- 20th Century Fox
Each company has its own office culture, different traditions and perks for its interns.
We interviewed current interns at a handful of the biggest tech companies to give you a feel for what it’s like to intern with them today.
Since not all of the interns had permission from their companies to share their experiences, their names have been changed to protect their identities.
- Bryan Bedder/Getty Images for NYCWFF
Role: Fusion/Strategy Intern at Uber
Major: Computer Software, Private Research University
How he landed the internship: John had been following Uber’s career page and applied for the Fusion/Strategy internship online when he saw an opening.
After a recruiter reached out and he passed an initial phone screen, John spoke with two potential managers in separate hour-long phone interviews where he was asked how we would lead a team through a theoretical scenario.
John had already done several past internships and tried his hand at running his own startup before applying to an internship with Uber. “I think Uber was mostly just looking for people that were self-starters that were willing to work hard and were hustling in every aspect of their lives,” John said. People that “are going to take ownership, not people that are just going to come punch a time clock.”
- Thomson Reuters
Interning at Uber: John said Uber has a strong sense of cultural values, from the CEO down.
“I always see TK – Travis Kalanick, our CEO – strolling around the office jumping into product meetings. He wants to feel involved even though it’s a large company.”
John said he and his coworkers at Uber are “always trying to make big bets around what the next big thing is.” Everyone is encouraged, even interns, to challenge what is being done.
“The best idea will win, even if it come from an intern or if it comes from someone higher up,” he said.
While John conceded that there are many incredible tech companies to work with, he’s really enjoyed working at Uber because he’s trusted to take a lead on projects. As a strategy intern, John regularly coordinates with people from around the world via conference calls, and heavily in Brazil leading up to the Olympics. As an intern, John was on a team that worked on strategic logistics.
Working Hours: John said that interns are encouraged to work 40 to 50 hours a week. Personally, he tried to keep his work closer to 40 hours a week, but would stay later if there was anything he ever needed to finish.
Overall Program: At Uber, breakfast, lunch and dinners are all catered. Depending on the team they work with, students are provided a stipend for housing and Uber credits for most of their transportation needs.
While Uber has exploded, John said it has retained the feel of a startup because, as the company continues to expand globally, there are new challenges to tackle in every new country and culture.
Role: Product Management Intern at Microsoft
Major: Computer Science, Ivy League
How he landed the internship: As a sophomore, Adam already had an excellent software engineering internship with a large Silicon Valley startup the summer prior. From that experience, a former Microsoft intern recommend him to a recruiter, who then offered him an accelerated process with just two rounds of interviews, even flying him from Boston to Seattle for two days to conduct the interview.
“The main way you usually like get these types of internships is by… having some personal connection,” Adam told Business Insider. “Otherwise, you’re just throwing your resume into some bottomless digital pit, right?”
Adam said that, even though he had the skills to code, recruiters weren’t looking for those technical skills for the product management internship as much as they want to see leadership skills and an understanding of the bigger picture of technology.
- Filmateria Digital LLC
Interning at Microsoft: Adam’s role is in product management, which is something of a bridge between the business side and the software side. In this type of role, Adam said a technical background isn’t necessary but can often help.
For the products he works with, Adam identified “user pain points” and then decided what products or alterations could be made to address those issues in the cheapest and simplest manner.
Compared to the startup where Adam interned last summer, he admitted that Microsoft has a much more corporate feel.
“Most people have offices, there’s not as many balls bouncing around, there’s a much more calm, serious vibe,” he said. But, at the same time, larger corporations like Microsoft will have open office spaces and offer nice amenities to compete with startups.
- Charles Platiau/Reuters
Working Hours: Adam noted that with Microsoft in Seattle – far removed from Silicon Valley – the company fostered a better work-life balance. “If you’re still in the office at 5 p.m., people are like ‘what are you doing, go home.'”‘
As an intern, Adam said he kept a strict 9-to-5 schedule and avoided taking work home.
