4 min read

What It Was Like Interning at Google

In part 1, I shared my freshman and sophomore year internship experiences. Here, I share my junior year internship at Google Canada.

I found myself in Waterloo, Canada because I wanted to explore a place outside the Bay Area. Now, all my friends are Canadian 😠. I’ll write about my Canadian adventures outside the office another time.

On with the story:

Google Canada

My internship at Google didn’t look like it was going to be much different. I thought I was still going to be insecure about work, since I hadn’t done jack at Qualcomm, and didn’t get a return offer from Apple. But things were boutta change!

At Google, I started keeping a work journal as a Google Doc. Every day, I would go to my journal, add the date at the top, and use that entry as a scratchpad for the day.

Like so:

Wed 8/16/19

Tues 8/15/19

Mon 8/14/19

Here’s a sample entry (from a later internship):

Screen Shot 2019-09-27 at 1.16.20 AM.png

I started the work journal on a whim, with no clear purpose.

I ended up using the journal to:

  • Make todo lists
  • Plan my tasks out loud
  • Debug out loud (aka the rubber ducky method)
  • Record questions to Google/ask my mentor
  • Sign in and out for the day

I’d leave for a meeting or for the day, but be able to come back to work and re-read my train of thought. Super helpful.

Outside of all these benefits, my journal gave me one big, bold realization:

Shit, I lose a full day of productivity a week

Once a week, I’d lose an afternoon or sometimes a whole day of productivity, and do nothing. My journal would be blank.

I knew I got distracted - everyone gets distracted, right? - but I didn’t realize it was so regular - like clockwork.

When I would have these “zero days”, I would feel terrible. I was cheating myself, sure, but I was cheating my team too. These days are the days I would be most insecure about my work, and worry whether I’d be “found out”.

Realizing this was a low point for me. I felt ashamed, and didn’t want to talk to anyone about it.

Fortunately, I didn’t have to. Reddit to the rescue :)

At just the right time, I stumbled on some motivational advice from /u/ryans01. Here’s an excerpt:

Promise yourself, that the new SYSTEM you live in is a NON-ZERO system. Didn't do anything all fucking day and it’s 11:58 PM? Write one sentence. One pushup. Read one page of that chapter. One. Because one is non zero… Turning into productivity ultimate master of the universe doesn’t happen from the vortex. It happens from a massive string of CONSISTENT NON ZEROS. That’s rule number one.

Somehow, this post was the pick-me-up I needed. I began to have the mindset, no matter how late it is, that I can make today a non-zero day. Some days I struggle, but eventually, I put in the work. Just to avoid signing off my journal as a zero day.

Now, I fight any insecurity about work by maintaining a string of consistent non-zeroes. I’ll always feel stupid or get stuck programming, but when I put in proper hours of effort each day, I find it hard to feel down.

I found there are three decisive moments: when you get in in the morning, when you get to your desk after lunch, and waiting for your builds to finish.

Many habits occur at decisive moments—choices that are like a fork in the road—and either send you in the direction of a productive day or an unproductive one.

Win those moments, and you’ll win the day :)

I keep telling my friends smaller companies are the way to go, but man, Google puts up a fight.

The perks are fantastic

Google makes it so easy to have a great lifestyle. I thought I wasn’t one to be wooed by creature comforts, but these perks afford you a better lifestyle. I miss them.

At Google, I had free breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I easily ate a healthy diet with vegetables, and I didn’t have to cook or wash dishes. And, the food made for a more social environment. Since no one would cook, everyone would eat together. I ate together with my team at lunch, and the interns at dinner.

Gym, showers, and protein powder. I exercised regularly. And blenders and ready-to-blend smoothie jars in the kitchens.

But once they ran out of blueberries which was a fucking tragedy

Meditation room. I got a regular meditation habit down, since the room was just right next to the cafeteria.

Finally, the transparency is fantastic too

In stark contrast to Apple, Google defaulted to open. The most concrete example of this is TGIF (Thank Google It’s Friday).

From the Google site:

We have a weekly all-hands meeting called TGIF, hosted by our founders, Larry and Sergey. In the first 30 minutes, we review news and product launches from the past week, demo upcoming products, and celebrate wins. But the second 30 minutes is the part that matters most: Q&A.

I loved TGIF. I binged like 4 one Sunday in July. It was great. It made me feel like I was a Googler :)

Actually… no. I felt like a Googler cuz of Memegen. Oh yeah that’s right LOL

Memegen is the internal Google meme page. It has freaking awesome content. Sample:

Screen Shot 2019-09-27 at 1.41.24 AM.png

In sum, big companies like Google are cool.

But, I’d always been drawn to smaller and mid-sized companies. I wanted to see what the fuss was about. So, I later worked at Zenreach (~120 ppl) and Flexport (~1300 ppl).

Read to see what I discovered :)