Friday, March 31, 2006

Google perks: interns

One of the great perks of working at Google is our intern program. In three years, I've had three interns: Shubin Zhao (summer 2004), Brian Kernighan (summer 2005), and Aron Culotta (fall 2005).

First off, for those of you that don't believe me, yes, really, that Brian Kernighan. Brian is old friends with Peter, who I was working with in the summer of 2005. Brian likes to visit our New York office from Princeton, especially during the summer when class is out. Peter got Brian very excited about our project, then promptly disappeared for several weeks, so I got to be Brian's host.

But working with the co-author of K&R is just the tip of the iceberg! The opportunity to work at Google attracts some of the best and brightest students around, and we get to bring them in and see what they can do. My favorite strategy for a successful internship is to say, "Here's what we've built, and here are the problems on the horizon that we haven't time to address yet. Pick something from that general area and apply your big massive grey matter toward making my life easier."

And it works! Shubin built an amazing architecture for information extraction based on some heuristic-oriented work I had done. Aron worked on combining signals in structured and unstructured data to learn new relations among entities in the universe. He even got a paper out of that work. And when things go really well, your interns come back full time. Shubin joined our group full time in January 2005, and he's had a major impact on the quality of our product. And I'm looking forward to seeing Sasha, one of our group's interns from last summer, return soon.

The 2006 intern season is in full swing, and I am looking forward to learning what this summer's crowd will bring.

[Updated at BWK's request to replace "co-creator of C" with "co-author of K&R"]

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