Do Interns Secretly Run the World’s Largest Tech Companies?

We’re all familiar with the narrative conventions surrounding the intern: long hours, little pay, and even less respect. Many of today’s tech and business leaders spent their early years competing for, and suffering in, internships where they gleaned bits of know-how and experience in between java runs and making copies. Modern internships, however, have undergone a metamorphosis as companies struggle to recover in an uncertain economy, and what was a pool of cheap, disposable labor has become a valuable source of innovation and a foundation for long-lasting mentorship. In today’s tech climate, a gig once reviled as the business world’s equivalent of kitchen scullion has become the starting line in the race to success.

Interns are no longer relegated to fetching coffee and running errands; companies are recognizing the fact that today’s interns can, with the right motivation, training and support, become tomorrow’s corporate leaders. These young people bring new and creative ideas to the workplace, and are often unfettered by the same assumptions that might be holding up innovation. Consequently, interns (particularly at high-tech innovators) are given substantial workloads and are assigned to real projects, with very real deadlines.

The expectations are high, but the rewards are great; all those long hours and responsibilities are balanced out a bevy of benefits, including telecommuting, flexible schedules and—perhaps most importantly—lots of face time with people already well established in their chosen industry. And forget living off Ramen noodles or moonlighting at a burger joint; while many internships remain unpaid, those spending their summer break toiling for tech giants can earn wages that are not merely adequate, but greater than the take-home pay of many folks already out of college and in the workforce.

Students have noticed the shift, and are responding with understandable enthusiasm. The reviews are in, and nearly two-thirds of U.S. students in the class of 2013 said they’d participated in an internship or co-op (or both) in 2013, and that number is sure to rise as the younger generation begins its climb to the top of the tech mountain.

Interns Running Business

Do Interns Secretly Run the World’s Largest Tech Companies?

Historically, interns may have been thought of as free coffee runners. But in today’s booming tech environment leading innovators recognize interns as the future of their companies. That’s why they are willing to pay them premium compensation, offer them extravagant perks, and let them actually get their hands dirty and work. In turn, interns are expected to deliver.

From Intern to CEO

  1. Steve Jobs

    Jobs landed his first gig at age 12 on the on the Hewlett-Packard line after calling President Bill Hewlett himself. His task was assembling frequency counters.

  2. Bill Gates

    17-year-old Bill Gates spent a summer as a congressional page in the U.S. House of Representatives delivering messages, preparing the House chambers, and performing other administrative tasks.

  3. Jon Oringer

    As an intern with Lockheed Martin, the Founder of Shutterstock ran his own solo project — a program that graphically displayed the locations of satellites used by a cell phone network to make the system more efficient.

  4. Ursula Burns

    Now CEO of Xerox and the first black woman to lead a Fortune 500 company, Burns worked as a mechanical engineering summer intern at Xerox when she was 22.

  5. George Hu

    A mere 10 years ago, the Stanford MBA student joined as a summer intern. Now he’s the Chief Operating Officer.

  6. Brian Williams

    The NBC Nightly News Anchor & Manager opted for an internship with the administration of President Carter over classes at the Catholic University of America.

    His responsibilities were opening mail, putting letters under a signature machine, and fetching coffee. Today, he’s seen by more U.S. television viewers on a daily basis than any other individual.

  7. Rob Cavallo

    Now Chairman, Cavallo landed a sweet gig as an intern at Warner Bros. Records in 1987 where he worked with Black Sabbath.

  8. Andrew Ross Sorkin

    In high school, the acclaimed New York Times reporter interned with Inside Edition during the summer of OJ Simpson when Bill O’Reilly was host, and then with the New York Times where he would wait outside for his boss.

  9. Anderson Cooper

    While at Yale, Cooper spent his sophomore and junior summers interning for the CIA.

  10. Betsey Johnson

    The fashion designer caught the eye of Mademoiselle’s Editor, Betsey Blackwell, inadvertently with a thank you card featuring a drawing of a shoe. She was then hired as a freelance artist.

  11. Tom Ford

    After graduating from Parson’s, the former YSL and Gucci visionary interned in Chloe’s press office.

  12. Andrea Jung

    The CEO of Avon Products landed a coveted summer internship at Bloomingdale’s.

  13. Conan O’Brien

    The funnyman worked as an intern in the House of Representatives, making copies for Rep. Barney Frank.

  14. Tom Hanks

    The award-winning actor left school to intern at the Great Lakes Theater Festival in Cleveland.

