTube team) from Penn show me the campus and the various cafes.  We visited at least four different cafes, including my favorite one that served a large assortment of sushi.  I even got used to biking around the campus, a skill I wasn't even sure I still had.  The weather was stunning, and there were always pickup games of soccer, football, or volleyball going on as I rode by.

Googlers eating lunch in the main campus!

One of the days, Baris and I had lunch with one of his previous interns who was now living in Santa Cruz and working on Google Maps.  It was interesting to hear about her career and the different things she had worked on at Google; it was a bit odd as well, because I could see myself in her shoes in a few years.  Most nights I quickly ate dinner before heading back to work, but one night we went to someone’s house and had pizza and talked about different projects people were working on.  It was interesting to realize that there’s a stronger emphasis in MTV about spending time together after a work day; people don’t leave to go to bars, hop on the next subway home, or meet friends in another section of the city.  They actually spend time together even after work.  I walked down the main street in MTV one night, and it took me about fifteen minutes.  In some respects, the experience was lonely because I was only there for a week; however, I could see how easy it would be to get addicted to how beautiful the area is, how nice the people are, and the more relaxed way of life.

It was a crazy week, and as a reward for the long hours and hard work we’d put in, Baris and I went to his favorite coffee shop in Palo Alto on Thursday morning.  Although the MTV office had espresso machines, I couldn’t figure out the trick to making them taste like the lattes I made in NYC (hard life, right?) and welcomed a decent cup of coffee.  What I got, at the coffee shop called ‘Philz Coffee,’ was the best cup of coffee I’ve ever had, and the first one I’ve chosen to drink without any milk or cream.  They brewed each cup of coffee individually, so it was fresh and the blend was tailored to the flavors I really liked.

I look like I really want
a photo taken, don't I?
At the end of the day, I went to TGIF with Baris.  For those of you who don’t know, TGIF is a weekly all-hands meeting where Googlers can ask questions directly to Larry, Sergey and other executives about any number of company issues.  I sat right next to the stage, and in an incredibly awkward and amazing moment, exchanged hellos with Larry Page himself.  It was such a rush to watch people I've read about and admired for years talk candidly about Google and it’s mission.  I was reminded that Google is a company built on a singular idea: to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.  And that includes making sure their employees are as well informed about the company’s ventures as possible.

On Friday, we raced to finish our work and left the office around one.  I had delayed my flight until Sunday so that I could spend the weekend in San Francisco with some friends, and Baris dropped me off at my hotel in SF on his way to the airport.  Although I didn't get the full Google MTV Intern experience, I had a chance to see what interns in MTV experience and I have no doubt that I would be happy to work there one day.

The first time I was asked
to pose for a MTV photo
The fifth time I was asked to pose; I wanted to get to work!

(Countdown to completion: 18 days)

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