As I have promised around six months ago (oops), I’m going to tell the story of how I spent Summer 2016: Interning at Google Headquarters in Mountain View, California!
I had the exact same internship start date as my friends Soko (also a Google intern) and Tri (Twitter intern), so we figure we might as well go on our halfway around the world trip (CGK-SFO, minimum transit time is 20hours) together. We decided to fly with Korean Air since it’s cheap compared to other airlines and it’s also a SkyTeam member! As an added bonus, Incheon Aiport (our transit airport) offers a free city tour for international travelers transiting through South Korea with a long layover. As opportunistic college students with 8+ hours to burn in Incheon, of course we signed up for the 5 hour long tour 😀 We went to a traditional village (?), a local market and ate lots of tteokboki and bibimbaps.
After we arrived in SFO, we parted ways to our respective apartments. I Ubered to my temporary Airbnb (since Jessica’s start date is 3 weeks after me and Cindy, we Airbnbed for the first few weeks) in Sunnyvale. After I settled and unpacked in the Airbnb, I slept. I woke up the following day (Sunday) around 4 AM to eat before fasting. Yes, it was right in the middle of the summer so I need to fast 16 hours a day. I brought a lot of Indomie and Super Bubur from home to keep me company 🙂
Cindy arrived from Seattle (where she studied) on that day, with the help of her brother who lives nearby and works at Tesla (!!). We did a proper introduction and I went out to the nearest 7-11 to buy some food before it’s time for ifthar (ending the day’s fasting).
Week 1 – Orientation!
Before I knew it, it’s already Monday – orientation day! If you don’t know already, Google has its own bus network that covers almost the whole San Francisco Bay Area (SF, East Bay, South Bay, and more) with the sole purpose of transporting their employees from anywhere they live to the office. You might think that’s crazy, but it’s actually quite effective and environmentally friendly (Facebook also does this!). Cindy and I went to the nearest G-Bus stop and went on our way to the orientation building. When we got to the building, there’s a line of maybe around 50 people. It turns out, those are other interns! We lined up to get our orientation book and into the cafeteria for a quick breakfast (though I only sat there because I was fasting :P). What follows after that was a day full of presentations and group activities, and most importantly – swag distribution! I posted on Quora about the swags that I got that day. It was a fun day and gave me a lot of information about what to expect for the next twelve weeks 🙂
The rest of the week is pretty much similar – more presentations, technical and non technical. It’s a whole week of orientation! We have some free time in between, but we aren’t expected to work just yet. So yeah, we were literally getting paid for learning stuff 🙂
I emailed my host, Amit, on my first day and we met on the following day. We walked around the Googleplex and talked about the team, projects, and a lot of stuff. After a few weeks of knowing him, I found out that he has a cat (!) and does improv. He knows a lot, and sometimes make linguistic jokes that is beyond me. Heh heh. His normal jokes usually made me chuckle though.
Another funny thing that happened that week is the fact that I randomly met Raymond, my friend whom I first met during my previous internship at Square, on my very first day. We’ve chatted before and know that we both are going to intern at Google that summer, but this is an unplanned encounter right in front of my building’s cafeteria after I grab my dinner there. This is especially funny because the previous year I had a lot of random encounters with Raymond outside of work (such as in a career fair, an intern open house waiting line and while I randomly stroll around Market street in San Francisco with another friend). I think there is a strange force that draws us to meet at random places. Naturally, we ended up having a lot more random encounters during our time at Google 😛 He did a good job at recognizing me without seeing my face (probably because my walking style is.. unique?)
Google is famous for its cafeterias serving meals three times a day. Because I was fasting and can’t eat until around 8.30 PM, I was kind of bummed. Thankfully, they have to-go boxes so I can bring the food home for ifthar and even have some leftover for Sahur the next day 😀 I thank God and that dude who got his candy melted on his pants by electromagnetic waves for the invention of microwaves.
Week 2 – Figuring everything out
After enjoying a week of just sitting around and taking food, now comes the real deal: sitting around, taking food, and typing on the keyboard meaningfully. I am not going to talk about what I worked on in this blog post though, all I can say is I did full stack work throughout the summer and it teaches me a whole lot.
This week is also the first time for me to meet my teammate who previously was on leave, Andy. He’s a proud Slovenian, Crossfit enthusiast, vegan, a really serious biker, spartan racer, and just an all around great guy. Along the course of my internship, he reviewed almost all of my code along with Amit and helped me learn a lot. When my host is not around/couldn’t help, he also doesn’t mind being bugged by this nosy intern :^). He also gave me a wide range of side tasks that kept me busy while waiting for review on my main internship project, effectively exposing me to things that I have never tried before like Android dev. He knows a lot, shares his knowledge a lot, and knows a lot of people. I hope one day I can be like him too! (well maybe not the really athletic and vegan part, I’m still gonna be a meat-eating occasionally-exercising person).
