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This Penn sophomore will be a Google summer intern: could Philly keep him?

If Philadelphia wants to keep more talent to improve the city and strengthen its tech sector, we'll need to find a place for bright students who will be otherwise poached by big firms elsewhere. Meet Hong Kim, a Penn sophomore who represents just this challenge.

Morgan Mercer. (Courtesy photo)
Updated May 20, 2014: An earlier version of this article said that Hong Kim was looking for future employment with a large consumer internet company, rather than just a summer internship with one. This has been corrected.
Hong Kim had never done a technical interview before when he started looking in January for a summer internship. But that didn’t stop the 22-year-old Penn sophomore (Kim took two years off of school to serve in the Korean military) from getting job offers.

“I probably did very poorly on my first interview,” said Kim, a computer science student who attended his first career fair (in sneakers) this year at the behest of a friend. “But I think I did barely well enough to get another one.”

And another. And another. Over two months at the beginning of the year, Kim did interviews every weekend with big-name recruiters like Facebook, Microsoft, Yelp—but eventually, he accepted an offer from Google.

Google’s status as a recruiter is hard to ignore on Penn’s campus—choosing a job at the iconic Silicon Valley technology giant makes sense for many seeking the experience of working for one of this generation’s most influential companies. Like Kim, who was looking for something very specific: time working for a large, established technology business with a global user base and significant technical infrastructure.

“Among the options that I had, Google, specifically the back-end team for Google Drive, was the best fit,” said Kim, a native of South Korea who came to Philly for Penn.

Kim is fairly location-agnostic—he doesn’t necessarily prefer Palo Alto to Philadelphia.

“I am willing to work in Philly,” said Kim, “[But] I am not aware of any company” that met his preferences for the summer internship he wanted, one with a big, consumer Internet brand. That’s one slice of technology Philadelphia doesn’t have strengths in, but Kim is interested in finding an opportunity that could work for him locally in the future

There are several efforts working to make Philly a place that could keep someone like Kim long-term.

  • There are those working to diversify the tech startups that last here, like Philly Startup Leaders. PSL and, full disclosure, Technically Philly are growing its StartupPHL-backed Start.Stay.Grow event series, including this Thursday’s program at Benjamin’s Desk.
  • Other groups are working to place college students into the tech businesses that already have a presence here, like cross-campus, student-led nvigor, the PennApps internship program and the national Venture for America program that counts Philadelphia has the largest market in which it pairs recent Ivy League college grads with startups in post-industrial cities.

The work may be making progress.

Next year, when Kim looks for his next summer internship, he knows Google’s weight will help with the process. But he’ll keep an eye on the Philly tech scene too, one he’s better coming to know.

“I am definitely planning to include Philly startups in my job search next summer,” he said.

Companies: Venture for America / nvigor / Google / Philly Startup Leaders / University of Pennsylvania

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