Overall Program: Adam noted that, with Microsoft’s well-established internship program, less independence was actually required of him this summer compared to last. The majority of interns live together in subsidized corporate housing at the University of Washington dorms and can attend a variety of events hosted by Microsoft, including a hike up Mountain Rainier and an intern scavenger hunt across the entire state of Washington.
Microsoft also gives interns a travel stipend, which Adam said students will use on rental cars or Ubers.
Adam especially appreciated the mentorship and feedback from his Microsoft internship. Every intern has a mentor in addition to their traditional managers. Microsoft also puts together regular speaker events or fireside chats with more senior people in the company for interns to attend.
“There’s just so much expertise everywhere,” Adam said. “Most people are world-class developers, world-class designers, everyone is sitting right here with you and you’re trying to soak in all of their knowledge and trying to make sense of it.”
“There’s a lot of really good structure in a big company, which is why I’m telling my friends who are freshman in college. I think they should do big companies first because they give you a lot of structure and kind of this clear career growth in terms of mentorship, in terms of education, training and stuff like that. In startups, you’re just busy trying to build the product.”
- Khan Academy
Role: Software Engineering Intern at Khan Academy
Major: Computer Science, Ivy League
How he landed the internship: Sam initially met a recruiter for Khan Academy at his university and expressed his interest in education technology.
To weed out applicants, Khan Academy has a pretty demanding first hurdle for prospective software engineering interns to pass before they even interview with the company, posing them a ‘project space’ challenge with several days to turn it back around.
Sam applied online and was asked to build a website to improve one of Khan Academy’s courses. After that, Sam went through at least three more rounds of interviews, which were heavily skills-based challenges posed by the interviewer, before being offered the internship.
“They want to see that you know how to write code, you know how to implement algorithms well … how to communicate what you’re thinking,” Sam said.
Sam said these project-based interviews are time-intensive to ensure that only really committed applicants try.
- Khan Academy
Interning at Khan Academy: As a software engineer, Sam builds projects assigned to him. Even as Khan Academy continues to grow, Adam said the company definitely still feels like a startup, with open office spaces, ping pong tables and snack bars.
“Khan Academy is very much a mission driven like non-profit organization,”Sam said. “People there are very passionate about the mission, they walk in thinking every single day ‘how can I improve education.'”
Unique to Khan Academy is a software engineer named Craig, who bakes homemade bread in the office and every Thursday at 4 p.m. He literally sprints around office saying “bread bread bread,” and then everyone meets in the office to eat the bread.
Work Hours: Sam noted that Khan Academy’s mission-driven attitude permeates its entire culture. While it may be a not-for-profit startup, it has much the same “work hard, play hard” mentality of other cutthroat startups in Silicon Valley. Most people work a regular 9-to-5, but Adam said that employees who stay in the office for 10+ hours a day hours a day, or work on things over the weekend, will be celebrated.
“You work at Khan Academy, it becomes your life, you know?”
Overall Program: Khan Academy offered Sam reimbursement for his relocation, as well as a housing stipend.
“One big thing that I noticed is that startups don’t have much structure,” Sam said. “In college, they throw food at you, they throw friends at you, they throw housing at you, they throw events at you. You don’t have to think at all for yourself.”
Since Khan Academy is still a startup, it doesn’t have the same established mentorship program that larger tech companies do and for students who thrive on structure. That’s a large ask.
“Khan Academy did offer me a mentor, but he’s 23 and he was a year or two out of college.”
Role: Software Engineering Intern at Intuit
Major: Computer Software, Public Research University
How he landed the internship: Max applied to Intuit after connecting with a recruiter at his university’s career fair. He completed two technical interviews and then a few phone interviews before being offered the summer internship.
Max noted that it’s important to do well in class, but as long as your GPA hits a certain threshold, recruiters are more looking at what you’ve built outside of class.
- Owen Thomas, Business Insider
Interning at Intuit: As a software engineering intern, Max said the largest adjustment has been learning how to navigate working in a team that’s a subset of a subset within the company.
“Initially, it was [overwhelming], just having to keep track of what’s going on above you in all of those layers up,” Max said. “You’re working on this, which is a feature of this, which is a feature of this.”
