Now that I'm heading into my fourth week as an intern at Qualcomm, I figured it was time to sit down and actually write about my (so far!) amazing experience in San Diego.
A little backstory on how I ended up at Qualcomm in the first place: back in January, I was selected as one of the attendees for Qualcomm's annual Student Accelerator. This was a long time ago, so you can get a refresher on my time at the accelerator here, but the conference essentially acted as a final round interview to be a software engineering intern. Not even two weeks after heading back to New York, I received a call offering me a position for the summer and I accepted it because duh, it was my dream job!
If you're reading this and have absolutely no clue what "Qualcomm" is, let me define it for you:
Qualcomm is an American multinational semiconductor and telecommunications equipment company that designs and markets wireless telecommunications products and services.
If that still doesn't help, just think of all of the technology around you, from smartphones and laptops to smart cars and Internet-enabled home devices. All of them contain hardware and software that make them work, and Qualcomm plays a central role in most of those devices. In fact, they've played a pivotal role in so many technological breakthroughs that one of their buildings contains both a museum of all of their accomplishments and products and a wall of screens that rotates through the dozens of patents they've registered.
So now I'm here, having started my internship on May 21st and ready to complete the rest of my 12-week internship as a member of the 4G LTE Software Integration team :)
BEFORE I STARTED:
Life was pretty hectic in the week leading up to my start at Qualcomm. I was neck deep in finals week—my last day at Cornell was the most beautiful combination of an all-nighter, project presentation, and full-dorm-room pack up. I left school on the Friday before my start, spent my one day in the city with my family and some of the best food in the world (shout out to New York bagels and pizza), and was soon off to my summer on the west coast.
Thankfully I had packed for my internship when I was packing up my entire room, so I didn't have to worry about that again. My sister just gets to enjoy the mountain of clutter I left behind on my side of the room :)
I landed in San Diego on Sunday afternoon, giving me enough time to appreciate the insane accommodations that I get to call my home for the next twelve weeks. I share an apartment with my friend and fellow accelerator participant, and I can very easily say that I've never had as nice of a double as this place is. Not only do I get my own bedroom, but I have my own bathroom and two (!!) balconies.
I've never lived in such middle-class luxury :P
I knew what my internship would vaguely entail before even leaving Ithaca. As soon as I accepted my offer for the summer, I submitted a list of my skills and interests so as to be matched up with a relevant team. My top choice (and the team that I had the highest match percentage with) was the 5G team, so for the few months that I was waiting on the team selection, I was really hoping to be placed with 5G. All of Qualcomm's teams are based around cutting-edge technology, but the presentation on 5G during the conference was the one that really caught my eye.
Around early April, I received my match with the 4G LTE Software Integration team, one of the teams within the 4G/5G section of the company. I also learned of my mentor (a Qualcomm employee on my team who would be assisting me with my day-to-day tasks and answering any questions that came up throughout the summer) and team's manager, both of whom I immediately connected with on LinkedIn because ya gotta expand that network!
No internship is official without spending at least a day learning the ins and outs of the company's systems, so Qualcomm was no different. After carpooling to building Q (yes, all of the buildings at Qualcomm's campus are lettered, and, no, they aren't marked at all—Google Maps come in clutch), around 100 interns all checked in and grabbed standing tables to mingle with each other and some of our mentors/managers. It was a quick chance to talk to some of the 300 other interns who would be on the San Diego campus, as well as briefly check-in with the full-time employees who would be working with us throughout the summer.
Although my mentor and manager weren't at the introductory breakfast, I did get the chance to finally meet some of the faces that I had seen pop up in the intern Facebook group and groupchats. It's insane to me that there can be so many people interning for a company at once—even now, three weeks into my job, I haven't met even half of my fellow interns.
We listened to a breakdown of Qualcomm's history and vision for the future from one of the company's executives, as well as a brief introduction into what the rest of the summer as an intern would entail.
