Insight from a Google Intern

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Third-year Bachelor of Design student Fiona Yeung is no stranger to internships. She completed four voluntarily before her mandatory placement as part of the York/Sheridan program. Having already experienced working at smaller, traditional design agencies, she applied as an intern at Google, one of the largest tech companies in the world. Google receives 40,000 applications annually for 1,500 intern positions so Yeung figured it was a shot in the dark. Earlier this year, not only was she offered a position, she was selected as one of nine interns to work as a designer at Google’s Mountain View headquarters in California.

Since May, Yeung has been part of the Google+ Core Team redesigning elements of its platform using a new design language announced in June at the annual Google I/O conference. “It’s an especially exciting time to be a design intern at Google,” Yeung explained. “Material Design bridges the gap between technology and human interaction making applications feel vibrant. The design language creates a unified user experience across all Google properties, making it ‘One Beautiful Google’.” Instead of re-skinning existing features with a new design, Yeung has been using an iterative approach, focusing on innovative ways to rethink transitions and animations. She collaborates with multiple teams at Google to ensure that her designs create a seamless and enjoyable online experience.

Interns at Google are given work as equally challenging and meaningful as the work of employees, which has made Yeung’s experience rewarding. “I feel like I’m part of the team. The projects I’m working on were the responsibility of a full-time employee last year which is great because I want to do work that matters,” she said. Throughout her internship, Yeung has been mentored by two managers, Brynn Evans and Chikezie Ejiasi, and a supportive Google+ design team. She has had the opportunity to connect one-on-one with designers and innovators at Google whose work she admires, like the VP of Design Matias Duarte, Google Search designer Noah Levin, as well as Google X team members who work on Google’s Self Driving Car.

Google’s open, collaborative and inclusive culture has contributed to its status as one of the top employers globally. Yeung relishes the opportunities and resources available to her, and the strong sense of community in the workplace. “There is a culture here where everyone is encouraged to keep learning,” said Yeung. She has attended professional development seminars on data visualization and presentation skills, weekly update meetings hosted by Google’s CEOs Sergey Brin and Larry Page, a talk with Hillary Clinton, and multiple intern events.

Day-to-day perks also help to keep employees and interns happy; a ride to and from work in the Google Bus, complimentary meals and fully stocked kitchens every 150 feet, nap pods for midday breaks, and an on-site rock-climbing wall, bowling alley, soccer field and swimming pool. Employees can join a Google Quidditch Team or take part in a yoga or ballet class. “There’s a strong work/life balance at Google. I’m doing a lot of work as an intern but still having fun at the same time,” said Yeung.

During her internship, Yeung had the opportunity to knock one item off of her design bucket list, designing a Google Doodle. Although a rare opportunity for employees outside of that team, Yeung’s impressive design portfolio landed her the opportunity to work on a doodle in honour of the Tanabata Festival in Japan. While the final version of her design was not launched, she was given permission to share it in her portfolio. The experience of designing a version of one of the most visible pieces of digital artwork in the world was invaluable.

Yeung will return to Sheridan at the end of the summer to get ready for her fourth and final year in the Bachelor of Design program. As her time at Google comes to a close, she is already looking ahead to an exciting career in design. She has lots of advice to share with future interns: “Be proactive about your search. Reach out to recruiters and designers at the companies you want to work for and chat with them. And don’t be afraid to apply to a company even if you think it’s a long shot. I was unsure about applying to Google but went for it and haven’t looked back!”

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