My Co-op at Qualcomm Research Silicon Valley

My Co-op at Qualcomm Research Silicon Valley

By: Evgeny Vinnik | Computing Science PHD Student
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Evgeny Vinnik is a PhD student at the School of Computing Science.  In this article he shares about his experiences during his internship with Qualcomm Research Silicon Valley during the summer of 2014.

How I found the position:

Research teams look for potential interns (primary Masters and PhD students) at scientific conferences, through personal contacts in universities, and among authors of papers that are interesting for them. For example, my team at Qualcomm was regularly reading relevant publications and would contact student authors to check if they would be interested in an interview for an internship.

I was hired thanks to my personal contacts.  My future Qualcomm manager knew my university supervisor, and I also met her in person at one of the conferences and told her directly: “I would love to do an internship at Qualcomm! Can you hire me?” After that, the process was a breeze.  I sent in my resume, had a short phone interview, and a generous job offer was presented at the end.

I would suggest two tips to graduate students who are looking for positions (temporary or permanent) in the research departments:

  1. Ask your supervisors if they can refer you through personal connections. Chances are your supervisor knows someone in the industry who happens to be looking for an intern.
  2. To talk with company representatives at the conferences. Companies like Qualcomm send their employees to those conferences not only to check latest research in the relevant areas, but also to scout for potential interns.

About Qualcomm:

Qualcomm Corporation is the world leader in wireless technology, and is the largest manufacturer of smartphone chipsets. Snapdragon – its line of mobile processors – powers such phones as Samsung Galaxy S, HTC one, Sony Xperia Z and many others.

About My Internship:

Qualcomm’s headquarters are located in San Diego; however, the company has a large presence in the Bay Area as well, with offices in San Francisco, Berkeley, San Jose, and Santa Clara.  I was working at the Santa Clara location, which is the largest of the Bay Area offices.

Our office was fairly standard, if not boring. There were no crazy decorations, or large open spaces. Most interns sit in cubicles or share a small office working on a PC or laptop. There were also coffee makers, snacks, dining areas, and of course fridges.

My department was quite special; officially, it was called Qualcomm Research Silicon Valley. 95% of the people working in the department are PhDs from the world’s top universities; the amount of talent that surrounds you is simply amazing.  Qualcomm has a very practical approach to research, and most of the projects developed by our department were intended to become products.  This is quite different from places like Microsoft Research, which is notable for sometimes working on projects that will not be productized immediately. Because Qualcomm is first of all a wireless and mobile technology corporation, most of the research projects revolve around the smartphones. 

I enjoyed the research, but I also enjoyed working with the team and the day-to-day work.  I worked on a team of about 10 people.  Two people were assigned to work with me: a project manager (with whom I have not interacted much as usually he was extremely busy) and a mentor (who was my main point of interaction). A mentor was also assigned from one of the engineers on the project. Normally he or she works on their own tasks, provides you guidance with code, project objectives, meeting slides, and outlinines further steps when needed. I talked with my mentor almost every day, and I can say that without his help my project will not be as successful. Note: I cannot go into details of the project because it is not revealed yet.  However, I can say that our team’s project entered the stage where it is about to become product, with potential to appear in next generation of Snapdragon-powered devices.

Internship experience: 

According to this year’s Glassdoor.com rating Qualcomm Internship is rated as #3 in the US, and only Facebook and Google are rated higher. Personally, I could really see how it would rank so high!

Even from the initial paper processing, I noticed that Qualcomm was extremely patient and helpful with filling all the documents right. Upon arrival, Qualcomm provides excellent housing for its interns (better than my house here in Burnaby). You do not even have to clean it!  Every two weeks cleaners come by and vacuum your carpets, clean the stove etc. Other perks include a relocation package and day-to-day transportation expenses (that are enough to buy yourself a bike or a bus pass for the entire summer).

Every week we had various events organized for interns both on a company-wide level and solely at our department.  Here are some examples:

  • Executive lecture series, when various vice-presidents talked about their careers and gave prospects on the future.
  • Happy hour at the brewery and multiple free lunches.
  • Organized charitable work for community: we were packing meals for the “Stop Hunger Now” initiative.
  • A San Francisco trip to famous Pier 39 and Giants (World Series Champions!) baseball game.
  • Archery and bocce ball road trips, soccer, and hikes around the Bay Area with my colleagues. 

Also as an intern, you get tons of Qualcomm swag! This includes Tee shirts, water bottles, bags etc.

There was also one weekend when all regional interns (from Bay Area, Colorado, New Jersey, North Carolina, Texas and Ontario) were brought to Qualcomm headquarters in San Diego, just to chill out and get to know company and people better.  In addition, Qualcomm internship is all about competitions. I quite successfully participated in the following ones:

  1. Mobile apps hackathon – took first place in one category
  2. IdeaQuest – competition of intern ideas of how Qualcomm technology can do social impact, make life simpler, and connectivity better. My idea got into the top-10 list.
  3. Video contests. The task was to create an internship-related video under 3 minutes. 
  4. Walking competition. Each person in our department was given a Fitbit Flex, then we were split into 7 teams, at the end of the July the team with the highest average number of steps was declared a winner. My team won, largely because I walked over 1 million steps.

As you can see the internship at Qualcomm is quite competitive, but participation in all events is voluntary, and if you want to work solely on your project, no one will oppose it, but in my opinion, this would be boring.

This concludes my tale about my Qualcomm internship. People who are working there are happy, smart and passionate about their projects, which provides positive working atmosphere. I can only recommend the company as an excellent place to work at.

Notes to future interns:

For those who are interested in internships, I have internship experience at both Broadcom and Qualcomm.  They were very different and I think something that is worth considering when you investigate internship opportunities for yourself.

My Broadcom co-op lasted for nine months, and I worked as a software developer, which included lots of coding and testing, and code reviewing by other team members.

My Qualcomm internship was about four months, and it was primarily research-oriented, so it involved many cases of going into “uncharted waters”.  This is also known as experimenting, failing and retrying. I did not code as much as I did during my Broadcom internship and my code did not undergo strict code review.

The point I am trying to make is that when looking for an internship (or co-op), a candidate could be in a situation when he or she has to decide between:

  1. Short-term or long-term?
  2. Product team or a research team? (Though, this is mostly applicable to grad students.)
  3. Well-known company or a start-up?
  4. Same company or new one)? (This is for those who are doing multiple co-ops)

Sometimes it is worth it to try various combinations, and to understand what is close to one’s heart.  Overall, I enjoyed both of my experiences for different reasons and I would encourage you to investigate internship opportunities for yourself.

Beyond the Article:

Posted on November 23, 2014