The movie “The Internship” is out. What the movie depicts is nothing like a real Google internship.
Google has an extremely selective hiring process, including for internships. The questions that potential interns are asked during their interview are related to their prospective positions. In the case of software engineering positions, candidates are asked extremely challenging technical questions that usually involve writing code. Someone who doesn’t know the computational complexity of a hash table operation would not be selected.
Interns are hired for specific departments within Google. Not every Google employee or intern is expected to write code. A large proportion of employees at Google are not engineers. There are sales representatives, product managers, linguists, and a ton of other non-engineer and even non-technical positions. As such, an intern is often one of these other types.
Google wants interns to have a good time. Google intends for the internship to be educational and productive. The highly skilled people that come to intern at Google will have a lot of options when they graduate and enter the job market. Google wants to be their first choice.
Interns are assigned to a single full-time employee or team. The hosting employee thinks hard about what projects to give their intern. They work on real Google products with a high likelihood of their project being used internally or even publicly, even after they leave. They collaborate with their team of full-time employees, who actively help them to succeed.
Once at Google, interns are treated almost exactly like their full-time counterparts, and a high proportion are offered full-time employment once they graduate. It is not a competition. However, interns are being evaluated. Google is able to learn a lot about a person during their internship, and since Google’s goal is to hire only the best, performance is measured and recorded for each intern. The people that evaluate an intern are those who worked closest with them, and are typically very forgiving of their mistakes and setbacks. Since software engineering is a constant fight with complexity, the intern hosts themselves are often responsible for these setbacks, and it is not expected for an intern to be able to effortlessly navigate this complexity. Even the most brilliant of them will fail to create something useful every now and then. This is expected and doesn’t necessarily lead to a bad evaluation.
The pool of interns is diverse. Not every intern is in their 20s. For example, my current intern is 30 (I only know this because we are friends outside of work). Since many engineers go to graduate school and receive PhDs (which takes 9+ years of higher education), interns in their 40s who worked in other industries before going for a PhD in computer science are not too uncommon.
Google employees and interns are intelligent. This doesn’t mean they are dweebs. Most are sophisticated and practical, and love to poke fun at anything and everything, usually with a lot more taste than the movie. They have a diverse set of interests. They are caring, passionate people. They are internally motivated to change the world for the better. They all have enough opportunities in life that they are not intimidated by the success of others. I would be extremely surprised to overhear an intern taunting another intern mean-spiritedly, and if this did happen, that intern would almost surely be reprimanded and rejected if they later apply for a full-time job. They would likely get fired on the spot, certainly if they kept behaving that way.
In no way is “having a beer with your boss” against the rules (none of those rules were actual Google rules). In fact, Google holds a weekly meeting where beer is on tap. That’s right, almost every Thursday, people elect to have a beer (often with their boss) while learning about something awesome that Google is doing. We then ask questions and provide input. All of us have the opportunity to ask questions and potentially change the course of the company with our ideas and input. It really is an amazing place to work, and the movie didn’t even attempt to exaggerate when it came to the perks.
Also, somehow the writers of some of the movie’s reviews that I saw got the impression that these internships were unpaid. This was not in the movie, and as far as I know, Google doesn’t have unpaid internships. I believe that typically Google interns get paid nearly as much as the base salary of full-time employees. To put this in perspective, the amount of money that a well-funded grad student makes for the entire school year is less than what they would make during their summer internship at Google.
The movie portrays a terribly misguided caricature of Google, but the main reason I didn’t enjoy it had nothing to do with its inaccuracies. The movie creators just have one stale formula for comedy and they jammed Google into the premise in order to exploit society’s curiosity about the familiar but enigmatic company. Google got involved. At Google IO, Larry Page himself said he didn't know if Google had a choice but to participate. Unfortunately, the movie still became one of those tasteless comedies in which the protagonists have no emotional depth, but the audience is supposed to think they do. Just keep in mind that you’re not watching a movie about how things work at Google. #theinternshipmovie #theinternship
Disclaimer: This is my personal opinion and I do not speak on behalf of Google in any way.