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Photo credit: PAN HAOZHE AND ZI JUN KAN

What it is like to intern at Google Singapore

Google swag boxes, online fitness classes and working in an open work culture are just some of the perks of being a Google intern.

Low Jia Ying


Published: 28 August 2020, 3:00 PM

We’ve all probably come across videos of Google’s swanky offices all around the world and have dreamt of working in a similar office. (A nap room? Sign me up, please!)

Or perhaps we’ve heard about all the perks that come with being an employee at Google.

Two university students had a taste of what working at Google is like, after completing their internships there.

We spoke to them to hear more about their virtual internship experience at Google Singapore.

An internship experience at home

Google has been hosting their interns at its offices for the past 20 years. But the COVID-19 pandemic meant that its internship programme was shifted online this year.

Software engineer intern Pan Haozhe, 25, was supposed to complete his internship in the United States. However, the new work from home arrangements meant that he had to stay home in Singapore for the internship.

“Initially, I was disappointed, but I was glad and relieved that Google still made the internship happen, even if it took place virtually,” said the fourth year computing student at the National University of Singapore.

 

Haozhe at his workstation at home, where he completed his Google digital internship. PHOTO CREDIT: PAN HAOZHE

 

Zi Jun Kan, 23, also a software engineer intern, had to adjust to working from home for the first time, but was glad that her supervisors helped her along the way.

“It helped that my host and co-host are both very approachable, and also constantly check to make sure my workload was manageable, and offer help in case I had any queries.

“These small exchanges really helped to set the relationship well right from the start of the internship, and I felt more comfortable to reach out to them with difficulties and to update them on the progress of the project,” she said.

Google interns decked in gear from their swag box – a box of goodies each intern receives. PHOTO CREDIT: ZI JUN KAN

 

The digital format of the internship also meant that Haozhe and Zi Jun had to learn how to communicate with the rest of their team online.

Haozhe shared that the biggest struggle he faced was not being able to discuss problems and solutions in person.

“Typically, we would be writing down some stuff on the whiteboard and discussing some technical aspects of the project. A virtual internship has made this aspect challenging as it was more difficult to visualise these problems through virtual methods.”

“I think discussions move a lot faster if we have a whiteboard in front of us and we can easily materialise our ideas on the whiteboard. I try to replicate that process by creating diagrams of my solutions and clarifying with my mentors on whether I’m moving in the right direction,” he said.

Challenging projects that stretched their limits

Despite all the fun and games that come with a Google internship, the projects that Haozhe and Zi Jun were assigned to often pushed them beyond their comfort zone.

As part of Google Pay’s consumer data infrastructure team, Zi Jun had to work on researching, experimenting on and implementing anomaly detection and correlation algorithms.

“I read many research papers and solutions and put in extra effort to break down the presented algorithms and takeaways from each paper,” said the fourth-year computer science major at Nanyang Technological University.

Haozhe, who was part of the payment data infrastructure team, was tasked with anonymising user data to improve user privacy.

“I tried my best to clarify and understand the problem. In the initial phase of the project, we had more calls over Google Meet to discuss the problem. I also clarified with my mentors on whether I’m moving in the right direction,” said Haozhe.

 

During National Intern Week, Zi Jun received cupcakes from the Intern Program Team. PHOTO CREDIT: ZI JUN KAN

 

Zi Jun was grateful that her internship with Google inspired her to reflect on her own learning and encouraged her to challenge herself in every aspect of life beyond work itself.

Above all, what she liked most about her internship was the people she met along the way.

“Working in a team, forging valuable friendships with other interns, making meaningful connections with other Googlers – these are treasured experiences that will last me beyond the internship and for a long time to come,” said Zi Jun.

Haozhe, who was also part of the intern task force that organised activities for interns, shared that time he spent with other interns was the most enjoyable part of the internship.

“I wished I could have hung out physically with the interns because they’re really fun to be with.

“But I also think a virtual internship might have brought us closer, since we might never get a chance to talk to in a physical office, especially if we are on different floors,” he said.

Despite these challenges, both Haozhe and Zi Jun still managed to receive the full Google internship experience while working from home.

Haozhe recalled his first-hand experience with Google’s open working culture: “There are frequent talks about mental well-being, LGBTQ+ rights, inclusive belonging workshops, and I think I barely scratched the surface on the things that Google provides.

“If you want to learn about a framework at Google, you can contact the engineer, speak to people, or have a one-on-one chat with anyone to learn more.”

 

Zi Jun attended a Google Fit class with other interns. PHOTO CREDIT: ZI JUN KAN

Advice for prospective Google interns

Having recently completed their virtual internships, we asked Zi Jun and Haozhe to share some advice for those looking to pursue an internship at Google.

“I would tell them to consider what they want to get out of this internship and that it’s up to them to seize the opportunity. Be proactive and think about what they want to learn, and take the necessary steps to do so,” said Haozhe.

He also benefited from conducting mock interviews with his friends: “Some of my friends were with Google previously as interns, and they shared the qualities that Google looks out for.”

 

Haozhe (first from the left) and Zi Jun (second from the right) catching up with other interns over Korean BBQ. PHOTO CREDIT: PAN HAOZHE

 

Despite failing her first internship application to Google, Zi Jun was encouraged by a recruiter to re-apply in her fourth year.

She shared: “I first applied for the internship in Year 2, but was too inexperienced and underprepared for the role. After that, re-applying was always at the back of my mind, but I never really had the confidence to do so until I received an additional push when a recruiter reached out to me this year.”

“While technical interviews can be very stressful and I’ve never felt like I’m prepared enough, I think failures are always part of the process, and there’s no better time to fail and learn than when we’re still students.”

Zi Jun also urged students to “let go of the fear of rejection, work hard, and focus on the process of growth and development” in their search for internships.

“Be extremely curious and make full use of every learning opportunity. The company has a really open culture that encourages communication and engagement.

“Don’t be afraid to ask questions or express your thoughts, everyone around you wants you to be successful and nobody is ever going to put you down.”

Are you interested in a Google internship? The next round of virtual internship applications in Singapore opens from Sep 1 to Sep 30, 2020 (for the next intake in May 2021). 


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