Intern Spotlight III: Ali Nahm, Intern at Google

Hello from sunny California!  This summer, I was lucky enough to work as a software engineering intern at Google.  In case you didn’t know, Google is a web company, mainly a search company, that also creates other cool products, including gmail, Android, Chrome, and Google glass.

I’m a part of a specific program of about 30 interns called the Freshman Engineering Practicum.

(me with some of the other fep interns — yes! there were girls that code!!)

Unlike regular engineering interns who are paired with one host, I worked in a group of four interns, had two hosts, along with a mentor to help guide me through the internship.  I loved it, as I didn’t feel completely alone in a new environment.  Most interns spend their full internship knowing their host and maybe one or two other employees, whereas I knew thirty other people going through the same experience, in addition to all of their hosts.  Even though it was a freshman program, I wasn’t limited in any way; I still had a summer project to complete like regular interns, and I still had the same educational resources at my fingertips.

During a typical day, I sat at my desk (with two 20” monitors!!) working on my project which involved a lot of refactoring of code.  In other words, I spent a lot of time searching through the Google codebase to find the snippets of code that I needed, as well as a fair amount of time understanding what those snippets did.  Only then could I make my own changes and submit.  In addition to the major changes for my project, I also fixed bugs in the AdWords campaign management site.  There are also a TON of interesting tech talks and non-technical talks occurring on campus, similar to that of a college campus, so I would go to some of those in the middle of the day to kind of break up the monotony of staring at a computer screen.

(a sneak peek of my office – I love that the desks are all set up in one giant room – makes it much less intimidating to go up to someone and ask questions/talk to them!)

Google is famous for its playground work environment.  There is an indoor playground, a volleyball court, and a climbing wall, not to mention all of the awesome technology that I was fortunate to use.  Most of all, Google is a utopia of brilliant people.  Everywhere I went, there were Googlers (full-timers and interns, alike!) having fascinating conversations about cs-related topics, all of which I could join!  Two of the best perks, in my opinion, were that the 20+ free cafes (with gourmet food) and that everyone’s calendars were public.  As a result, I could email practically any employee and ask them to lunch without breaking the bank or breaking a sweat.  This allowed me to break out of my comfort zone and talk to not just my two host Googlers, but also people working on other projects, doing other specialized jobs (user experience designer vs. salesperson, for instance).  All of these meals and chats gave me a much better idea of Google as a large corporation, which I appreciate a lot.

In addition to my internship, I spent a lot of time enjoying my time in the Silicon Valley, one of the tech hotbeds of the world.  I went to various company intern events and was able to visit Facebook, Quora, LinkedIn, and Stripe, to name a few.  These were awesome experiences, as it allowed me to get out of the Google bubble and meet even more engineers interning like me, as well as other engineers in industry.  I also went to hackathons with friends to just make my own projects and hang out together.  One of the things we made was TabStats, a chrome extension.  There is something magical about hacking things together super late at night, and I’m glad that I was able to find even more friends who love doing that too!

To any girl interested in computer science –

First, mad respect to you, and keep it up!  Second, ask questions.  There truly is  no such thing as a stupid question.  Heck, I just asked someone how to create a for loop in Javascript!  The key is to listen to the answer and not ask the same question again.  Follow-up questions are great, but ignoring answers and just asking for the same information over and over again, is not a good use of anyone’s time (unless it’s about what the person is hungry for, that one is totally valid).  Learn a lot, code a lot, sleep a bit…pretty much sums up my summer.  Hope your summers are all going swimmingly as well!


2 thoughts on “Intern Spotlight III: Ali Nahm, Intern at Google”

  1. Ditto Brian– It pretty much blows my mind that i know someone who created a chrome extension… as CS-pathetic as I am, I must say you’re blog post was pretty inspiring! So cool to see all you’ve been doing :)

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