They even gave us a calendar of planned events, so you know I'm pumped.
Throughout the day, as we were getting our badges and filling out paperwork, there were opportunities to sit down and chill with our fellow interns (and snag some free food, sweatshirts, and S'Well bottles!). I just remember feeling this intense combination of excitement and nervousness flowing through my body during the entire orientation, and that feeling continued into my first official day of work.
The first day started off promptly at 9 a.m. with our mentors/managers picking us up from our respective building lobbies like kindergartners getting picked up from a school trip. It was hilarious (and also kind of reassuring) to see a group of undergraduate and graduate college students waiting attentively to kick off their summer internships.
My manager picked me up from the waiting area and brought me to my very own cubicle!
(I know it sounds lame to be even the slightest bit excited to have a **cubicle**, but every single internship I've had so far put me at a desk in the middle of the office, so it was nice to have my very own professional space.)
(It also came with a spinny chair and adjustable standing desk so...)
He gave me a summary of the team and how they operate with relation to the rest of the 4G/5G teams, and then "gifted" (I have to give it back at the end of the summer, but for now I can consider it mine because it has my name literally on it) me with my very own phone and debug board!
Another full-timer on the team, who had interned with Qualcomm previously and was a member of their U2Q (University to Qualcomm) program, met me at my cubicle while I was making small talk with the other interns in my section and helped me set up my computer and related Qualcomm accounts.
I learned very quickly that established companies are very much established on bureaucracy and documentation, so thank god for the Qualcomm go links.
Oh yeah! A bit of Qualcomm trivia for you: the title of this blog post is what Qualcomm employees (Qualcommers? Qualcomm-ites? I'll have to figure out if there's a real name for that community) call a "go link". Our intranet is based around pages that can be found through URL shortcuts that start with "go/", and you can find pages for everything from intern memes to phone build descriptions.
Back to my first week, the next few days were a whirlwind of meeting new faces, both on and off of my team, downloading software, loading code onto my phone debug board to make my very first LTE network call (!!!), and watching training videos straight out of the early 2000s. I met with full-timers on my team to hear about some of the projects they thought I might be assigned to, and I took a ton of notes about the various tools Qualcomm has developed to allow them to test their chips.
Outside of work, the best thing about being an intern in a big company is that you're constantly surrounded by other interns. Someone likened the first weeks of our internship to freshman year of college, and I can't find a better way to phrase the combination of restless excitement and anxiety when walking between cubicles in the morning and saying "hi" to the people around you, making sure you don't end up eating lunch alone, and attending any of the company or intern-run meetups that happen.
Another part of the Qualcomm intern program is a series of talks called the "Executive Speaker Series," where higher-up Qualcomm executives give a talk on their history at Qualcomm and any other topics that they want to touch on. Our first in this series was a talk from Charles Bergan, the Vice President of Engineering for our Corporate Research and Development sector. He spoke about the work that Qualcomm is doing with smartcars and other projects.
Something that stuck with me that he said was that you don't have to be the smartest person in the room, you just have to be the most prepared. I loved hearing those words come from such a successful person, because it reassured me that I don't have to know everything, I just have to be willing to me.
After a weekend of seeing The Glitch Mob with a friend from Pasadena, watching the sunset and seals at La Jolla Cove, and jumping into the pool with my clothes on at the Memorial Day intern cookout, it was the start of my second week as a software engineering intern at Qualcomm.
I was given the opportunity to share my experiences as an intern on the @womenintech Instagram/Snapchat stories, so I'll upload those soon and give y'all a heads up whenever I do a takeover. It's one thing to read about an internship, but it's so much better to actually see what's happening in the office itself!
Much like the later half of my first week, I spent a lot of time sitting in my cubicle watching training videos and getting tutorials about the various software programs in my team's lab. There were times when I was bored with the 12-part video tutorials on open source software and secure code, but a slow start is normal when it comes to internships, especially those at bigger companies. There's a ramp-up (a.k.a. onboarding) process to every team, and I'd rather be thoroughly prepared to take on my job than dive straight in and be immediately overwhelmed by how much I don't know.