  15. Oprah Winfrey

    The talk show tycoon got her start interning at a Nashville CBS affiliate, then being hired on as Anchor in 1973. She’s now listed as the No. 1 most powerful celebrity and 13th most powerful woman by Forbes.

  16. Steven Spielberg

    At age 17, Spielberg scored an internship with Universal Studio’s purchasing department. After convincing the studio’s executives to watch one of his early films, they signed him on a 7-year contract.

  17. Robert Gibbs

    Senior campaign adviser for U.S. President Barack Obama, Gibbs interned for Alabama Rep. Glen Browder in 1991.

A Day in the Life of an Intern

In a study by, former and current interns at the world’s largest tech companies shared what it’s like to work for the Internet giants.

Google takes a hands-on approach to its interns, giving them the opportunity to work on innovative technologies and build products.

Google interns work long hours and are often given deadlines to complete projects.

“Google treats interns even better than full time employees. All of the employees all the way up to VP personally spend time with you and take your opinion.”

Microsoft encourages its interns to learn as much as they can about their field from knowledgeable and passionate co-workers who are always there to bail them out.

“Intel has a very organized and constructive internship program. They set you up for success and provide many opportunities for future employment. Excellent pay as well.”

Cisco gives interns the same freedom as regular employees. They have flexible schedules, can work from home, and enjoy a casual office environment.

At Amazon, interns should be prepared to work hard and be pushed to do well. They pay very well, but as a result, they expect you to perform.

Interns at NVIDIA are given great responsibility and assigned design work rather than typical intern work.

Tech Companies Now Pay Their Interns…Well

According to Business Insider, if you intern for a high-profile tech company, you can make more money than the average U.S. citizen

A look at the top 10 highest paying internships:

  1. Apple: $4,914 per month; $58,968 annually

    More than double the median salary ($28,900) for U.S. citizens ages 25-34 with a high school diploma or equivalent.

  2. Yahoo: $5,191 per month; $62,292 annually
  3. NVIDIA: $5,215 per month; $62,580 annually
  4. Amazon: $5,366 per month; $64,392 annually
  5. Google: $5,687 per month; $68,136 annually

    Interns at Google typically commit to 3 months of full-time work, taking home nearly $20,000 after one summer.

  6. Adobe: $5,757 per month; $69,084 annually
  7. LinkedIn: $5,808 per month; $69,696 annually
  8. Microsoft: $5,936 per month; $71,22 annually
  9. Facebook: $6,056 per month; $72,000 annually
  10. VMWare: $6,536 per month; $78,432 annually

Nearly double the median salary ($44,900) of a young professional in the U.S. with a Bachelor’s degree.

The Perks of Being an Intern

In addition to a very competitive compensation, interns at today’s leading tech companies receive a wide range of extravagant perks.

For example…

Having the opportunity to work at the Googleplex is pretty cool itself, but Google interns also get to enjoy an on-site gym, massages, nap pods, free food, haircuts, campus bikes, events, and more.

Google even provides its interns with a free place to live at an apartment complex in North San Jose, CA where they enjoy swimming pools, tennis courts, a fitness center, a gaming room, and a 23-seat movie theater.

  • The interns have been known to cause complaints at the complex for loud parties, late-night hot tub sessions, and have even “darted out in the middle of the street.”

Cisco Systems rewards its employees, including interns with free movie tickets, tickets to amusement park, free frequent lunches, great gym, free train pass, and they even pay for tuition!

The Power of an Internship

A recent study by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) found that interning in college not only increases your chance of landing a job, but actually keeping it too.

  • 63% of paid interns received “at least one job offer upon graduation” in 2012, compared to the 36% of grads with no internship experience.
  • 75% of employees that were hired out of internships were retained after a year, compared to 60% for those who didn’t.


  • 12 Successful People Who Started As Interns –
  • 20 Tech Companies That Pay Interns Boatloads Of Money –
  • Brian Williams –
  • From Intern To CEO –
  • Before They Were Famous, They Were Interns –
  • Oprah Winfrey Regains No. 1 Slot On Forbes 2013 List Of The Most Powerful Celebrities –
  • The World’s Most Powerful Women 2013 –
  • 6 Interns Who Ended Up Running the Company –
  • Google Rated The Best Place To Intern In 2013, Followed By Qualcomm, Microsoft, Intel And Cisco –
  • Glassdoor: ‘Google Interns Might Make More Than You’ (And Other Quotes Of The Week) –
  • Google Intern Salary Reaches $6,000 A Month, Plus Free Food And Gym –
  • Report: Google Interns Annoy Neighbors With Raucous Parties, Late-Night Hot Tub Sessions –
  • Income Fast Facts –

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