On Thursday night in San Francisco, Cory Levy, co-founder of the One app, held a crazy event for 3,000 20-somethings called “Internapalooza.”
The fourth floor of the Parc55 hotel was filled with backpacks, body odor, and tech t-shirts, both being worn and being handed out.
While some were interns there to catch up with college friends, others ambitiously piled into the middle of the room and spent their networking time circulating résumés, hoping to impress the recruiters on hand from the biggest companies in the Bay Area. (Google being the notable exception).
We decided to check out the scene and talked to more than two dozen attendees.
Here’s what they were talking about:
Their dream internships: Mostly Google
When we asked people what company they would choose as their “dream” tech internship, we got a whole bunch of different answers, including Apple, Facebook, Adobe, VMWare, Uber, and (its rival) Lyft.
“It’s not about a company name, but where you can do something you’re passionate about,” one rising junior business major said.
“Palantir, Uber, Airbnb — any of the unicorns,” a 21-year-old college dropout who had interned at Apple and Wattpad told us.
One ecstatic Carnegie Mellon student told us that he was down to the final round of interviews for Google, when he got the good news: “I have an internship at Apple this summer — it’s been my dream since the fourth grade.”
However, the one company that got more votes than any other: Google. “They just have the best combination of everything,” one rising junior said. “For a technical, computer science person like me, they have such diverse options.”
“I want to work with big data,” one PhD student said, “And they have so much data that you can get your hands dirty with.”
That same student, who currently has an internship at Genentech, told us he was disappointed that Google hadn’t shown up to the intern fair. But he also had a theory as to why: “They have so many candidates, they probably don’t feel like they need to come,” he said with a wry smile.
Perks: “Dropbox has the best catering”
You can’t talk to a bunch of tech interns without asking about the perks.
While people raved about product discounts, free food and Uber credits, the most unique story came from a rising senior who had spent a summer at a cloud-based health records company in Boston, Athenahealth. The company let Top Chef film an episode on its campus, and managers brought their interns to taste all the food and be part of the show. “You definitely don’t expect your tech internship to get you on TV,” he said.
“Ask anyone who’s been there: Dropbox has the best catering,” one intern said. “If you don’t work there, you have to get your friends to bring you over for dinner at least once. It’s amazing.”
A former eBay intern said that last summer the company flew everyone in the program from across North America to downtown San Francisco for an “intern conference” where they got to meet the CEO and have a late-night party on the roof of their hotel. Outside that event, the summer was filled with bowling nights, catered lunches, and Q-and-A sessions with execs. This summer, he’s working at the eBay subsidiary StubHub.
The crazy-expensive cost of living
We talked to several interns who had either moved to Silicon Valley for the summer or were trying to get settled here permanently. One German masters student said, “Of course, I wanted to move here. It’s like Hollywood for tech people.”
But it’s expensive. Several interns received only housing stipends, rather than corporate housing, which can be hard in the tough bay area market.
Malika Watler, a rising junior at Spellman College and an intern at EA Games, said she she was surprised at how expensive it was and ended up using her housing stipend towards renting out an Airbnb for the summer.
Trushitha Narla, an intern at Uber, first tried living in Berkeley to save on an apartment, but opted to eventually move into the city despite the higher cost of living.
One Canadian intern wasn’t quite as excited about living in Silicon Valley.
“I always dreamt of living and working here until I actually started working here,” he said. “Or maybe just because I’m in Cupertino. Without a car, it kind of sucks. And you realise we’re in an area with a pretty limited world-view.”
Diversity: “San Jose is called Man Jose”
A lot of interns said they wished Silicon Valley had a more diverse culture.
Elias Ramirez, an intern at Panafold, said there was a lack of “clear lack of culture and diversity” in Silicon Valley tech. Trushitha Narlas, an intern at Uber, mentioned wanting to talk to more non-tech people in her every day life. “They just want to talk about programming,” she said.
They also want to see diversity outside of the big Ivy League schools. Daniel Diaz, an intern at Uber and a rising senior at Cal State Monterey Bay with Ramirez, said he hopes tech companies start exposing more of these opportunities to smaller schools. (He got hired because Uber came to campus to recruit.)
There’s also the gender-thing. Gautam Das, an Apple intern, said there’s very few girls around and the culture is much more-tech centric compared to Madison, Wisconsin, where he goes to school.
“San Jose is called Man Jose,” he said.
They had to send out LOTS of applications
Although everyone agreed that tech internships are incredibly competitive, we heard a very wide range for how many applications the hopefuls had sent out. One graduate student sent he sent out 100, while another only completed 5. They were currently working at Salesforce and Apple respectively. The average seemed to be between 20 and 30.
Although some of the kids we talked to were still desperately searching for something to do for the summer, two students said they’d had their spots locked down since late last year.
One thing interns don’t want to talk much about: how much money they are making. Salaries varied between $US6,000 and $US7,500 a month, but many stayed tight-lipped on how much they’re pocketing.