Another engineer whom I met a lot but isn’t technically in my team is Pierre. When I met him, he’s like this really friendly and funny 20-something fresh grad. Welp, after I LinkedIn stalked him, he turns out to be this really friendly and funny 30-something PhD grad. He’s really humble and once told me that his brother advised him, “there’s too many smart guys in Silicon Valley, be the funny guy instead” 😛 He’s also the kind of guy who makes every conversation interesting, which I really appreciate as a person who easily runs out of things to say!
By the end of my first working week, I have finished my first task and started working on my second (a backend task, luckily :D). On a non-work side, Cindy invited me to go hiking with her brother and friends at Yosemite for the weekend. Of course I said yes! The weekend also coincides with my birthday and my non-fasting week, so it’s a perfect timing. I’m a really lucky person 🙂
I need to tell you upfront that by that point, the only thing I know about Yosemite is that it’s a national park and Apple seems to really like the place. I never thought that it’s just a few hours drive away from the bay area and is actually really huge! We drove for about 4-5 hours on Friday night from Mountain View and stayed at a cabin in a village near the national park. We played cards all night and cooked (well they did, I woke up too late for that) a big breakfast before going on a hour-long car ride to get to the inside of the national park.
We had two cars and Cindy’s brother went to the park about two hours earlier with three friends to go on a longer hike. I teamed up with Cindy and two of her friends. We got along well because we are similarly lazy 😉 . We went to take pictures of El Capitan (Mac wallpapers, as I call them), hiked the Sentinel Dome and met up with the rest of the group at Glacier Point overlooking the famous Half Dome, just in time for dinner and a cool sunset.
We stayed until late at night to take some pictures of the stars and stargaze. There are a few other groups doing the same too, one group had a huge cool looking telescope. The absence of light pollution made a breathtaking starry sky view. Seriously, it is one of the most beautiful scenery I’ve ever seen in my life. I lied down on the ground for a few minutes just looking at the dark starlit sky and enjoying the silence. It felt surreal. After a few hours we headed back to our cars and drove to the cabin. As the clock turns to midnight, I legally turn a year older, gazed outside to the beautiful scenery and thought, I really can’t ask for a better start of my new age 🙂
BTW, I told my new friends there that it’s my birthday just a few minutes after midnight and they all congratulated me, and later that day we went to a nice Chinese restaurant that gave me a free birthday cake 😀 Thank you for making my brithday awesome guys!
Week 3 – Getting comfy
I told my coworkers about my awesome trip to Yosemite and how I saw an awesome starry night featuring the milky way. Andy tried to convince me that it’s impossible to see the milky way there at that time but Amit supports me. We ended up googling and can neither confirm or deny that what I saw was the real milky way, so we agreed to disagree :^)
My team’s manager, Bill, just came back from his vacation and looks visibly tired but insisted on biking to one of Google’s nicest cafe to have some team lunch with all of us. We had a nice lunch (with hand-rolled Sushi!). After that he made some comment about being tired and that he’ll probably need to fly home earlier. Interesting choice of words, but I brushed it off.
On another note, at this point I’m still feeling a bit intimidated by my work environment and coworkers (thanks impostor syndrome!) but the casual conversations with coworkers and 1-1s with my host had helped a lot with that. Things started moving on an upwards direction after I started attending more company-wide and intern-exclusive events and became more comfortable.
One notable moment was when my coworker Andy invited Amit and I to have some coffee in the microkitchen. Amit didn’t feel like it so it’s only me left, and I was still quite scared of Andy at that time (lol sorry if you’re reading this Andy, count this a compliment to your Crossfit and biking and racing and …), but I said yes to his offer!
I normally would’ve been scared of such social interactions and find an excuse, but I figured I’m in a whole new country with nothing to lose if I ended up being socially awkward. It ended up being a great social interaction as he gave me a lot of good advice while we sipped on our respective beverages. I also told him about my silly idea of visiting every cafe in Google’s Mountain View campuses area, and he totally supports that idea. He told me that he will personally try to help me achieve that goal and once in a while when he’s not busy he’ll bike with me to a cafe I haven’t tried for lunch! You can’t believe how happy I am on how things turn out just because I did something I normally wouldn’t do 🙂
After that point every social interaction with my coworkers felt like a breeze. We throw jokes around randomly and usually start the day with a few minutes of just casually chatting. Some of them are high-quality dad jokes (receh, as Indonesians call it), it made me feel like I really fit in 😀
Week 4 – Holidays!
