Lessons from a Google Intern

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

For the past nine weeks, I have been interning in Google’s marketing department as part of the BOLD internship program. BOLD stands for Building Opportunities for Leadership and Development, and serves as Google’s internship program for non-technical roles. In short, the experience has been one that I will surely remember for the rest of my life. Everything that you’ve heard about Google’s Mountain View headquarters is true—the company gives you pinwheel intern hats on your first day, there are slides, ball pits, free food everywhere, and colorful Google bikes to ride whenever you need. However, even more than Google’s Disneyworld-like campus, employees at Google (called Googlers) are what make the company truly great. I have worked with some of the most incredible people this summer—they are intelligent, humble, collaborative, and embrace all challenges that come their way.

While I can’t dive into the details of my summer project, I can say that I have enjoyed every minute of my work. My project focuses heavily on digital marketing—a space I previously had little experience in. It has surely been challenging and the learning curve has been steep. However, I have grown personally and professionally in more ways than I could have ever imagined. It makes me a bit teary-eyed to think that my time at Google this summer is coming to a close, but it’s fulfilling to know that I’ve set a foundation for a project that will continue once I leave. I wanted to share some of my key takeaways with you all. I hope I can continue practicing these as I transition into my last year at Duke.

 

  1. Ambiguity is synonymous with opportunity: My manager and my team at Google have truly made me believe that ambiguity should not be avoided, but embraced. It provides an opportunity to think of new ideas and imagine all that something could be. If everything was black and white, there would be less room to develop.

  2. Be confident in what you know: Over the course of the summer, I’ve learned not to doubt myself and to trust the ideas I bring to the table. Although initially intimidating to be working with highly successful Googlers, I realized that Google accepted me in the first place because they thought I was equally capable. As Duke students, we tend to all work at powerhouse companies and organizations over our summers. Don’t doubt yourself, and don’t just do as you’re told—be confident in your ideas.

  3. Be confident in what you don’t know: One of my mentors this summer told me something really valuable—if you are the smartest person in the room, you aren’t working at the right place. I remember feeling overwhelmed my first week at Google because there was so much in the world of digital marketing that I was unfamiliar with. However, I now look back and realize how silly it was for me to think that I was expected to know everything after week one. There are still aspects of digital marketing that I don’t grasp, and that’s okay. I learned to never hesitate when I have questions. Curiosity leads to new ideas, so ask away. Always remember: You don’t know everything unless you’re Google!

  4. Absorb as much as you can: At the beginning of my summer, I challenged myself to two goals outside of my immediate intern project. 1) Meet at least 4 new Googlers each week and 2) Take advantage of every speaker event, brown bag lunch, networking event, etc that comes my way. My summer has been so incredibly fulfilling, and one of the main reasons is because I’ve held myself to these challenges. I’ve met a number of awesome Duke Googlers and (I hate to say this) some incredible UNC Googlers as well. I’ve spoken to Googlers who were working on projects that interested me, even though they were completely unrelated to mine. I’ve also spoken to Googlers who are involved in women’s initiatives at Google and heard their perspective about gender equality in tech. Not to mention, I attended events with some of the most inspiring speakers who shaped the way I think about the tech industry and all its possibilities for growth.

  5. Work for a company that has a mission you believe in: Google has a simple mission: Organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful. I never have trouble waking up for work every morning when I know I’m a small piece of the Google engine. After nine weeks, it still feels surreal knowing I am working for a company that positively touches so many lives around the world.

 

In addition to Google, I have absolutely loved the west coast. As a North Carolina native, I would have never thought I’d live in San Francisco for a summer and want to move back here after graduation. Silicon Valley has such an inspiring vibe—it’s innovative, creative, collaborative, and diverse. This is the place where small ideas turn into massive companies that touch billions of lives. If that doesn’t light a fire under you, I don’t know what does.

While I’m sad my internship is coming to a close, this has only made me more excited to continue learning about the tech industry. Marketing is somewhat uncharted territory in tech. We are still trying to figure things out, and that’s what I love about it! For all MMS students interested in the tech industry, I highly recommend looking into Google BOLD. BOLD has given me more than I could have ever imagined—from an amazing group of friends to new knowledge about the tech industry. This summer has truly been one of the happiest of my life, and Google BOLD is a large reason why. Please reach out me to if you’d like to learn more about the program!

 
Natalie Shammas is a  Psychology major, Sociology minor, and Markets and Management Studies Certificate student. Markets and Management Studies will be featuring students' summer experiences all summer. Check in weekly or follow us on Facebook to read more about what our students are doing this summer.