BLOOMINGTON, Ill.— When Alan Russian ’15 begins his rigorous last semester at Illinois
Wesleyan University, one thing he won’t stress about is finding a job.
The computer science major has already accepted an offer from Google. A native of the Chicago suburb of
Gurnee, Russian will move to Los Angeles following graduation in May.
The offer to become a full-time Googler came after Russian’s summer internship with
the company that tops Fortune’s list of Best Companies to Work For. His intern-to-hire conversion reflects a growing
trend in which companies and organizations nationwide increasingly use internships
and co-ops as hiring pipelines for new employees.
Employers like Google, for example, made full-time offers to almost 65 percent of
their interns, according to a recent survey by the National Association of Colleges
and Employers. That’s up from 56 percent in 2013. Kyle Ewing, Google’s head of global
staffing, said in a 2013 interview with Fast Company magazine that the company looks at its intern program as the best source of full-time
talent. Laurie Diekhoff, internship coordinator at Illinois Wesleyan, said Russian’s
intern-to-offer experience is just one example of that upward trend for many Illinois
For Russian, the journey began prior to his junior year. He was among the 40,000 applicants
for Google’s internship program in 2013, but he wasn’t invited to interview. Instead,
he interned at Boeing Inc., the world’s largest aerospace company. During his internship
at Boeing, Google invited him to apply again. After two phone interviews where he
had to solve a computer science problem in 45 minutes and additional interviews for
specific projects, Russian secured a position in the summer 2014 internship program.
He was assigned to the Los Angeles office for AdWords, Google’s online advertising
program that is the company’s main source of revenue.
After learning he had been selected, curiosity led Russian to watch the 2013 film
The Internship, which pits interns against each other in competition for full-time offers. That
scenario is pure fiction, according to Russian.
“Everyone wants to get an offer for a job, but there is no competition between interns
whatsoever,” Russian said. “In fact, it’s very supportive and we even helped each
other with practice interviews.”
That supportive atmosphere extends from the newest employee to the top levels of management,
Russian said. One of Russian’s most valuable takeaways from his internship experience
was the constructive criticism he received. “At first it was a little off-putting,
but I learned to really like it and grow as an engineer based on the feedback I received,”
he explained. In addition, the company puts a high value on balancing work with a
life outside the office.
Perhaps it’s this relaxed atmosphere that helps Googlers to think big. Google’s audacious
projects – from driverless cars to glucose-monitoring contact lenses – result from
‘10x thinking.’ The expectation is that Google employees will create products and
services that are 10 times better than the competition. Russian said company-wide
weekly meetings would often include presentations on the progress of similarly ambitious
Meanwhile, Russian’s last semester is offering its own set of challenges. In addition
to his coursework, he’s busy as president of ACM, the student chapter of the Association
for Computing Machinery. This professional society is dedicated to advancing human
capabilities through information technology. Merging his current interests with his
future goals, Russian led the chapter in creating a self-guided tour of the Illinois
Wesleyan campus using Google Glass. And Russian continues to map out his career path
with advice from his mentor and advisor, Assistant Professor of Computer Science Mark
Liffiton, who was also a Google summer intern while he was in graduate school.
“I never thought I’d be working for a company like Google,” said Russian. “But after
seeing my computer science friends get internships at places like Amazon and Boeing,
I made getting an internship at Google my goal.”