Google is flooded with applications for its internship program—40,000 alone for this summer’s 1,500 slots. Still, Kyle Ewing, who oversees the hiring of interns as head of global staffing for Google, would be thrilled if the summer film The Internship inspires even more students to apply. "If we get more great people interested in and excited about computer science because of the movie, it’s a huge win," Ewing says.
The Internship, which opens on June 7, finds Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson playing middle-aged watch salesmen who are dinosaurs when it comes to technology. The guys become Google interns—this is a comedy, so just suspend your disbelief—to learn all they can about the digital world. The aspiring tech experts hope to get jobs at Google when all is said and done, but they must beat out brilliant geeks for the coveted positions. Leaving aside the creative merits of the film (just about every reviewer has called The Internship an unabashed, two-hour ad for Google), it does explore a hypothetically interesting topic—what it’s like to make the grade at the competitive corporate promised land of the Internet age.
"The environment for interns at Google is healthier than it might be portrayed in the movie," Ewing says with a laugh, noting, "One of the biggest differences between the movie and a real internship at Google is that interns are not competing against each other, not for jobs or anything else. We would never pit them against each other."
In addition to working in what Ewing describes as a supportive and collaborative environment, Google interns enjoy competitive pay and perks, and interning can indeed be a path to a full-time job.
Only full-time college students can apply for the program, and while 90 percent of interns are hired for the summer, interns are brought into the fold year-round.
About half of them are stationed at Google’s Mountain View, California, headquarters, while the rest are distributed among 15 to 20 offices in cities including New York, Boston, Pittsburgh, Seattle, Atlanta, and Austin.
When you think of Google, opportunities for engineering students immediately come to mind, of course. But Google hires interns to work in other functions, including sales, marketing, and finance, Ewing says.
Adam Fernandez, a former Google intern who was hired by the tech giant as an account strategist, was studying finance and international business at Georgetown University when he applied to the Google internship program during his junior year. "I never really thought of Google as something I was going to go for because at Georgetown everything is geared toward investment banking," Fernandez says. "But when my manager in the student-run credit union I was part of did this internship and came back and said it was an incredible experience, I knew it was something I had to apply for."
Fernandez was subsequently accepted into Google’s Building Opportunities for Leadership & Development (BOLD) Diversity Internship Program, which is designed for students interested in non-technical roles.
Amily He, now an associate product marketing manager at Google who did internships at the tech giant during both her junior and senior years at Harvard University, says students must demonstrate an entrepreneurial spirit to stand out among the thousands of applicants for the internship program. "They look for people who are self-starters, who really take initiative and are very active in pursuing their passions," He says.
To wit: When she was in college, He, who studied economics and visual arts, started a conference on social entrepreneurship and innovation. She also worked for a book-rental startup that helped students buy books for school and then sell them after their course work was done.
Like He, Fernandez was also an entrepreneurial college student, taking a job at Georgetown University’s student-run credit union as a teller when he was a freshman. By the end of his junior year, Fernandez was vice chair of the credit department, managing the credit union’s loan portfolio, which he took from a paper system into the cloud. "I wanted to mimic some of the things that make Google successful, and I made sure I stressed that in my resume," he says. "When the Google team saw it, they knew I was a go-getter rather than just a student going to school."
Being a go-getter is crucial because Google interns are expected to contribute and make an impact.
"Whenever I thought of an internship, I thought it was, ‘Go get me a cup of coffee.’ This was really being a full-time Googler for three months," Fernandez says. "You’re treated exactly like a normal employee, and no one will question what you say just because you’re an intern. In fact, they’ll think that you have fresher ideas, and they’ll want to use them, which is really cool."
Within the first month of his internship, Fernandez was consulting with top executives at the company.
And during her first internship at Google, He came up with a way to make an existing product video even better and saw her concept implemented. "I talked to my manager, and my manager really liked the idea," she says. "We brainstormed together on the storyboard."
Interns at Google are not guaranteed jobs, but they do have a good shot at getting full-time positions at the company.
"We look at our intern program as the best source of full-time talent," Ewing says, "and it is our hope that every intern who performs well will be able to find a full-time opportunity at Google."
Fernandez says a good number of the interns he knew got full-time offers. The one thing they shared in common? They all showed initiative by working on side projects, Fernandez says.
He got involved in an effort to help small and medium businesses in the Cambridge, Massachusetts, area connect with the LGBT community. "There was a team of four people before I hopped onto it," he notes. "These were more senior people at Google, and they didn’t have as much time to dedicate."
By the time he wrapped up his work on the project, Fernandez had organized an event that had about 150 businesses learning about the benefits of reaching out to the LGBT market.
And just a couple of months after his internship ended, Fernandez was offered a full-time job upon graduation—he was a senior at Georgetown University when the offer came in.
"It was probably one of the best days of my life. It was a big relief because I knew I didn’t have to try and find a job after college when it was a really tough economy," Fernandez says. "More important, I loved knowing I would be going into work and doing something that really matters and potentially changes the way businesses work."