Monday, August 12, 2013

A Weekend in San Francisco : Intern Style

My hotel!
While I was in Mountain View, I had the chance to stay a few more days and spend some time in San Francisco with a few friends.  I was surprised at how easy it was; my team helped me get a flight planned to leave that Sunday and found me a place to stay.  Baris and I finished our work before noon on Friday, and he dropped me at my hotel before going to the airport.  I wasn’t able to check in since I had arrived earlier than my reservation, so I asked the bellhop where I should go, which is how I ended up in Chinatown.


It was odd seeing San Francisco as an adult; I grew up in the area, but I remember only the most touristy sections.  I was struck by how spread out the city was.  In NYC, everything is either walkable, bikable, or subway-able.  Here, I had to think about the bus system and wear my best walking shoes.  My friend Elissa, an intern for a start-up called Toy Talk, showed me a few apps that she’d used to help get around, including Lyft (http://www.lyft.me/) and Uber(https://www.uber.com/) that use ride-sharing to lower the cost of getting around at odd hours (I was skeptical for security reasons, but it has some interesting ways of ensuring safety).  I wandered through Chinatown, and into a few stores on Mission Street.  People were very friendly, and it felt like a slightly slower pace of life.  I didn’t get yelled at once for walking too slowly, and pretty adjusted to the West Coast pace of life.

Later that night I met up with my friend Tara, and a group of Google interns she was friends with to go to a club and watch a DJ set.  We were easily the first people at the venue, and it was fun to get to know an entirely different set of interns.  I was struck at how tight the group was; in NYC interns tend to have friends outside of the office, and even when groups forms outside people are often invited along.  In MTV, the group seemed much more close-knit from living, working, and hanging out in the same places all summer with very few interactions with non-Googlers.  I was entertained to see one of them was an intern featured in the Google ‘Real Interns’ video --it was somewhat like meeting a celebrity!


A view of San Francisco from my hotel room.

Tara and her friend stayed the night, and in the morning we went in search of a breakfast place.  In NYC, it’s easy to find food and if you end up in a bad area of town, it’s quick to find a way to a safer area.  I was much more nervous wandering around San Francisco from a combination of the spread out nature of the city, the low-hanging fog, and how quiet the city was.  In a lot of ways I missed the bustle of a New York City sidewalk.  We found a breakfast place called “The Little Griddle”--by the time we found it, we had given up finding a good brunch place, and were shocked at how good the selection, food and prices were (http://www.littlegriddlesf.com/kitchen.html).  It was crowded, and Tara and I ended up sharing a table with a few other people, and took a photo of a funny sign that was hanging on the wall.  The last one definitely gave us a giggle (although seriously, G+ is awesome if you use it enough).

The sign from 'The Griddle,'
photo cred: Tara Siegel



Later that afternoon, we met up with some friends at the Japanese-Pop(http://www.j-pop.com/2013/) festival in Japantown.  I don’t think a single one of us actually listened to Japanese pop, but the experience was really fun and the people were super nice.  We spent a lot of time wandering, eating food, and listening to people performing.  After the festival, my friend Elissa took me to a Thai restaurant she had been wanting to try, and it definitely lived up to expectations in both price and quality (Chabaa Thai Cuisine).

Tara and I at the J-Pop festival
The next day I took the BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) to SFO and got on my plane.  My trip wasn’t that long, and I barely got a chance to scrape the surface of what makes San Francisco such a great city (not the least of which is it’s awesome Google office that I heard a lot of Googlers talking about).  I did have two interesting insights from my weekend in the city, however.  One is how small the tech community really is; I was able to see most of my friends that week, and it reminded me that even though we’ll most likely end up at a variety of different companies, working in the tech industry makes keeping connections a lot simpler, simply because it’s a relatively small circle.  Second, is my personal opinion that there is an inherently different corporate culture on the east and west coasts was reinforced.  People in California tend to leave earlier in the day, mostly because the weather is a larger part of the appeal, and you want to take advantage of the daytime hours. In NYC, people start later, and leave later in order to take advantage of ‘the city that never sleeps.’  There are pros and cons to both, and I think it’s pretty great that Google keeps offices in so many cities; they never lose someone because they can’t work where they would like to.  A lot of fields can’t afford to be as accommodating, but the fact that Google takes advantage of the remote nature of technology and is willing to send people (including interns) to where they can work most efficiently, reminds me how lucky I am to be in a company that cares so much about each employee’s individual contribution and quality of life.

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