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Internship Experiences

Nick Yeager

B.S. in Information Science & Technology, Integration and Application Option
Penn State Berks, Projected graduation date: Dec. 2010

During the summer of 2009, Nick completed an internship as an IT Field Technician at Google in Mountain View, CA. In an interview, Nick talks about his experiences at Google and also gives his advice to current IST students preparing for their own internships. Nick is back at Google in the summer of 2010 for a second internship.

Click to Play PodcastListen as Nick describes his internship (transcript available at bottom of page)

Nick Yeager - IST internship at Google

Transcript of Podcast

For this interview we are talking with Nick Yeager, who is a senior at Penn State Berks. He is majoring in Information Sciences and Technology with an integration and application option. Last summer, from May to August 2009, Nick completed an internship at Google in Mountain View, California. He will be returning this summer for a second internship. Nick is also very involved on the Penn State Berks campus and in campus life. He is currently president of the Student Government Association. Welcome, Nick. Let’s start by having you tell us about your position at Google, what your actual position was, and what your responsibilities were while you were there.

Well, first of all thanks for having me. My actual position at Google was that of an IT field technician and basically what we did in that position, or what I did in that position, was I was responsible for assisting users with their computers, any problems they might have, network problems that might come up. And then we were focused, all the interns were focused, on a major project or theme for their stay at Google. So I had a project in the background that I worked on in addition to the things I just mentioned and that project actually focused around coding and developing internal applications at Google. 

Ok Nick, next can you tell me about the working environment and the culture at Google? What was the overall atmosphere like? What was your schedule like, and your co-workers too?

It’s actually a hard question to answer. Working at Google, living out in California, and just being in that area and that environment is like nothing I have every experienced before. It’s funny because most of the people that ask me this question, I kind of tell them it’s like working or living in a bubble. When you’re at Google the corporate culture is just unlike anything you have ever seen before. You have free reigns to do whatever you’d like. People are bringing their pets into work every day. Google has a 150 foot rule- food’s never more than 150 feet away. And just the culture and the policies the company lives by, is just something, it’s very interesting to get used to. It’s very easy to get used to. But when you leave, it’s very hard to adjust back to the real world. I pretty much made up my own schedule.

Interns are a little bit more strict on the schedule that they have to follow, but as long as we got our work accomplished and our projects completed we pretty much had free reign to do what we liked, come in when we liked. Google’s interesting in the fact that they provide breakfast, lunch, and dinner, however, you have to be at work at a certain time to enjoy those benefits. They know how to time it to keep their employees there, and that was something that I was always able to take advantage of. But in that sense, I worked then a normal nine to five work day. 

My co-workers were pretty much in the same boat as me as far as intern wise. I had a co-worker from Columbia University, a co-worker from Rensselaer Polytechnic, one from San Jose State University and one from Georgia Tech. And they were all great individuals to work with; fun individuals to work with and we were able to bond very well. And I’m sure that’s part of the Google hiring process in weeding out those individuals that might not have fit into the corporate culture, because that’s exactly what they say when they are interviewing and in their interview process.

Most of the individuals, and my managers at Google were quite young, which was another interesting experience: not getting guidance from someone much older than you, but that was understandable. The most interesting part of my managers and their attitudes were when I was in the middle working on a project and they told me to stop, clearly to stop working on my project, and play the Nintendo Wii with them. It’s quite an interesting experience. Everybody is very down to earth, easy going, and just fun to work with and be around.

So with all the food that they provide, and the opportunities for fun, it sounds like they try to provide a good work- life balance. Do they have fitness programs and things like that as well? 

They do. They have a lot of activities. There’s always a game of volleyball going on, on the courts. They have three huge gyms and a swimming pool. But it’s not uncommon to see, what they call the Google 15 which is gaining some weight when you start there. But they do encourage fitness and a healthy life style with all the gyms they have and all the programs they have it’s easy to get involved with something like that as well.

Next, can you tell me how you found out about the position and what the interview process was like for the position?

Well, originally, I applied to Google on their online application process and I just submitted my resume and looked at the different programs they had available and it wasn’t until I actually talked to the individual that was already currently employed with Google and forward my resume that I got a response and got more information about different positions that were available. Once hearing back from Google after my initial round of review was complete, looking over my preferences and my resume, I was contacted by HR and the recruiting department who suggested some positions to me that would be available that I might be interested in and the first position that they suggested to me was the IT field technician position. And it immediately stuck out because I was doing things similar for previous companies and at school and so I became interested in that position.

Upon that, they asked me to submit an application and start an interview process. After hearing back initially from HR, the interview was probably, I believe, scheduled for two or three weeks after that. So we were collaborating through email a little bit just straightening things out, getting an application submitted, getting background information checked, and making sure everything’s fine.

As far as the interview process itself, it was probably one of the most difficult interviews I ever had to endure. The questions they ask are not easy questions. They’re beyond difficult, and that’s not to scare anybody, but Google’s primarily interested in finding your approach and your attempt to problem solve. That’s what they’re interested in. Google’s mission is to solve the problem of information gathering and information collection. They certainly have brilliant engineers there and they want to ensure that their candidates for employment at Google have the talent and skills, so they ask the most extreme questions in a way to analyze an individual and see how their thought process is working, how they come to conclusions, how they problem solve and I can personally say I got a bunch of questions wrong or I wasn’t able to answer a bunch of questions. But I tried and stuck with it. And I believe that’s what they were looking for and that’s what stuck out to them. And I believe that’s what ultimately got me the job at Google is my determination and persistence and not giving up or saying I don’t know to a question. So, it was difficult, but it can be done.

Ok. Was that like technical questions that they asked you or different scenarios that they gave you? Can you give us an example?