In Max’s experience, interning at Intuit required him to apply and build his practical knowledge. “More so than ever you need to be working on that stuff outside of class.”
Max said that Intuit has its own unifying office culture, but it can vary widely by building, department or team.
“In general, everyone is really nice, almost to the point of like, passive aggressiveness,” Max said. “Our CEO [Brad Smith] is like super friendly and sociable. You’ll just see him in the dining hall getting lunch and stuff. One of these days he was line in front of me and I just felt obliged to introduce myself, so I met the CEO and now he knows who intern Max is.”
- Owen Thomas, Business Insider
Working Hours: Hours at Intuit are extremely flexible, Max said.
“Because startups tend to be more lax about that, I think these larger companies have been adapting and just allowing for more flexible schedules … as long as you get your eight hours in.”
Overall Program: Intuit pays for the rental car Max and three other interns take for the 30-minute drive from their corporate housing in San Jose to the office in Mountain View.
Max said interns are more or less treated like full-time employees, offering an internal mentorship program for interested mentees and mentors to connect. Even outside of the mentorship program, Max said “it’s totally okay to ping someone way above you and ask them questions.”
Max said Intuit made a lot of effort to help interns learn more about they were doing and meet one another through socials, including two days of just workshops and speakers for anyone to attend.
Role: Software Engineering Intern at Google
Major: Computer Science, Private Research University
How he landed the internship: According to his LinkedIn, Aaron, a rising senior, managed to complete seven internships before landing a coveted software engineering internship with Google in New York City.
His sophomore year of college, Aaron began writing code predominantly in specialized languages like Haskell and Clojure. Working in these languages taught him to think about the end design before implementing his own ideas, skills which Aaron said especially helped him ace two phone interviews with Google where he was asked to work through technical questions over a Google Doc.
- Jim Edwards / BI
Interning at Google:When Aaron gets into the office into the morning, he will usually eat breakfast with some other interns before heading to his own floor.
When his entire team gets into the office, each member takes a minute to stand up and give an update on their recent work. Aaron then codes for the remainder of the morning before grabbing lunch with his team. He’ll then continue writing code, asking questions and collaborating with the other engineers on his team as he goes.
Since working at Google, Aaron said he has improved at “reading code written by other engineers … and understanding the larger design that was envisioned when” it was written. Aaron noted that this skill is integral to his current work becausewriting code within the existing framework of an established company is completely different from coding in school, where students can build something from scratch.
- Anil Chopra
Working Hours: Aaron said he typically gets into the office around 9 a.m. and stays in the office close to dinner time, where he either eats with his team at one of the Google cafes or with friends in the city.
Program Overview: Aaron said there is a collective interest in continued learning at Google, which is one of his favorite aspects of the company. He said two of the most critical aspects of succeeding in his Google internship have been “knowing when to ask for help and how to collaborate productively.”
At the start of the internship, Aaron said Google provides numerous tools to help its engineers “collaborate more fluidly, read and understand code more easily” so they can eventually produce higher quality work. The sheer amount of resources was initially overwhelming, but Aaron said becoming familiar with them has made them his biggest asset.
And every Monday Aaron meets with his “host,” a full-time Google engineer, where he has the opportunity to talk and ask questions about anything.
Outside of resources and mentorship, Aaron said Google’s New York offices also have scooters on each floor. “So, you may see a whole team of Googlers riding across one of the halls of the building,” Aaron said. “It’s an efficient way to get around in a building that spans an entire city block!”
Role: Software and Systems Engineering Intern at Intel
Major: Mechanical Engineering, Ivy League
How he landed the internship: Kevin discovered Intel’s New Devices Group through a classmate who interned with the same department last summer. The former intern gave him a recommendation and two managers set up a phone interview with him to talk through his resume and his interest in working with wearable technologies.
“I think I personally showed a lot of interest and just a curiosity on how this entire system worked.”
- <a href=”http://www.glassdoor.com/Photos/Intel-Corporation-Office-Photos-E1519.htm”>Glassdoor.com</a>
Interning at Intel: Kevin had already built up both a mechanical and a software background through different classes during his freshman year that he said gave him the hands-on experiences he could apply in his internship with Intel.
