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Google offers summer jobs to students

Students can earn up to $5,000 working with open source software


Posted: 10/17/07

Leslie Hawthorn did not always understand the obsession computer coders had with the free Google shirts she hands out at events.

"It's because geeks don't actually buy clothes for themselves," said one audience member at a recent meeting. "They rely entirely on free shirts."

But Hawthorn was not only there to give away free shirts - she was there to find and inform students who might be interested in her company's summer open source software program.

Hawthorn, a program manager at Google, came to a meeting for the Linux Users' Group of Davis (LUGOD) Tuesday night to discuss Google's Summer of Code program.

"I herd nerds for a living," Hawthorn said.

Google's Summer of Code program was designed in 2005 as a way to give students paid experience working with open source programming instead of working mundane summer jobs.

Hawthorn said her boss, Chris Bower, originally felt it was a problem that smart college students were wasting their summer flipping burgers instead of pursuing computer experience.

Google created the Summer of Code program that chose students from over 90 countries and financed over 400 student projects the first year, according to Google's website. Interest surged -the second year alone saw a 200 student project increase.

During the summer of 2006, Google spent $3 million financing projects all over the world, which rose to $4.5 million in 2007.

This past summer, students were given stipends to write open source code for about 100 different open source groups, which gave the students a pool of ideas about which to write their codes and guidance when creating codes.

Now students get paid $5,000 if they successfully create software by the end of the summer - paid in increments throughout the summer.

Hawthorn said students range from first-years all the way up to students getting their doctorates.

"Usually, the freshmen and sophomores are the highest performers," Hawthorn said. "But that is probably because they are not sure where the bars are yet."

She said the students are not from any usual university or institution.

"We have kids from really top tier schools, but then some from some podunk place I've never heard of before," Hawthorn said.

Along with the financial benefit, she said students also gain valuable experience which leads to excellent career opportunities. She said that many students of the program went on to work for companies like Nokia, Apple, IBM and NetApp.

For student programmers who are interested in next year's Code of Summer program, Hawthorn said check on Google's website some time in February.

Although they prefer Linux, they recognize there are other programs out there that can be better in some way, said LUGOD president and UC Davis alumnus Henry House.

"We love all open source, free software," House said.

"Linux is like your ugly cousin who nobody tells people about, but you love them anyway because they're your cousin," said programmer Juan Lang.

For many people in the group, software programming is what they do best. Lang said people tend to get very into programming because it's the first thing they found they excel in.

"We're used to being picked last for sports in school, so now we all found something that we're great at," Lang said.

ELIZABETH STITT can be reached at city@californiaaggie.com.
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