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Summer 2021

Summer Diaries: Google STEP Hardware Internship

November 1, 2021
- Akanksha Verma


It still feels like a dream to me, but yes, this summer, I worked at Google as a STEP Hardware Intern. I was teamed up with my co-step intern, and we worked in the G-chips team, responsible for all the SoCs (Systems on a Chip) and IPs(sub chips) that Google devices use. To be more precise, we were part of the STA (Static Timing Analysis) team, which verifies the timing of a chip before the final fabrication

I got to know about STEP in my first year itself but never thought of applying to that, as somewhere in me, I felt that Google was far from my reach. Also, I had a really interesting story; I applied in the software profile but got selected as a hardware intern(XD).
I was really into software development in my first year and had hands-on experience in competitive programming, but I was also good at my core studies. So, when I got shortlisted in the hardware profile, I decided to give it a shot and see what happens. So, those 15 days between my shortlisting and interview were pretty hectic for me; I revised all my electronics concepts and Competitive Programming simultaneously. And finally, my hard work paid off, and I got selected at Google. That day was the happiest of my life when TPO messaged me the result.

At the same time, I was sad too because of the remote intern, but Google being Google, despite COVID, my internship was the best period of my life. I was pampered with so many gifts, allowances and had a great experience filled with learning, fun, and interaction with other Googlers.

What is the STEP Programme?

STEP (Student Training in Engineering Program), formerly known as Engineering Practicum, is a 12-week internship for first and second-year undergraduate students passionate about technology and computer science. The internship program focuses on providing development opportunities to students from groups historically underrepresented in tech through technical training and professional development.

Selection Procedure

The applications started around the end of November. Initially, the students get shortlisted based on their resumes and transcripts for two roles: Software and Hardware.
In Hardware, seven girls were shortlisted from IIT Roorkee. The moment I got the mail of getting shortlisted for the hardware profile, I was shocked as I had applied for software and was accidentally shortlisted in hardware.
We were told about the program details in an informative session after being shortlisted. We were also given tips on how to prepare for the upcoming interviews in the session.
The second round was the technical Interview round. I had two interviews (the number of interviews varies from person to person), each of 45 minutes. Interviews were conducted on Google meet, and we had to write our solution on docs, or if the circuit is needed, I draw that on my paper, and the interviewer used to take Screenshot of my circuit via camera.
My 1st interview was of CP and resume discussion, the interviewer asked me three basic CP questions, and we discussed the projects listed in my resume.
Then my second interview was on hardware- The interviewer started with certain basic things, like he asked me to draw a full adder circuit with the help of only 2x1 muxes, then he asked me to code the same in Verilog. After this, he asked me about master-slave configuration and certain peculiarities about it; then he asked a thoughtful question that can we make our muxes via NAND gates only like we hadn’t come across this thing before so I need to think about this with him about failure cases or possibilities.
So this was my whole interview, and I got the result on 25 Jan that – Tadaaa! You are selected to work at Google!

Preparation for Interview

For interview preparation, I talked to some of my seniors who had already cracked Google Hardware interviews. They told me that I could be asked some CP questions and Digital and Analog Electronics or code in HDL; for all of you who don’t know what HDL is, it’s Hardware Description language, e.g., Verilog and VHDL used to describe the structure and behavior of electronic circuits, and most commonly, digital logic circuits.

So, this was a confidence-boosting part for me as I had studied analog and digital electronics in that semester only, and also, I know Verilog. So now, all I need to do is brush up on my skills well.
I started with Digital Electronics and had all my basics clear with both combinational and sequential circuits. On the other hand, I revised all the basics of Verilog, i.e., HDL. I was simultaneously practicing coding questions from InterviewBit for the CP part.

I would suggest studying these courses - digital and analog electronics and Verilog at the time of the semester only to avoid hustle at the eleventh hour. Also, try practicing the basics of Data structures and algorithms from the start of your 2nd year only.

Tips for Application

Firstly, be updated with the Google careers page and noticeboard for getting regular updates of the program.
Make sure you have your resume prepared at least by the end of October, as on-campus applications are open for only a day or two. Most importantly, make the resume such that you are aware of everything in your resume; only add those projects that you are confident of because, at the time of interviews, you will be asked about projects in your resume in detail.
Also, avoid lying about anything in your resume, e.g., if you have written any group project there and be precise about what you have done in that project and mention that it was a team project.

For interviews, prepare well, and be honest with your interviewer. If you don’t know a certain thing, then tell them the truth and ask to change the question, and don’t waste their time.

My Project

I was assigned three projects to be completed in 2 months of my internship with my co-intern. The projects were mainly writing python scripts for 3 of them. My first project was timing paths classification, the second was hotspot profiling for a design, and the third was jitter classification. All were mainly based on evaluating violations in timing paths, i.e., in the design given.

We were allotted a host and a co-host from the same team, and both were helpful. They used to give us feedback and monitor everything. We were so new to the VLSI industry that’s why our co-host has taken our 3-4 hours lectures, too, just for teaching us the basics. We even had game sessions with them and the whole team as well.

Work culture

Google has incredible work culture. They have super flexible working hours, and we also got holidays on weekends. We used to haved great discussions with our host and co-host, and sometimes with other team members. And the best part is that we all stayed connected (which is a must in remote intern ) via meetings, fun sessions, and other discussions.
People were really helpful and of kind nature. I never felt like an intern; I always felt as if I was a part of Google. We also had a buddy there (just like a mentor). She used to meet us weekly, and we used to ask her our general intern-related doubts. She even used to guide us about what all should be done and how we could get maximum out of our two-month internship. She was, in short, like our friend to whom we can ask any silly doubt, and she would never say no to us and was always very helpful.

Seriously, I never regret not being at Google office because my experience in work from home was so unique; I was so pampered by Google. I got three swag kits in my 2-month internship, and they were wonderful.



Tips for Intern Phase

Try to be more productive in these 2-3 months of the internship to learn maximum from the employees out there because you can never have industry experience in your BTech.
Also, try to meet more new people out there, like in my case I used to message many Googlers to know their experiences and for tips on how to work efficiently, to learn more about the firm and a lot more. I got to know many things by meeting other Googlers as they all were talented, had different backgrounds and were from various cultures.

My Key Takeaways

I had never worked at any firm before this opportunity, so I got a whole new experience of how people work at such a big tech firm. I got to learn so many things- first of all, communication skills, I always used to hide my thoughts in fear of not being heard, but at Google, people will not only listen to your ideas but will even have a fruitful discussion on that. Secondly, I learned to work with my colleagues and even learned many new things from them.
Even in this online intern, I have experienced so many new things and gained a lot while working at Google.

And one of the best rewards I received was that I got PIO for next year :)