It would be á propos if 2013 Stanford graduate Caleb Kruse signed his summer days to the white collar. It would be unsurprising if Kruse, diploma in hand, had his head down, ready to hit the books for some grad studies. However, as Kruse has undoubtedly discovered, conventional is not one-size-fits-all.
Alternatively, Kruse will be spending the summer with his brother and friend spreading the word across the states about going green, armed and dangerous with a truck full of ice cream. From July 18th to September 23rd the ice cream man will have much more than chilled sweet treats to share with American youth.
Caleb, like many of his peers, was influenced by the start up scene. He was inspired by the realization that “people are ready to back a cool project”. Travelling across America in an icecream truck is pretty radical, in every sense.
Caleb’s excitement piques when he explains that the quirkiness of Stanford permeates the air. The startup scene, where the culture is very much “hey, you can do this” has helped his idea thrive. He drew inspiration from the Stanford Spark Truck, an educational build-mobile that has also travelled across America educating children. His journey is a celebration of the culture that is typical of a school that respects innovators, creators and risk-takers. Characters like Caleb stretch our bubble and show us that the Stanford life is all about taking off in an ice cream truck the summer after graduation, serving purple yam ice cream to kids and teaching them how to save their local environment.
Caleb recounts a conversation he had with this friend three years ago, in which they discussed road tripping across America. They quickly realized that this would cost money, money that they didn’t necessarily have. So they got creative. In doing so, their original motivation, to have some college fun, quickly transformed into a journey that would catalyze change, and impact the next generation. They decided on three ideas they wanted to focus on: the environment and children. However, If they were going to affect children, they needed to be approachable. And so, what better way to do that, than drive an across the country in an icecream truck, teaching children how to become protectors of their own worlds?
In his junior year, he applied for funds through the Haas Center, but was rejected. His next attempt at raising funds through the National Geographic young explorers grant was a success. “It was one of those things you apply to, and kind of just forget about”, Kruse said. But it wasn’t forgotten for long for long, once they were offered $5000, and a very valuable affiliation with National Geographic to cross the country in an ice cream truck, at the end of Junior year.
Caleb explains that their ultimate goal is to “get as many kids as possible to explore and protect their world, their little part, because they occupy a special little niche.” They are looking forward to simplifying climate change, and offering alternative solutions for children.
They want to take a “Bill Nye” approach, and show kids that “this world is very cool, and [they] need to explore it.” He is eager to teach kids how to be explorers, conservationists, protectors, and stewards of their favorite natural spaces- to ultimately come away with different messages than usual.Instead of learning that they must take shorter showers, they begin to care about their immediate surroundings and take ownership of their space, while enjoying a tasty treat.
As best expressed by Caleb- “why not? Everyone likes ice cream.”
THE GOOGLE INTERNSHIP
"Are the nap pods real?"
I was wide-eyed and eager for an answer, like The Internship was Harry Potter and I would finally discover if Hogwarts existed.
Feeling like I was on a middle school field trip, I spoke with Janet An '16, a software engineering intern at Google, over a delicious dinner. My plate was piled high with free taco salad, free grilled corn on the cob, and a free, hearty concoction of Mexican rice, beans, and ground beef…did I mention it was free?
"Yeah, there are a couple in that building over there," she responded, pointing behind me. "There's also a ball pit there."
Alright, let’s face it. If you’ve never interned at Google and you watched The Internship, weren’t you just a teensy bit curious about how much Vince Vaughn and Jared Stern (the other guy who apparently also wrote the script) actually got right?
"Noogler" caps? Yes.
Pursuing and actually dating your hot supervisor without getting a sexual harassment suit against you? No.
Nap pods? Yes.
I-must-beat-everyone-else-to-be-successful-here intern competition? No.
Free food? Oh, so much yes.
PART OF THE TEAM
An, who applied to Google her sophomore year, simply wanted to work at a big company.
"It gives internships more structure," she explained. "My friend who works at a small startup spent a week setting up a programming environment that my manager at Google helped me set up in ten minutes."
According to An, whose project deals with an aspect of Google Maps (that's as much as she can say due to a non-disclosure agreement she signed), the best part of her internship isn't the crazy perks; it's the people.
"I love my team," she said. "They're really welcoming and I feel like I'm learning a lot."
Pablo Hernandez '17, another software engineering intern who works on the AdWords team to optimize ad revenue, agrees that the people are one of the best parts of the internship.
"They really treat you like you're part of the team," he said. "You attend all the meetings and they're really open to helping you."
Because each intern works on a different project, the atmosphere is non-competitive and pretty pressure free, according to An. And a lot of the teams aren't just welcoming in a work sense. When An and I visited her desk, it was surrounded by nerf gun bullets.
"Yeah…I seem to be the target of their game," she said, laughing.
A DREAM COME TRUE?
Of course, working at Google isn’t just a stress-free dip into the ole nap pod. Interns are no longer in CS 106A lectures and there is no Karel the Robot or Keith Schwarz. Work can be tough, bugs persistent, and long days prove to be boring at times. On a typical day, an intern starts work around 9, takes a few breaks, has a couple meals, works some more, then leaves at 5, according to Hernandez. Unlike An, Hernandez had a less positive experience with the "big company" aspect of Google.
"Since it's so big, there's always a lot of dead time because projects are so connected and you're always waiting on somebody to do something," he said.
An, who rarely experienced any “dead time” says it really depends on the team and project you are assigned. Regardless, you learn, and gain valuable experience surrounded by techies all alike. And despite any qualms a Google intern may have about the internship, there seems to be one thing in common: they all want to return.
"I'd love to come back," said Hernandez, who placed value in the relationships he built. "It’d be cool to be on a different team and work on a different project.”
"I would definitely work here full time," An said. “I like Google’s mission of making the world’s information accessible to everyone.”
I, for one, was sold on the free food and nap pods.