Career Insights

Interview: STEP

How did you find out about STEP?


Bhatia sir dropped an email to all the girls of COE, IT, ECE and ICE (can’t vouch for the rest of the branches) around mid-January, inviting applications for the STEP internship.


How was the whole application process like?


We sent out our résumés in response to the email, and the first round of shortlisting was done based on our résumés. This was followed by telephonic interview rounds. They usually conduct 2 interviews, each of which lasts for 45 minutes. Depending on the feedback after these 2 interviews, they may conduct a 3rd interview if they’re still dicey about selecting you. We made the cut after 2 interviews, and didn’t have a 3rd one.


So which Google office did you finally intern at, and how was the allocation of projects done?


After getting selected, an application form was sent out to us, in which we had to fill in our preferred city and preference of frameworks-what languages we already knew and what frameworks we were interested in working with. The tech teams in Google in India are mostly based in the offices in Bangalore and Hyderabad, so those were the 2 cities we had to choose from. Project allotment was done based on our responses. Out of a total of 69 interns, the Hyderabad office had 8 interns, while the rest worked in Google’s Bangalore offices. 


Shruti: I had experience with both front-end and back-end and C++, but as I was not very comfortable with backend, I mentioned on my form that I knew front-end and C++, and was interested in working on back-end projects. I was accepted into the team working on Google Pay in Hyderabad. The project involved both front-end and back-end work, so it was a mix of both my preferences. The office in Hyderabad works mainly on Google Pay. One team works on Google Bolo, but it is a relatively new project and does not have interns on the team.


Mansi: In the form, I just selected algorithms and theory. I got into the Google Apps team in Bangalore. Majority of Google’s tech work is done in its Bangalore offices, as you may have surmised from the distribution of the number of interns. The office in which I interned has teams working on Google Search, Google apps, and Docs. The other office in this city focuses on Google Pay and Google Maps.


What work did your project entail?


Shruti: My project was to implement the last seen feature in the chat section of Google Pay. Both front-end and back-end were intertwined. In front-end I used Android Studio, and the whole code of GPay is written in Java, so I used Java in the backend. 

Although I had to work in Java, I didn’t have prior experience with it. Once we were allotted our teams and mentors, the interns set up video calls with their mentors to get some initial guidance. However in my case, the video call wasn’t set up, so one week before going, I messaged my mentor enquiring about the technology stack used in my project. He told me that I’d have to work in Java, and sent me quite a few helpful links to get me familiarised with the frameworks to be used, such as Guice for injection.


Mansi: In my hangouts session before the internship, my mentor told me that the only prerequisite for my work was C++. For my project, I had to work with Google specific tools.

Once they introduced us to all the tools, we had to learn how to use them by ourselves. My work involved making a different version of an already existing server- so my project basically revolved around clients and servers.


What were your takeaways from this internship experience?


Mansi: At a tech internship, you get a broad overview of how a version control system works. I hadn’t worked on something like that. Earlier I used to code just for myself, but now I had to code for a thousand other people who would actually view and reuse my code, so I had to ensure that the code I wrote was well-structured. Furthermore, I got an insight into corporate life in general- learning how to deal with coworkers, and the importance of communicating your thoughts well- whether they are doubts, or topics you disagree on. It was a holistic experience overall, and I’d call it the best 2 months of my life. 


Shruti: The ‘Google’ life is one of the best things you’ll experience. The whole Google code is under this directory called NBU, which stands for Next Billion Users, so the satisfaction and thrill of knowing that the next billion users will use a product that you worked on is great. 

The basic workflow involved first submitting a design of what you’ll be making, and writing structured code after getting the design approved. 

Since this was a STEP project, we had to work in teams. I hadn’t previously worked on a team project of this scale, so I had to learn how to coordinate with my mentor and teammates. In the initial stages, I used to take a lot of help from my mentor, but later I had to work on some parts by myself. We had to collaborate with people from different countries. There was this guy from Singapore, who was also working on the frontend part of this project, and we had to communicate with him for 4-5 weeks. 


