Paul Baltescu on his internship experience at Twitter, Google and Facebook.

Paul Baltescu on his internship experience at Twitter, Google and Facebook.

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I did two internships at Google (summer 2010, 2011), one at Facebook (spring 2012) and one at Twitter (summer 2012). I also have many friends who’ve interned at least at one of these companies and this answer tries to sum up both my experiences and what I’ve heard from others:

1. Learning:
All three companies are great for this, but in different ways. Google is a good place to start learning strong principles of software engineering, but you have less responsibility for the code you write (compared to Facebook and Twitter) as it generally goes through a tedious reviewing process from which no doubt interns may learn a lot, but other people share some of the responsibility as well. Also, the development cycle used to be somewhat longer on the projects I was working on at Google and bugs could be caught before they reached production. In my opinion, the expectations towards interns are slightly lower and a proof for this is the existence of conversion interviews (which neither the other companies have). On the other hand, at Facebook and especially Twitter there are enough critical features/pieces of infrastructure still missing or needing considerable improvement, so if you’re a more experienced intern you have chances of learning more by working with several key components at once.

2. Projects:
Twitter and Facebook seem to focus more on choosing interesting and challenging projects for interns. At Google this is not always the case, as I’ve heard of people only having to refactor code, working on low impact projects or running experiments which were unlikely to be used in production.

3. Productivity:
Google has by far the best developer tools to work with. On the other hand, their development cycle can be quite slow because of factors like readability reviews, reviews from randomly chosen SREs, etc. At Facebook and Twitter, getting code shipped is more important, so if you break something, you fix it, end of story. More concretely, Facebook pushes most of the new code in production every week, Twitter does that a few times a week (depending on the team).

4. Salary:
Aggregating my own experiences and what I’ve heard from others, the general relationship seems to be Facebook < Twitter < Google (obviously depending on the level of education). Also, at times, it appears that the difference between Facebook and Google is significant, so you may need to think about this if you need to pay for school or something.

5. Atmosphere:
Facebook is an incredibly fun place to work at. People are friendly, happy and funny and you have to try really hard to be otherwise. Google is cozy with a lot of pleasant and friendly people, but not everyone is working as much as they could so the atmosphere tends to be a little more relaxed. Twitter is a more serious environment with mottos like “Grow our business in a way that makes us proud.” and investing less time/money in team building, offsites, etc. Other Twitter interns I’ve talked to about this were either strongly agreeing or disagreeing with me, so the atmosphere may vary a lot from team to team.

6. Recognition:
Google is a very large company and it’s hard to get recognition beyond your mentor/manager and your manager’s manager. Facebook and Twitter are smaller, more focused on impact companies and if you do well you can even receive congratulations directly from Zuck or Dick.

7. The City:
Twitter is located in San Francisco, while Facebook and Google’s main office are not. Most people seem to prefer living in the city because there are many entertaining things to do after work. On the other side, the southern part of the valley provides a place to live that’s warmer, cleaner, safer and more quiet.

8. Events:
Google and Facebook spend more money on the intern events and that can be easily seen. Main highlights: Google – luxury boat trip on the San Francisco bay, Facebook – one day skiing trip at Lake Tahoe (all expenses covered), Twitter – SF Giants game.

Excerpts from Paul Baltescu’s answer on Quora.

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