A few days before Google launched a major update of its mobile book application, engineer Eryn Maynard was handed a key piece of the upgrades — so important that if she failed to deliver it on time, the entire release would be canceled.
Many companies might have assigned such a sensitive project to a senior engineer. Google, instead, gave it to the summer intern.
“Forty-eight hours before the launch, I wasn’t done,” recalled Maynard, a 23-year-old graduate student at MIT. “But they still didn’t take it away. They treat me just like a full-time engineer, and I like that.”
The chance to work on big projects is one of the key factors that make an internship at Google’s Kendall Square office one of the best in the Boston area. Interns are rewarded not only with an unusual amount of autonomy and unusually high expectations, but also, in many cases, a job after they graduate. Google won’t say what percentage of interns receive job offers, but a spokesman called interns “one of our largest sources for new hires.”
But getting these internships isn’t easy. The California-based search giant gets 40,000 applications for its internship program every year, but only around 1,500 are hired. To make it, hopefuls must run a gantlet of interviews and solve on-the-spot coding and math challenges.
“We look for superstars,” said Google recruiter Caitlin Cooke. “And what that means is people who are truly passionate about making something that can have an impact.”
Once in, the pressures are great, but so are the benefits. Interns earn competitive wages and can work flexible hours, eat food cooked by award-winning chefs, visit the on-site masseuse, or catch a nap in a sleeping pod when needed.
“The atmosphere at Google is kind of goofy,” Maynard said, describing how her team has taken to taping photos of colleagues to life-size cutouts of vampire movie characters and placing them around the office. “People are always thinking of weird things to do.”
Interns get paired with experienced mentors, take classes to improve their computer science skills, and conduct mock interviews with managers to prepare for entry into the job market.
Maynard, of Columbus, Ga., said she was offered other internships, but chose Google because the company was able to tell her the specific project she would be working on.
“There’s always the stereotype of interns just fetching coffee,” said Maynard, who plans to seek a job at Google when she finishes her masters’ degree in electrical engineering at MIT in January. “But I get to work on things that people actually see, that I get to see users using. It’s really rewarding.”