So, you’re visiting Silicon Valley’s biggest companies next week

Two years ago I went on the Silicon Valley ITAB trip. This was the turning point of my college career and more than anything else put me on the career path I'm on right now. However when I went on the trip I lacked a lot of context about the companies we went to go see. We ended up talking to some pretty high powered executives at those companies and it would have been great to actually have material for high powered discussions about those companies.

You might want to also read over my daily blog posts from the trip.

In no particular order:

Atlassian

Atlassian makes tools for programmers to collaborate with each other. Basically, programmers have tools like carpenters have hammers and screwdrivers and other purpose-driven instruments. A good introduction to what tools are used and why these tools are necessary is a blog post called The Joel Test).

Atlassian has a lot of competition in all of its product lines. But they get people to pay for its products and a lot of people swear by them. Which is really, really hard to do, and they deserve a lot of credit for that. Is it sexy? No. But as I noted in my blog post it's a place where "Silicon Valley's bread is buttered," and they are probably going to IPO soon and make a lot of people at the company wealthy.

Atlassian also has a great culture; it's a fun place to work and there's not a lot of bullshit. In terms of internships I've heard mixed reviews; I was fairly lucky in that I got to sort of design my own. Once you get there if you can think of something cool to work on, if you give a good enough pitch they'll probably go for it.

Bloom Energy

I've never heard of it but they have a pretty impressive list of board members. This Quora post looks interesting. Might be worth asking them about their patents and whether they've been sued.

Google

I don't need to tell you much about Google, it's a great company and it's like number one on everyone's list of places they want to work. Believe it or not CMC is actually pretty good at getting people into Google; if my stats are correct they hired 300-400 new grads last year and six of them were CMCers. Here's what those CMCers are doing:

  • Two One answers phones as part of the sales team

  • One processes refunds for Google Offers

  • One works in HR

  • One looked at websites one by one to see if they were spam or not (I quit after 8 weeks)

  • One works on the help documentation for a product

So I would probably qualify "Google is a great place to work" by saying, "Google is a great place to work... if you are a product manager or an engineer" The fact is that Google needs a lot of bodies to walk new users through Adwords or manually approve Google+ photos and they have no shortage of people with Ivy League degrees to fill these jobs. The actual role is obfuscated during the recruiting steps, and once you actually get there, you think something like this to yourself:

  1. I'm an attractive, young bright person

  2. My job is sort of awful

  3. But if I was really bright, I wouldn't have taken it.

  4. Therefore, my job must not be that bad.

Also, there are a lot of people that put up with it for the free massages, free food, steady drip of insider news/product releases and the ability to tell people they work at Google. I resented waking up and going to work, which is when I knew I had to quit.

Electronic Arts

Video games are glamorous. Working on video games, not so much. However, everyone wants to do it.

In grad school, a friend told me he wanted to go into videogame programming, so I described this post to him. His response was immediate and unwavering: "I don't care, I want to do game programming so much that I'll do whatever it takes." I suspect that enough people like this graduate every year that EA can maintain their high employee turnover indefinitely. source

Read this post for more on what it's like. Hard deadlines are a reality in the game industry, and EA used to have a really nasty reputation for forcing everyone to work overtime without any extra pay. This has apparently improved since they settled a class action lawsuit in 2007, but probably still worth asking about.

EA will ask you to apply through their online thing. I don't think anyone from CMC has even gotten a first round interview, for any position.

Zynga

You probably have your own opinion on their games. You should read about the business with trying to take back unvested options from early employees right before the IPO.

Intuit

Scott Cook is the CEO in Silicon Valley whom I most admire. He's a genuinely nice guy and laid all the groundwork for later companies like Google, Amazon and eBay to follow. From all I've heard Intuit is a cool place to work. They also grok stuff like the Lean Startup there and have a bunch of cool initiatives.

They will probably talk about SnapTax and the programs they have to reach out to farmers in India. That said it's also a big company and your milage will probably vary with the department you land in.

Mint is a really cool product. However they also store the large majority of their customers most secret passwords in the clear; that is to say anyone who hacked Mint's database would be able to log in to every customer's bank/credit card/investing site. This is contrary to password best practice, where passwords are stored in the database as gibberish. I would definitely ask them about this as it seems like a huge PR and security risk. I would also ask about whether Intuit needs to buy innovation now and why their company couldn't grow that solution in house.

Infosys, eBay, Applied Materials, KKR, Box.net, Microsoft

I don't know that much about these places. No one's ever gotten an internship or an interview at Microsoft. Also they will show this concept video with "the future" and people executing horribly complex UI interactions with just one button press. Just keep in mind that today, it takes three clicks just to open your favorite website in Internet Explorer.

Conclusion

A lot of these companies are cool, have great products/reputations and the trip is really cool. You should definitely work in the tech industry - you can wear whatever you want to work, set your own hours, and they don't block Twitter; in short, it's the only industry I've found where you are treated like an adult. However you should think really carefully about the specific role you're going to take at each place.

You should also take a look at my post on how to get that job in tech you are looking for.

Liked what you read? I am looking for work.

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