Google is famous for spoiling its employees- so aside from the actual work experience, what were the perks of working there?


Food, accommodation, transportation, and practically every other necessary expenditure was taken care of by Google. The only expenditure on our part was on weekly outings. The office had TT tables, pool tables, foosball, and all sorts of indoor games all over the place. There is this rule in Google that there should be something to eat within 150 m radius of your workplace. Adhering to this self-imposed rule, the office has nifty micro-kitchens in every floor, stacked with all sorts of snacks and fruits. Their jumbo cafeterias with a whopping variety of delicacies might just make you give up on exploring each dish. In an office that is also littered with bunker rooms and massage chairs, we often stayed back until as late as 11 at night.

An amazing aspect of the work culture here is that they don’t distinguish between permanent employees and interns- so every week, we were invited to hang out with employees. 


Shruti: We had a sort of night-out one Friday. There was an event early in the morning the next day, so we stayed till 3 am playing in the games room. Another time, we went to a resort in Bangalore and had a luncheon, played fun games, and indulged in other light activities. This was meant to increase our bonding with our teammates. 

Coming to the work culture here, Google places the same level of trust in interns as they do in permanent employees. Even interns were allowed to work from home.

Hyderabad, as a city, was hotter than Delhi, but we only noticed it during the weekends when we weren’t sitting in our air-conditioned office.

Mansi: I got a chance to witness the infamous Bangalore traffic. The way a road can get totally jam packed within minutes blew my mind. Shuttling even short distances took a painfully long while. Still, I enjoyed the independence that came along with staying in a new city.


Did you feel like you had an edge over others during the internship season?


If you have an industry experience, it can be a good talking point during your interview. However, we were a little scared for our internship season as we were unable to brush up on DSA during these 2 months. Everyone else rigorously worked on strengthening their DSA in their holidays, while we were interning at Google. But this didn’t really matter after all- everything worked out in the end, as we had worked on our DSA skills during our second year, prior to our 2-month long internship.


What advice do you have for us juniors, that we should bear in mind while applying for STEP?


DSA matters the most for Google. The 45 minutes interview is specifically based on DSA, and there is little chance that they’ll ask you about your projects. They may ask you about you or your project, but this discussion will mostly act as an icebreaker to ease you into the interview process. For practising DSA, we used to give a lot of contests. The interviewers don’t go into advanced DS; they more or less test your problem solving abilities. You should never expect a problem you’ve already solved. In the rare event that you’re given a question that you’ve previously encountered, you should inform your interviewer, as they can see through it. Not telling it can be your key to a rejection. If you get stuck in between, you should ask for hints. You shouldn’t get nervous if you arrive at the wrong solution even after thoroughly analysing the problem, as the wrong solution also holds some weight. Always get the question clarified. Sometimes, they deliberately give an ambiguous question to test whether you ask them for a clarification. Ask them for all constraints, and then work out a basic, brute-force solution first. Never come up with an optimised solution directly; optimise your problem only once the interviewer pushes you to do so. Jumping to an optimised solution can make you look ‘too smart for this role’, or they might end up asking a hard follow-up question. 


How can we increase our chances of our résumés being shortlisted in the first round?


We’re not sure about the exact criteria for selection of résumés, but GPA is a key factor. You have to demonstrate your GPA and DSA skills in your résumé. 


Shruti: I had mentioned my ranks in Google Kickstart and ratings on coding platforms. Google Kickstart matters a lot for Google, like a sort of keyword in your résumé, if you have a decent rank.

Additionally, as I had done Web Development, I put that on my résumé. There was this other STEP intern who had prior experience with ML, so she had enlisted her ML-based projects on her résumé.

Mansi: Apart from GPA, my résumé was purely based on Competitive Coding. I had participated in and won a lot of coding competitions held in different college techfests, so all of that went into my résumé.


Coming back to the point of GPA, there were a few girls who faced rejection despite having high GPAs (above 8.5). So, while there’s no specific criteria for selection in the first round, it’s safe to assume that a decent GPA (>8) and a balanced résumé can get you through the résumé shortlisting round.