Googley Summer – pt. 1

Hi there, just like I promised in my last post, here’s a story about how I spent my summer in 2016: interning at Google headquarters in Mountain View, California! In this part, I’ll talk about my experience before the internship starts – applications, interviews, apartment hunting (always crazy in the bay area, lol), etc.

Getting an internship at Google

If you read my previous posts, you know how I spent Summer 2015: Interning at Square! Well, my internship there ended around end of September 2015, but I already started applying to various places for my next internship from around end of August. That way, I can get an internship offer before I get a return offer from Square and have more time to consider offers (PD amat ya, but it works!)

Companies that I applied to:

  • Google
  • Facebook
  • Yelp
  • Stripe
  • Uber
  • Dropbox
  • Palantir

Unlike the previous year, I applied by myself and sent my resume directly to each company’s career website and with no referrals at all, since I want to be independent this time. Well, it turns out that having Square on my resume this time around really helps a lot. All of them contacted me for an interview. I was stoked! That is a much better rate than the previous year, and that’s with referrals!

So.. I did interviews with those companies, except for Facebook because I can’t really see myself working there. I deactivated my account multiple times that year due to personal reasons, so yeah. I kind of ignored the recruiter… 2014 Rakina will definitely give 2015 Rakina a sucker punch, but hey, I end up with the company that I wanted anyways 😀

Experience with the companies that I interviewed at, sorted by final interview date(?):

  • Yelp
    • I sent my resume to them when I attended Greylock Tech Fair in San Francisco.
    • Recruiter called and asked if I’m interested in their intern position
    • Did two Google Hangout interviews
    • Passed to next level: onsite at their SF office (I was still interning at Square at that time)
    • I scheduled it to be early in the morning so I can continue my day as normal after the onsites 🙂
    • Did two interview at their office, one of them is system design which I suck at
    • Got rejected
  • Stripe:
    • Applied directly on their website
    • Did a Google Hangout interview
    • Passed to next level: onsite at their SF office!
    • Did 3 interviews at their onsites.. the last one is find-the-bug-in-a-huge-codebase problem and it’s in C++… I can’t do OOP in C++ :’))
    • Rejected, lol
  • Google:
    • Applied directly on their website
    • Did two back-to-back Google Hangout interviews
    • Got guaranteed offer 😀
  • Uber:
    • Applied directly on their website
    • Did two Skype interviews, plus one with Engineering Manager
    • The interviews are way easier than other’s interviews
    • Got an offer for the security team 🙂
  • Palantir:
    • Applied directly on their website
    • Did two Skype interviews
    • I missed one of the interviews.. and missed the rescheduled time also, lol
    • Rejected D:
  • Dropbox:
    • Contacted my recruiter from last year (Elaine, you’re awesome!)
    • Did two Skype interviews
    • Passed to their onsites, but I’m already in Jakarta, but they’re very chill about that
    • They paid a roundtrip flight, visa fees, and hotel stay for an onsite
    • You read that right. CGK-SFO round trip, $200 US visa fee, a decent hotel stay for an internship interview
    • Around that time, I realized how much money companies spent on recruiting
    • Got jetlagged and sick for the interview, lol
    • Rejected 😛

So by November, I got offers from Google, Uber and Square (return offer, yay!). Fun fact: Uber and Square have their headquarters in the same building. I passed by a lot of Uber people during my internship at Square 🙂

After some contemplation, I chose Google. It’s the company that I dreamt about since high school, so not really a tough choice. I know some cons to working at Google such as only being a tiny part of a big company etc, but I really think I’ll learn a lot. Also, my mentor at Square, Yunjing, recommended the place 😀 (He’s also a former Google intern during his PhD years!)

Getting an internship project at Google

Usually, an internship offer at Google doesn’t guarantee you an internship there. Wait, what? Let me rephrase that: doing well on your interviews for a Google internship will lead the hiring committee at Google to allow you to pass to the next level only, that is: host matching. Host matching is basically a process where candidate interns wait for a team at Google to “discover” them from a giant pool of candidate interns. These teams will interview the interns and if there’s a match (both of them like each other) that means the candidate intern will be an intern at that team. There’s usually a time limit for the candidate intern, I heard it’s about 6 weeks. Nobody contacts/matches with you? Bye. Pretty crazy, huh? I know people who made it through the interviews, but not through host matching and can’t have an internship there in the end.

Thankfully, I didn’t have to go through that stress. Since the method I’ve mentioned is so notorius, a lot of candidates just don’t want to risk it with Google. So starting my year, they devised a new thing: Guaranteed offer! It basically means you will get a team no matter what, so it’s not a risk to take Google’s offer. But, I still need to get matched to a team after all. I guess as the number of teams that need interns run out, they just do random matching with the remaining guaranteed interns.