This week coincides with 4th of July weekend, and Google gave us one extra holiday so it’s a pretty slow week 🙂 Jessica arrived this week (yay!), so Cindy and I packed our bags and moved to our new apartment for three (using Cindy’s brother’s Tesla from his office!). On our last day of holiday, we threw some kind of a home-warming party in our new apartment, inviting Risan, Soko, Irvin, Vincent (because their apartments are close and they agree to bring food :P). They brought a bucketful of KFC (that I didn’t eat until Ifthar at 8.30PM :|) It was a fun day of board gaming!
The next day is Lebaran / Eid Day! I told my host that I’ll be out for half the day to go to the Indonesian Consulate in San Francisco and I’ll be back by around lunchtime. As usual, the consulate hosted a Sholat Ied and Halal bi Halal session with an overabundance of Indonesian food. Tri and Irvin joined because who doesn’t miss some good homemade Indonesian food after a while?
Anyways, after eating a whole bunch of food, Irvin and I missed the lunchtime G-bus back to Google MTV so we spent a little time at Google’s SF office until the next bus came. Of course I took some pictures 😛 After I went back to the office (with full-on Baju Lebaran) and worked a few hours, I went home to Skype with my family (after taking a pic of me comparing Nastar with Nougat in front of the new Android Nougat statue of course). It was a good day.
Week 5 – Physical activities?
This week, I started biking to work . Our new apartment is located near Downtown Mountain View, very close to Stevens Creek trail, a bike trail that leads to a lot of places, including Google’s office. As Google has a bike shop that lends bikes to interns during the summer, we made full use of that and lent a bike for each of us immediately. Jessica actually couldn’t bike at first but she practiced hard during the summer 😛 I ended up commuting to the office with that bike almost everyday (except when I’m sick/too lazy 😉 ). I felt much healthier thanks to that (and of course Google’s awesome free healthy food!).
I also participated in Belegarth with other interns, which is basically reenacting a medieval fight with foam weapons. Of course I told all my coworkers proudly about it :^) It was held on a Friday afternoon and my departing words to my host that week was “Bye Amit, I need to go on a sword fight”. He chuckled more than I expected 😛
On the weekend, most of the Indonesian interns along with Kak Adhit, Kak Gogo, Kak Felix went on a biking adventure through the Golden Gate Bridge! I didn’t attend this trip last year (with Cakra, Zaky, Irvin, Tri) because I was too sick back then, so I was very excited for this 🙂 The route is Fisherman’s Wharf – Fort Point – Golden Gate – Sausalito, quite long but the view is awesome! I would love to do it again.
Also, if you weren’t stranded in a remote island last summer, you may notice that the app Pokemon Go took the world by a storm around that time too. The usually somewhat-empty Downtown Mountain View got livelier than usual, the same as any outdoor points of interest. Naturally, we spent the trip with stopping in a few places to catch Pokemons there 😛
After a long bike ride accross the bridge, we strolled around Sausalito for a bit. We also met up with Jessica and Risan there (they Ubered across the bridge because Jessica still haven’t mastered biking :P) . I was quite shocked that the city looks pretty good (and expensive!), with its downtown streets filled with many art shops and upscale restaurants. I guess the old and rich people of San Francisco live/have trips there when they got bored of the techie life in SF? After we ate some pretty nice burgers we hopped on a ferry (with our bikes of course) back to San Francisco.
We parted ways after the ferry arrived in San Francisco. I went with Soko, Irvin and Vincent to catch the next Caltrain home with our bikes. Well, that plan failed the minute I face-planted to the concrete on the street just after a few minutes of biking. I tripped on a light rail track and landed on my chin. Yes, ouch! Luckily my three friends acted quickly, helped me move to the sidewalk and performed first aid. As the cut on my chin is rather deep, they quickly called Kak Adhit so that I can go to the nearest hospital and get stitched up. He quickly drove to our place and took me to the hospital (along with Kak Felix, Risan, and Jessica). Soko, Irvin, Vincent, and Kak Gogo (I took his place in the car! Thank you :P) biked to the Caltrain station to go home.
We went to a hospital in SF and I got stitched up. The doctor that did the stitching reminds me a lot of Dr. Cox from Scrubs. I got some pretty ugly stitches, which is why if you see me in pictures a few weeks after the crash, you can see that I am covered with some annoying bandaids. I walked out the hospital kind of confused because nobody billed me anything though. Anyways, we went home on Kak Adhit’s car with a stopover through In ‘N Out 😛
To be continued.
As you may have noticed, this post is quite a long read. Therefore I decided to cut it right at this point. This is not because I’m too lazy to write the rest down in one sitting, I swear 😛 So, stay tuned for the next post in about (hopefully) a week! I’m sure it will answer questions you might be wondering right now.
“Did Rakina survive the bike crash or succumb to the complications? Did she wear a bandaid everyday until now? Why does it look like she is having more fun than work? Did Jessica ever learned how to ride a bike? Did I miss some foreshadowing in this post? Find out next week, on this exact same blog!”