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'Internship': A Love Story To Nooglers


A Hollywood movie opens today, set in the competitive and usually lowly paid world of interns. "The Internship" follows two 40-year-old, down-on-their-luck salesmen, played by Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson. They land an unlikely summer internship at Google, where they have to compete for a full-time gig.

NPR's Steve Henn brings us this report about what the more than 1,000 real Google interns - or Nooglers - are up to as they arrive at the company's campuses around the country.

STEVE HENN, BYLINE: Software engineering interns at Google earn an average of $6,500 a month. So it's no wonder that Vince Vaughn's character in this film sees Google and an internship as salvation.


VINCE VAUGHN: (as Billy) Nick, I got it. Google!

OWEN WILSON: (as Nick) You got us a job at Google?

VAUGHN: (as Billy) Not a job-job. It's an interview for an internship that could lead to a job.

HENN: Google's ubiquitous free food, its campus volleyball court and quirky culture are all on full display in the film. I sat through a screening, in a room packed with real Google interns.


HENN: They sat there cheering, many wearing brightly colored Google beanies. These people actually refer to each other as "Nooglers" - Google's corporate shorthand for new Googlers. And like Kyle Ewing, who runs the global internship program at Google, most seemed to like this movie's depiction of the company as a kind of brightly colored, workplace nirvana.

KYLE EWING: I loved it.

HENN: In real life, Google's campus can feel like a trip to Oz. Interns here are greeted with a scavenger hunt.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: And what we've got - triple points if we're able to find a conference bike.

HENN: Do you know what a conference bike is?



HENN: Google's campus is full of odd stuff - like these conference bicycles. They're circular, multiperson contraptions that pedal. Then there are the self-driving cars and the freaky glasses. But Ewing says it's not just the perks, the gadgets and the gimmicks that draw applications.

EWING: Interns that we attract tend to want to tackle these giant, crazy problems.

HENN: Each year, Google receives close to 40,000 applications for 1,500 internship slots.

EWING: We are attracting some of the smartest, talented, most creative minds out there.

HENN: But sorting through all these candidates can be tough.

CHASTITY WELLS: It's pretty challenging.

HENN: Chastity Wells is on Ewing's team.

WELLS: Our interns go through a really extensive process, interviewing. The application isn't too bad.

HENN: And if you're one of the lucky 3 or 4 percent of applicants to land an internship, the work is real.

RAYMOND BRAUN: As an intern, I was actually in charge of determining the social media strategy for the film called "Life in a Day."

HENN: Raymond Braun was a marketing intern at YouTube. Today, he's at YouTube full time. And each year, the vast majority of new graduate hires at Google come directly from the internship program. Still, this company isn't completely cut off from the problems facing the rest of the world. Google - like many tech companies - struggles to hire a diverse engineering workforce.

EWING: It's our - sort of audacious ambition to reflect our users, to reflect the makeup of our users.

HENN: For years, though, Google has fought in court to prevent media organizations from gaining access to equal-opportunity hiring data about the company. Ewing says Google's not ignoring this issue and is providing smaller educational internships.

EWING: We have other, you know, smaller intern programs focused on students maybe earlier in their college career. So there's the engineering practicum and the freshman engineering practicum. These are specifically targeted toward folks, again, historically under-represented.

HENN: The largest of these targeted internship programs at Google is called BOLD. Bold interns are not engineers, and they are recruited for jobs in other parts of the company. And perhaps because of that, their salaries are, on average, a little more than half of what the engineering interns can make. Nonetheless, a summer gig at Google is not bad, and the food still free.

Steve Henn, NPR News, Silicon Valley. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Steve Henn is NPR's technology correspondent based in Menlo Park, California, who is currently on assignment with Planet Money. An award winning journalist, he now covers the intersection of technology and modern life - exploring how digital innovations are changing the way we interact with people we love, the institutions we depend on and the world around us. In 2012 he came frighteningly close to crashing one of the first Tesla sedans ever made. He has taken a ride in a self-driving car, and flown a drone around Stanford's campus with a legal expert on privacy and robotics.

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