Absolutely, they did both types of questions. There were technical questions for example, where things were located in the registry of the computer, which is kind of an abstract question for someone to answer on the key like that. So it wasn’t uncommon for me to say I’d Google that. But, other questions that they brought up were scenario based, how you would go about solving an issue, be it a networking issue, a security issue. And basically, one of the things they like to see is they like to give you a case scenario and you work your entire way through it. And then they write down their notes and go about seeing how an individual would solve a case, solve a scenario, that they lay out for you. And then do their analysis and follow up questions from there.

And how long was the interview over all?

I had three phone interviews and each phone interview was usually not less than 45 minutes.

Next, can you tell us what the most valuable thing that you learned during your internship was?  And also, do you think the internship helped prepare you for your next position after you graduate?

Well, I learned a lot at Google. From having to teach myself how to program in new languages to some new soft scales such as time management, that I didn’t have to worry about before because I had guidance. But there were many things that I had to learn and one of the most important things that I learned from Google was, don’t be afraid to ask questions. Don’t be afraid to fail at something that you’re trying that’s new. That’s kind of Google’s foundation. Many of the products at Google, someone took risk; the company took risk, and ended up achieving greatness. Gmail was created by someone’s twenty percent time working on a project that was obscure in the background that was just something that an individual was tinkering with, yet Gmail became one of the most popular email presences on the web.

So that was a motto now that I live by, and that Google helped me out with. There’s  many times when I was unsure of something at Google and they understand and know that you’re not going to have all of the answers or you’re not going to have all the resources. So you can’t be afraid to go up and ask. Part of the corporate culture at Google is making the atmosphere very family like and family oriented. Everybody I worked with, I considered family or I considered like family and I was able to talk to them like I would talk to someone in my household, maybe not quite exactly, but similarly.

The opportunities that I had to ask questions really helped me out. People are always willing to step out and help an individual. I had to try things that I wasn’t sure if it was going to be successful or not and take that risk. And that’s the most important thing. You can’t be afraid to try something new and go with something just because you might not be a hundred percent sure about it or you know it’s going to work out.

Great! I think that’s good advice not just in a job, but in general in life. Thank you. What advice would you give to other IST students that are looking for internship opportunities?

I think the most important fact to consider when looking for an internship or trying to begin the process of searching for an internship is staying dedicated and doing your homework. When I first was looking two summers ago for internship opportunities, I applied to monster.com, some of those websites, the nittany lion recruiting website is a great opportunity, also career services. They hooked me up with my very first internship at First Energy, and it was a great experience and the individuals and career services helped me out, helped me prepare my resume, fine tune my resume, get a cover letter established, and get my interview skills down. So career services is a great opportunity and that’s what they’re there for. As far as the interview process, and starting that, it could be intimidating but you need to stay dedicated and make sure you have plenty of rest before hand.

One of the most important things to keep in mind is if you’re interviewing for a company in a different time zone make sure you have that straight. When I was starting my round of interviews for Google I messed that up and I missed my interview because the time zone differences weren’t accounted for and I wasn’t factoring that in. So that’s one thing to make sure you keep in mind is the time zone differences.

Interviewers like when you ask them questions. That’s a big thing to keep in mind. It makes you look more prepared and more interested in the company and it gives you a better shot at obtaining employment in the company. So, do some research on the company. That’s a must. Have some questions ready for the interview yourself and it makes you look good, makes you look prepared, and it makes you look excited about the job opportunity.

One of the other things that is really important on an interview is if you don’t know a question and you need time, don’t be afraid to ask for a few seconds or a few minutes. The interviewer will understand if that’s the case, and as with anything in life, we don’t have the answer in front of us immediately, or something is not immediately clear. You make have to ask for a rephrasing of the question, or you make just have to think about it for a few minutes. I know that was the case with me for some previous interviews and I was so nervous and I didn’t take into consideration that I had that few moments of time and I never asked for that pause or break, I tried to answer the question and it didn’t go so well.  So keep in mind that you do have that opportunity to ask for a break or a pause to collect you thoughts. And that’s really important instead of trying to fabricate an answer or fabricate something that might not go so well. Take a few minutes for yourself and just try to collect your thoughts if that’s ever the case.

Alright Nick, just one last question for you. You mentioned that you’re going back this summer  so we’d like to hear about what you’re going to be doing there and also what your plans for the future are.

I am going back this summer. I’m going to be  leaving on May 15th. I’m actually going to be working at the YouTube Office in San Bruno, California. I’m still going to be in the same role, the same position, as IT field technician, but my responsibilities are going to shift and be a little bit different  and a little bit more is going to be expected this year since I am a returning intern. I will still have the responsibilities of helping users fix this issues with their computers, cell phones, network devices, etc. But I’m also going to be focusing on a larger project  and that’s the conversion of users switching from Windows PCs to Macintosh PCs  so my project and focus is going to consist and rotate around making users aware of the transition and then actually coding applications to help the transition from windows to mac. So I’m excited for that. I can’t wait. It’s going to be an interesting learning experience as always and I can’t wait to go back.

As far as my plans for the future, I’m hoping to stick with Google. I will interview for my full time position over the summer when I’m out interning. So I will know when I return for my last semester at Penn State Berks, in the fall, if I will have a position with Google or not full time. So I’m excited for that. If I don’t get my position full time, I will look around elsewhere. There’s other great opportunities out there besides Google, for sure, and I’m confident that I can secure something and hopeful for that.

Well that’s great, Nick. I think with the fact that they want you back this time, you probably have very good hopes for that and thanks for going out there and representing Penn State Berks so well and we wish you the best of luck in the future.