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California and New York -- Spring 2006

Near the end of my time as a student I started trying to find jobs. This pursuit led me on two trips to interview with Apple in Cupertino, and one trip to interview with Google in New York. They were super fast, exhausting voyages but still fun for someone who hadn't travelled much before.

California Trip #1

The last two days definitely count among the craziest I've ever had. I was down in California for my interview with Apple and I managed to squeeze in a tour of Pixar, dinner/hanging with Mike, and a complete trip around the San Francisco Bay in addition to a day of interviews. And I wan't even in the state for 30 hours!

I had to get up at 5am on Wednesday to catch a shuttle at 6am from the University to the airport in Toronto. From there it was on to San Jose with a very brief stopover in Phoenix. Pretty cool to see all the landscapes and stuff as we crossed the continent (although I didn't get a window seat so I didn't have that great of a view). The thing that struck me the most is how flat everything is. I guess they didn't have glaciers carve the countryside into thousands of small hills and valleys like around here.

The flight back (which left at 8:30pm on Thursday) had a two hour stopover in Las Vegas and I must say that was an interesting experience. First of all, flying into Las Vegas at night is a really neat. The strip looks really cool and there are soooo many lights. Other than that though, the experience was mostly strange. The airport was full of slot machines (never saw anyone get any payout whatsoever) and had a whole bunch of designated smoking areas which wern't really separated from the rest of the airport at all. Just places with chairs and ashtrays. Very uncool. Also very old-school, I remember way back in the day when most public places were like that but I haven't seen it in a long time. My plane was delayed in Las Vegas, but not enough to make me miss my shuttle back to Waterloo in Toronto. My plane trip can be seen in the image below (green on the way there and red on the way back).

Flight to and from San Jose

So I arrived at San Jose just before 3pm local time and instead of checking into my hotel, I decided the best idea would be to go visit Mike. It turned out OK, but I cut it pretty close getting back. I'm pretty sure midnight was the latest I could check in to my hotel and I finally got there at 11:30pm. Crazy.

Anyway, Mike and Pixar (Emeryville) are kinda far from San Jose. I had to take an Amtrak train (in red below) from San Jose to Emeryville which took about 1.5 hours. Pretty cheap though, just $11. Ended up chatting with a random girl the whole way, but I think she was kinda crazy. She told some pretty unbelievable stories (more and more as we went). Pretty sure she was trying to see how far she could go before I called her on it and told her she was a nut. Well, I didn't break so I won the little game!

To get back from Emeryville to Cupertino (where Apple and my hotel are), I took the BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit system) which is basically just a subway, part of which actually goes under the bay (in blue below). Maybe I'm wrong, but an underwater subway seems like a bad idea in an earthquake prone region. Anyway, the BART stops at the San Francisco airport so I had to transfer to a commuter train (like Toronto's GO train; in red below). Unfortunately I arrived like an hour early for the 10:24pm train which meant I had to wait around for an hour in an essentially abandoned train station. In the dark, alone, in some random ass place in California. It turned out OK, but seemed a bit sketchy at the time. The train only took me as far as Sunnyvale, so from there it was a cab ride (yellow below) to the hotel. This map shows my trip around the bay.

Trip around San Francisco Bay

So that is all the travelling I did, but I actually did a lot of fun stuff too. Mike took me on a tour of Pixar, which was absolutely insane! It was just so cool to be there, it must be amazing to work there. I got a cool Pixar t-shirt with Luxo Jr. on it and I got to meet a lot of really nice people. Here are a couple of pictures of the Pixar front gates (they are taken at night, so they arn't the best, but still pretty cool).

Pixar front gates

Me in front of Pixar front gates

After the tour we got some supper at a pretty good Indian restaurant and then headed back to Mike's apartment. It was really nice, but I couldn't stick around too long as I had to catch the BART to attempt to get back to the hotel. We did mess around with his mom's new digital SLR though, here is a picture.

Me and Mike in his Emeryville apartment

The hotel was really good. I actually had a suite with a bedroom, bathroom and living room. King bed in the bedroom, two TVs, and they even gave me a free shuttle to the airport the next day after I had checked out. Here are a couple pictures of the suite:

Living room in suite at Cupertino Inn

Bedroom in suite at Cupertino Inn

The next day was the interviews at Apple (you know, the point/funding source of the trip). Eight in total, it basically lasted all day. It was pretty challenging, but the team seems really awesome and I think it would be a really cool place to work. Actually I know it would. The only question is whether I want to live in the US or not (and whether they like me, of course). I think I performed OK, but I missed a couple questions I should have got and I have no idea what my competition is like.

After the interview I got on my plane and headed home. In the last 48 hours I've only had 6 hours of sleep and I've changed time zones twice. I'm pretty confused about what I should do right now, so I did this blog entry. Probably going to sleep/eat now.

New York Trip

So I got back from New York last night at about 11pm...not too bad considering I left La Guardia at about 7:30 and there had to be about 1000 people ahead of me in the customs line at Pearson.

I was in New York for a job interview with Google, at their New York office (located near Times Square). I think it went pretty well, and I have to say that it was an awesome experience. All the things you hear about working at Google (the free food, the on-site massage therapists, the awesome everything) is totally true. It would be such an amazing place to work because they care soooo much about their employees. They go way out of their way to ensure that the environment is perfect so that they can get the best from everyone who works there.

The trip was fairly similar to my California adventure: get on a plane, go to a hotel, do the interviews the next day, leave that evening. The main difference was the city, and the fact that I didn't know anyone in the area so I was on my own for the evening of my arrival. The hotel was pretty sweet (free HBO among other things), but I couldn't just hang out there all afternoon and evening so I went for a 3 hour walk around the area. Went through Macy's (damn that store is big), wandered around Times Square and went up the Empire State Building. I toyed with the idea of getting food from some random tasty looking place that I had never heard of before, but decided against it and just got a sub from Subway. Didn't want to make myself sick on bad food before the interview.

Here are a few pictures I took from the top of the Empire State Building:

Picture from the Empire State Building looking north-east towards the Chrysler Building

Picture from the Empire State Building looking north over the city

Picture from the Empire State Building looking south towards the financial district, skyline missing the World Trade Centre, Statue of Liberty barely visible in top right corner

Here are some pictures of my hotel room:

The beds in my room in New York

TV and entrance to my room in New York

Tempting expensive food left in my room

Cool shower head in hotel in New York

Here is a picture of some of the swag Google bestowed upon me for coming down to interview with them:

Google swag
California Trip #2

I don't have as much to say about this trip. It was pretty standard. The day after my last exam of the term I flew back to California to interview for two more positions with Apple. It went pretty well and Mike managed to come down to visit for an evening which rocked as usual (mmm....Outback Steakhouse). I also got to stay in California for a reasonable amount of time (3 nights), so things were much less rushed than last time and I think it made the interviews go a little smoother (lots of time to relax and get settled). I totally didn't do anything crazy like visit Pixar or circumnavigate San Francisco Bay.