The week escalated very quickly when I got my first mini-project assignment (since they were, at the time, waiting for another intern to join the team before giving any of us larger-scale tasks) and I had to start working on that prototype ASAP. Much like the training videos, this project wasn't the most exciting nor the most intellectually challenging; rather, it was my first understanding of how Qualcomm expects their code to be written and tested, so it ended up being a learning experience nonetheless.
I also learned that my current coding jam is "I Like It" by Cardi B because I made a huge breakthrough as soon as I started playing this song, even though I had been staring at that code for almost 45 minutes. You can hate on the song all you want, but it works for me and that's all I care about.
That Wednesday, I got to return to one of my most favorite elementary school activities: kickball. The Campus Recruiting Team hosted a huge intern tournament on one of the lawns in Qualcomm's campus, and it proved to be a great way to blow off steam and have fun with some new people. I was (of course) on the best team #teammattharris, and we sure knew how to have fun. The game was definitely rigged against us when our ref miscounted the score during one game and the time ended before we got our last at-bats in another, but we were the second best team in the loser's bracket!
Something I can put on my resume—endorse me on LinkedIn for kickball.
I worked longer hours that week to make up for the fact that I was leaving early on the Friday to visit my friends interning in Pasadena (and tour JPL!! I'll write more on that soon :D ), but it was nice to come back to a cushy apartment and food that my roommate and I had meal-prepped the weekend before.
Speaking of meal prep, follow our food Instagram (of course I made one, it was bound to happen) at @go_mealprep (gotta use those go links!) #selfpromo
The weekend was exhausting, having eaten, swam, and walked my way through downtown LA, Santa Monica, and Pasadena (in that order), but I was excited to come back this week to really buckle down and work on my project. Weeks one and two were focused on onboarding me as the new intern, so this was the first week where I had no other responsibilities other than straight coding and debugging.
It really hit home that I was working on a legitimate product when I had check-ins with one of the members of my team. He and I hooked up my laptop to a screen and went through my code line by line, analyzing the purpose of every function and thinking about ways to make it more efficient and versatile. The first of those check-ins was stressful, because it was the first time I had sat down with a member of my team one-on-one and was expected to show off what I had done, not the other way around. Despite my nervousness, they proved to be worthwhile and helpful experiences where the team member was supportive, yet able to give constructive feedback and ways to expand my project.
I also started scheduling meetings outside my team to learn even more about Qualcomm and the employees within it. Qualcomm has a mentorship network for any employee to take advantage of, so even though I have the resources that my mentor and the rest of my team provide, I decided i had to take advantage and branch out a bit. I'm interested in so many fields, from electrical engineering to product management, and where else to learn about those fields than people who have dedicated their careers to them?
I had my first lunch meeting with a person working on a more hardware-based project, and it was interesting to hear how his daily routines differ from those of people on my team, yet both are integral to the development of the same product. I'm also trying to learn more about juggling responsibilities and prioritizing the things I need to get done everyday, and hearing advice from people who have been adults longer than I have is a great place to start. I might not get answers to all of my questions, but if the scientific method has taught me anything, it's that you need to research research research.
Now that I had settled in the routine of clocking in at 9 and leaving at 5:30, it was time to explore San Diego a bit more. My roommate and I had our car for about two weeks but hadn't done much besides shop for groceries and drive to work. So instead of heading back home for a night of pesto chicken pasta and Netflix, a few of us drove up to Palomar Mountain to watch the sunset and see what the deal is with Californian scenery.
Let's just say that I am very much impressed with the nature around us on the west coast.
It's crazy to think that I'm a quarter of the way done with my internship and I still have so much to look forward to! There are more sunsets to see, intern meetups to attend, and road trips to make, and I'll be sure to keep y'all updated as I go through them all.