When he first got to the office in the morning, Kevin would check his email and then print any 3D parts he needed for that day.
For his internship, Kevin coordinated with an industrial designer to consider both the technological aspects of the product as well as its actual design and function.
“I was there pretty much from the very beginning,” Kevin said. He had the chance to actually demo the product he helped develop at a conference.
Working Hours: Usually, Kevin gets in a standard ~40 hours a week, coming in at 8 a.m. and leaving around 5 p.m., with 30 minutes to an hour break for lunch and play a quick game of pool. He only worked overtime when he wanted to finish a project before heading home.
Overall Program: There were just over a dozen other interns in the specific department Kevin worked in, but he said the office culture was very casual.
Most managers and employees were accessible, like willing to jump into a game of pool with the interns. “[None of the interns are] shunned from doing anything, we’re always encouraged to you know show off what we know or show off what we discovered,” Kevin said.
If Kevin didn’t know a programming language, he said he would take the time out of work to teach it to himself, but he could also lean on the other interns as well as managers and other employees who were usually available to offer support or advice.
“It’s quite incredible how they’re willing to help us out while while focusing on their projects,” Kevin said.
Role: Software Engineering Intern
Major: Computer Software, Public Research University
How he landed the internship: Spencer met a recruiter for Dell at his college’s career fair. The recruiter liked his resume and set up an interview for the next day. The recruiter started the interview by asking Spencer what he did outside of class and Spencer went off on his interest in virtual reality.
“He kind of looked at me like ‘We don’t do anything with virtual reality,’ but [I think] he could tell the kind of passion I had and he thought that was very valuable,” Spencer told Business Insider.
Two weeks later, he had a phone call interview with four people from his prospective team and then was offered the internship.
Interning at Dell: While Dell is still a large tech company, Spencer interned at Dell’s office in Eden Prairie, Minnesota, and said it can’t be compared to the decked-out offices you hear about out in Silicon Valley.
Spencer likes to grab a cup of tea from the kitchen and checks his email when he initially gets into the office in the morning. He will then check any automated tests that he had run overnight to see what he can fix. He’ll spend the remainder of the morning eating before grabbing a 30-minute lunch with the other interns.
After lunch, Spencer said he will usually try to get back into programming but much of his afternoons are spent working on things like PowerPoints or compiling the appropriate documentation for his projects so his managers and directors can monitor his progress.
Spencer said learning to work with people who aren’t within physical proximity has been the biggest challenge. In the office, Spencer doesn’t sit immediately near any of his coworkers and then his team is also regularly coordinating with their offices in New Hampshire, Texas and California, so a lot of the team coordination is done via Microsoft Link or HipChat.
Working Hours: When he bikes from his apartment, Spencer will get to the office as early as 6:30 or 7 a.m., but most of the interns don’t usually get in until 8 a.m.
Spencer said that the work environment is very flexible, and that interns and employees alike can more or less come and go as they like, as long as they get their work done.
“It’s very flexible, there’s no ‘I gotta get this done by Friday.'”
Program Overview: Spencer said he appreciated how Dell treats their interns.
“I feel like they treat you not as a Dell employee, but as like a future engineer,” Spencer said. “I think it’s really cool how they’re passionate about you as a person and a future engineer, not just trying to groom you just for one specific job.”
Spencer said he has regular meetings with both his personal mentor and his director, where they ask questions about the progress of his internship and offer him advice.
Outside of these structured relationships, Spencer said most employees are willing to answer questions but you have to be strategic about it.
“I’ve been really good at figuring out who to ask,” Spencer said. “Sometimes the biggest thing is ‘Are you the person to ask? No? Then I’m not going to bother your time, but who would know?'”
Spencer said Dell had done a good job of organizing intern events and that he’d made friends with most of the 17 interns in his department. Spencer said you can also see Externs, or individuals who started out together as interns and still have that bond but now work full-time.
“I can definitely imagine a few of us working there in two years and having that same connection.”