Visualizing Their Future: Why Our Interns Love Us

by Harel Kopelman

Chances are you’ll find us playing Frisbee on the lawn or at a presentation by CEO Jen-Hsun Huang or other NVIDIA executives. Or, you might catch us returning from a company-sponsored paintball tournament. Or locking up a bike at the rack near the parking garage.

Your next safest bet for finding us? Outside the company café, taking a lunch break in the beautiful California summer. Take the word of this wistful Silicon Valley native who’s gotten used to Manhattan’s wild swings in weather while at Yeshiva University: We’re soaking up as much of the glorious summer sun as possible.

But it’s not all fun in the sun for the more than 300 paid interns from over 20 universities across the globe that NVIDIA recruited this summer. We were hired to make real, game-changing contributions. So truth be told, if you really need to find us, we’re in the same place you’d look for any other NVIDIA employee: at work.

NVIDIA intern obstacle course event
Pawel Kozlowski and Vanna Chan sport intern tees at a Tough Mudder obstacle course event.

Vanna Chan is an NVIDIA GRID systems engineering intern hailing from Ontario, Canada. She’s a mechatronics major at the University of Waterloo (which experienced flooding earlier this summer). She gets hands-on in her work with the GPU boards solutions team running sustainability and benchmark tests on NVIDIA GRID servers before they’re shipped out.

“Working on GRID is amazing. We are the first company to solve graphics streaming and latency issues and make cloud gaming a great platform,” she says. “The experience is awesome and a lot of gamers are going to be using GRID, so it’s cool knowing you’re contributing to something so revolutionary.”

As a communications and marketing intern, I rewrite news articles about NVIDIA, contribute content to our internal portal and help edit and write posts (like this one) for the NVIDIA blog. If I’m not at my cubicle, it’s because I’m attending meetings or accompanying PR execs to press briefings. Throughout my day, I’m learning about corporate marketing strategy – from how to best engage industry analysts to answering the stickiest of journalist questions.

Other interns are working on breakthroughs in visual technology that will play key roles outside of gaming. Now in his third summer here, Glenn Elliott found his niche working with the research team on future programming languages for programming multiple GPUs at once. He hopes to use this experience in the area of automotive applications after completing his Ph.D. in real-time systems at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

“We’re starting to explore support for real-time operating systems with CUDA, which is exciting for mobile processing developments in the auto industry,” he says.

NVIDIA intern Michael Ledesma paintball event
Michael Ledesma (far left) with fellow interns and an employee at a paintball event.

Michael Ledesma, a performance-analyst intern and engineering physics major at the University of the Pacific, says that benchmarking video game performance on GPUs has helped expand his horizons, as well. He was hoping to spend his internship in the engineering department, but has since found a new interest at NVIDIA.

“This has been an awesome learning experience for me,” he explains. “I get to see how NVIDIA comes up with more efficient drivers to speed up performance. The more time I spend on GPU performance, the more interested in it I become.”

In addition to better understanding what NVIDIA does and finding their individual grooves, interns get to interact directly with senior executives, engineers and scientists.

“Even though it’s a relatively large company, I like that it’s a flat hierarchy,” Glenn says. “I get to work closely with thought-leaders. I really appreciate the culture of availability people here have towards each other.”

It’s things like the openness of NVIDIA’s work culture that have a big impact on interns, making them want to return as full-time employees.

Since NVIDIA recruits interns from far-flung parts of the world, many find their biggest complaint lies outside the office: getting around the Bay Area to work and excursions. “At first, I didn’t want to go out because it’s so far without a car. Eventually, though, you get used to riding an hour on your bike,” Vanna says.

Interns spell out “NVIDIA” on the lawn.
Interns spell out “NVIDIA” on the lawn.

Like Vanna, most interns quickly learn to circumvent any obstructions to summer fun.

Infrastructure intern Pawel Kozlowski, a native of Poland, wasn’t going to let anything prevent him from making regular weekend surfing excursions to Santa Cruz. He can’t stop comparing the clear, crisp blue sky overhead to the bleak, grey façade of summer horizons back in Norway’s University of Oslo, where he is pursuing a Ph.D. in volume rendering in medical applications.

And on weekends, Vanna, Pawel and others rent cars or find rides to explore the coast. Popular sites include Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco, Big Sur and Pismo Beach. On Memorial Day weekend, Pawel headed down to Los Angeles.

“L.A. was kind of trashy,” Pawel laughs. “But Santa Monica and Venice Beach were really nice.”

But Pawel has no complaints as he heads back to work after a long weekend out in the sun. “My whole interest in computers started with gaming, and I’ve always used NVIDIA graphics cards to play. So I figured that working here would be a good experience that would contribute to my career,” he says.

For an intern who does nothing but work on improving the quality of those games, it’s a dream come true.