So.. here’s a story of how I got my team. I signed my offer in November, and waited peacefully for a team. November and December passed, I’m still chilled out. January came, two of my friends Vincent and Soko got accepted at Google too! But they don’t get the guaranteed offer, so they waited for a few weeks and got matched around mid to late January. I got slightly nervous. February came, and I still don’t have any teams contacting me. I’m kind of stressed and other interns with guaranteed offer at the Google Interns’ FB group are either matched or as stressed as I am :’D

That’s when I decided to take the matter with my own hand: I’m gonna find my own team! I’m a strong and independent woman! (jk I did not say the second part). I reached out to other Indonesian working at Google, but they don’t have empty intern positions in their teams.. 😦 I stalked people on Quora and Facebook… tried to message a few of them that looked nice, some of them answered and still no luck!

I ended up with my last point of contact, Steven, who hosted a talk in a CompFest seminar the previous year. He worked at the Research and Machine Intelligence department and talked about Natural Language Generation in his seminar. Pretty scary topic, but I emailed him anyway. I don’t have high hopes. But two days after I sent him a (pretty brief) email, I got a reply! He said he’ll ask around his team and department. I immediately thanked him, and a week after that, he came back with a potential team for me! OMG!

Hi Rakina,

I wanted to introduce you to Amit Dubey.  He’s a member of my team in Mountain View with an intern slot available.  In the past we’ve worked together on some of the conversational search features I talked about in my presentation.  Commence discussion 🙂

After that, I got talking with Amit. I looked at his LinkedIn, and it turns out he took his PhD at University of Edinburgh – Pak Ruli and some other Fasilkom folks went there too! I really tried my best to show that I’m a strong match for his team 😛 After a brief intro about the team (I still don’t fully understand the team when I accepted the match, but it sounded cool) and a quick hangout call – we’re matched. So happy!  I didn’t knew it then, but joining this team turns out to be one of the best decisions in my life later on – I’ll tell the story in the next post 🙂

Friends! New friends!

If you don’t know already, there’s actually quite a few Indonesians interning at Google in Mountain View last summer. There’s me and Soko from UI, Jessica from Binus, Vincent from ITB, Irvin, Anthony and Sharon from NUS, Prajogo from NTU, Cindy from University of Washington, and Karina from UCSD. I know Soko, JH, Vincent, Irvin, and Sharon since high school so they aren’t exactly new friends 😛 I met Cindy briefly the previous summer at Quora Open House. I got introduced to Anthony through Sharon, and Prajogo is from Indo2SV. I met Karina randomly on my first week at Google – we go through the same orientation class! She heard Soko speaking in Indonesian with me and realized we’re Indonesian 😛

13603631_10153771711492081_1079160441780164637_o
Most of the Indonesian Google Interns + Full-Time Employees

I spent my summer being quite close to some of them, especially with Jessica and Cindy because we’re roommates! Cindy and I have the exact same internship start date so we decided to team up early on, and Jessica’s start date is around 3 weeks after that. Knowing the crazy housing market at Mountain View and the surrounding areas, it’s better for us to try to find a place together. It’s also kind of rare to be able to speak Indonesian most of the time in the US 😛 I felt kind of lonely the previous summer where I airbnb-ed on my own and don’t have a female friend to talk to.

20160902_183825-animation
Final photos with my roommates, taken on our last day together >,<

Apartment Hunting

If you don’t know already, the housing market in Silicon Valley is crazy. Finding a nice studio for less than $1500 a month is hard. Just like the rising salary for software engineers there, the rent is increasing at a steep rate. I think it’s one of the reasons you’ll see so many homeless people in San Francisco. I think Google can’t realistically find housing there for all of the hundreds of interns they have each summer, so they gave us a housing stipend instead. I was lucky to find a ~1500$ apartment in San Francisco for me through Airbnb the previous summer, and now I have to do it again? No way I’m doing it alone 😛

I quickly teamed up with Jessica to find an apartment as soon as I got host matched, which is around February. We introduced ourselves to Cindy to form a bigger team (?) and started searching! Our first stop is Airbnb, but they’re kind of expensive.. and we can’t really find a place for three. Craigslist is kind of impossible because two of us are in Jakarta and Cindy is in Seattle. We spent almost a month searching for a cheap and nice listing 🙂 Thankfully, I have a pretty good skill in Google-fu. I found a site called HomeSuite, which focuses on short-term furnished rentals. Awesome for interns! We immediately settled on a place near Downtown Mountain View, close to a bike trail to Googleplex and the Caltrain station 🙂

Well, I think that’s all for now. I’ll post the next part soon enough.. I hope? 😛

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