What Student Blogs Say About Corporate Culture At Twitter, Intel, IBM, And Google

On-campus recruitment is a highly competitive process, and success reeling in students with hat-size GPAs and pristine resumes can depend on a brand's ranking and reputation. As the summer winds down, you'll likely begin seeing much more of an oft-used recruitment tool: the corporate blog post written by a summer intern.

They've already started to pop up all over—the so-called "diary of an intern," in which a young recruit must carefully walk the fine line of describing their experience in a "fun" and "challenging" light, while not coming off as too much of a company shill. And of course, the intern blog has the potential to lure in or scare off future talent. We scanned through intern blog posts from a slew of companies to see if we could glean any lessons. 

Our journey begins at Google. The search giant has made summer internship diaries a fixture of its corporate blog. They all strike a similar tone: Google is hard work, but you'll get hands-on experience and the opportunity to meet interesting people. Why, just last week Remo, a YouTube online media sales intern, was rubbing shoulders with Eric Schmidt and a Nobel Peace Prize winner. Travel is another intriguing and recurring theme of Google's posts. Remo did his stint in Dublin; another intern, Erika, lived in Tokyo; while others described their time living in Munich.   

But it's not all globetrotting and hobnobbing at Google—as you might expect from such an engineering-focused company, some wonky bits find their way into the diaries. Remo, for example, started his post with, "As much as Noogler (new Googler) orientation initiates us into the world of Google, nothing can prepare you for all the insider phrases like, 'Pls check the SEEMEA CSR & their CID trix' (for an explanation, read on)." Fat chance!  

Erika fell prey to a different mistake. While her post is generally strong, describing her cultural introduction to the beauty of Tokyo, she starts her diary inside a T.G.I. Friday's. Does the Google Tokyo office not have a free cafeteria? If she's looking to positively impact Google's bottom line, I can only hope Tokyo's outpost of the popular chain has the 3-course dinner special for $12.99; still, interns looking to fit into Google's iconoclastic culture should maybe be doing more to take advantage of local cuisine near their offices.

(I'm only playing, Erika and Remo.)

Generally, Google's interns do a fantastic job giving you an inside look at what life is like for them at the company. Google seems to have a comfortable, busy atmosphere, and an environment where you'll learn a lot and where you'll have an experience you can brag to your friends about. Ending each post, smartly, are the "Fun Google Facts," fascinating trivia Nooglers learn from there time at Google. To wit: "On Tuesdays, we have a Mystery Lunch event where people from all over the office meet outside the cafeteria and draw a random card from a deck. We then find the other three people with the same card number and all enjoy lunch together. It’s a great opportunity to step out of your usual lunch circle, meet Googlers outside of your department and enjoy interesting conversation over lunch." (Step into a new Circle, get it?)

So, what's intern life like at other, more august, technology companies like IBM or Intel? When describing why he became interested in his field of study, IBM intern Kalvin proclaims, "Lack of physical labor!" Meanwhile, intern Tom says he's been interested in the field of computers "ever since I first got my hands on a x386 PC." But don't worry, IBM, life doesn't sound so unsexy there when compared with Intel. "My internship has been in the driver validation team for Intel’s Rapid Storage Technology software," writes intern Lucy. "This technology makes it easy to create RAID (Redundant Array of Independent Disks) volumes." 

Compare the following headlines: "My Life As A Software Engineering Intern," via Intel, and "My Awesome Summer Internship At Twitter." Which would you rather read?

Twitter, judging from intern Siddarth's post, is a fantastic place to work. He describes what it felt like to commit his first lines of code to Twitter, and to experience his first karaoke session with Biz Stone. He talks of drop-ins by Russian President Medvedev and Kanye West. His post features pictures—pictures of people smiling! And there's even a recruiting video that introduces the Twitter teams and personalities, from the "monetization" group making it rain (dollar-dollar bills y'all) to the "trust & safety" group with blurred faces to hide their identities. (Intel features a few day-in-the-life videos. I dare you to watch them.) What's that I see forming? An actual company culture?

Indeed, and the differences between Twitter/Google and Intel/IBM could not be more stark. Intern diaries from Google and Twitter are fun, colorful, and brimming with energy and character. At Intel and IBM, the posts are literally in black and white, and read more like a trade magazine for engineers than a tool for talent recruitment. The posts might as well have been written in C++.

To be clear, this is not the fault of Kalvin, Tom, or Lucy. (Sorry you guys got dragged into this!) Their words only reflect the company culture around them. And while we of course realize that this is but a small sampling of intern diaries, the conclusions drawn here are roughly what many of you probably thought of these companies to begin with. That is, Google and Twitter are likely "fun" companies to work for, and Intel and IBM are likely not.

There's really no need for diaries to be boring or overly technical. If these blog posts are meant to entice potential candidates to join, companies better choose their writers wisely, or at least get them a coach who can help bring some sparkle to the prose. 

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