Sophomore interns at Google headquarters

Henry Vogel

Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson arrived at the large, black-glass building in northern California that housed Google headquarters. In this scene in the movie “The Internship,” a fictional comedy, Vaughn and Wilson began their journey into an intensely competitive intern program at Google. While millions enjoyed the film, few can say they experienced the events in the movie first hand. Cami Katz ’16 is one of those few.

Last summer, Katz attended the Lead Computer Science Institute at California Institute of Technology where she won an award for her project she worked on during the camp session.

Meanwhile, Google was starting the Google Trailblazer Program. The goal was to hire exceptional computer scientists from all around the world and bring them together to collaborate and come up with ideas to spread programming knowledge to billions of people across the globe.

Google only opened its applications to participants at Google sponsored programming institutes such as the program Katz was attending at Cal Tech. Katz was one of 25 students and 25 older people working in the field who were accepted into the Trailblazer Program. Katz and the others in the program first learned about issues concerning computer science education and the lack thereof in the world via Google hangouts. Then, Google paid for each member of the program to fly to the Google headquarters in Mountain View in northern California from Nov. 15-17, much like the movie “The Internship.”

Upon arrival, the interns came up with ideas of how they could spread programming knowledge around the world.

Katz decided to focus on Latin America, so when the interns were asked to arrange themselves in groups of four, she partnered up with two people from Mexico and one from Argentina, who all were interested in focusing on Latin America.

As “The Internship” shows, the groups worked intensively, knowing that only one would be selected for a job at Google.

The Google Trailblazer Program worked the same way. Each foursome tried to perfect their own idea before pitching it to three software engineers from Google and a CEO from another tech company. The board listened to each idea and gave every group feedback on how to make their plans more realistic.

After the weekend at Googleplex, the nickname for Google headquarters, the interns were allotted an extra month to work on their projects at home and incorporate some of the suggestions they received. After the revisions, Katz’s group was one of five teams to earn a $2,500 grant that they will use to follow through with their idea.

Katz’s plan is to unite a lot of smaller companies all trying to help spread computer science knowledge into one alliance led by Google. They will make a standard of education that the smaller companies can teach once they gain permission from local governments to enter the schools in Latin America.

“Before the summit, we had online meetings for an hour and then we’d have a lot of homework,” Katz said. “It was hard to balance it with school work, and I was working a lot harder than I usually do, but now there isn’t as much to do so I have been able to relax a bit more.”

If her plan works, Katz could potentially work on the project her whole life, she said.

“The whole program was a really good experience, and I’d love to work at Google someday because it was a really cool company to intern at,” Katz said.