Force for Good Work Culture

VMware Interns Make an Impact — Even Before Graduation

When you think of an intern, do you picture someone charged with coffee runs and making countless photocopies? Hollywood portrayals and long-running jokes about office interns depict a summer of busywork and boredom, with little to no chance to make a difference at the company.

VMware decided to do things differently. Instead of coffee runs, our interns are given the opportunity to solve high-impact problems. They have the technical knowledge to work independently and diverse perspectives to innovate and think creatively. Our interns’ work is driven by business need and creates new avenues of business growth. We are not only helping them in their careers, but also paving the way for them to make an immense impact on our own processes, products, and company culture.

Why VMware is so committed to university-level talent

VMware has always been passionate about hiring the best talent for our teams and our company culture. So, it naturally follows that we are energized by students who are enthusiastic about innovation, excited to collaborate, and eager to make a difference. What’s more, VMware helps interns far beyond the end of their internship. During their time at VMware, we give interns opportunities to develop technical or practical skills in a supportive environment with dedicated industry mentors. Through programs from VMware’s Corporate Intern Team, interns can also partake in networking and collaboration opportunities with other interns and folks from across the company, including executive leadership. They can also finetune their professional skills, such as public speaking and interviewing, through various workshops and events.

We proudly hire over 1,000 interns per year, with over half working within the product organization. VMware interns come from across the United States, many countries in Europe and Latin America, as well as China, Japan, Australia, and India. Interns range in degree level — from undergraduate to PhD. — and major or area of academic focus.

Interns in the Office of the CTO

Within the Office of the CTO (OCTO), we hire over 60 global interns to support our innovation and research projects every year. OCTO interns frequently collaborate across two or more teams to build connections between products or processes. Within OCTO, we provide events and support for our interns, in addition to the company-wide opportunities mentioned above.

I recently had the opportunity to chat with two of our interns in the Office of the CTO — Sujay Yadalam Sudarshan and Soumil Shekdar — about their work over this past summer. They’ve made a big impact to both the Office of the CTO and VMware. They told me what they enjoyed most about their summer with VMware. Below are highlights from our Q&A.

Sujay Yadalam Sudarshan, Research & Emerging Technologies Team

Sujay Yadalam Sudarshan joined OCTO’s Research & Emerging Technologies team this summer. Sujay is pursuing his Ph.D. at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, with a focus on computer architecture and memory systems.

Sujay, tell me more about what you’ve been working on this summer!

Modern x86 systems use privilege levels or protection rings to control access of the running process to resources such as memory regions, special instructions, and I/O ports. User programs run in a lower-privileged mode (ring 3) which limits access to some of these resources, while the operating-system kernel runs in ring 0 and can access all of the resources. There are frequent transitions (also referred to as context switches) between these privilege levels because of syscalls and interrupts. Similarly, in a virtualized setting, interrupts and vmcalls cause “vmexit,” which involves transitions between the guest VM (non-root mode) and the Virtual Machine monitor or VMM (root mode). This summer at VMWare, I have been working on a research project that aims to eliminate the cost of these transitions in modern x86 systems. We are currently pursuing a hardware-software co-design to achieve this goal and in turn improve performance of various server workloads.

How is this work related to your area of study?

My research interests lie in the design of software/hardware co-designs. In particular, I enjoy building hardware that can assist/offload software operations, thereby improving the performance and programmability. In my Ph.D., I have been trying to investigate hardware techniques to improve the performance of modern applications. At VMware, I am trying to study the overheads involved in context switches (transitions between privilege levels) and design hardware can speed up the system performance by reducing context-switching times.

What has been your biggest challenge in your work?

Some of the measurements for our experiments required changes to the assembly code in the Linux kernel. Assembly programming can be tricky and requires low-level knowledge of the hardware. I had to read through large volumes of Intel manuals, each of which has thousands of pages, which was quite challenging and strenuous.

Sounds like it! What have you liked most about working on your team?

The people. The VMware Research Group has some of the smartest people I know of. All of them are friendly and enthusiastic. They are happy to exchange and explain ideas. They are ready to spend time with you to help you learn. I was also amazed by the diversity of the group; it has people from all over the world. I am very happy to have had the opportunity to meet these people.

That’s so great to hear! What has been your best experience, overall, this summer?

I was one of the many people who was tired of working from home. I was initially bummed that the internship was going to be remote. When the plan to open up the Palo Alto office was announced, I was delighted. I am one of the lucky few interns who didn’t have to work remotely.  I really enjoyed working from the office. The campus, the turtles, the food, it made my internship experience memorable. 

Last question: what did you like most about working at VMware?

I really liked that there are numerous opportunities for one to learn at VMWare. There are so many talks that are organized, covering a variety of topics — from inspiring stories of people with special abilities to fascinating research on the latest technology. Similarly, there are plenty of workshops enabling people to learn about new things. I was also glad that I got to visit RADIO; I learned so much on those two days.

Soumil Shekdar, Open Source Program Office

Soumil Shekdar is another of our incredible OCTO interns. Soumil worked with the Open Source Program Office (OSPO)this summer. Soumil is an undergraduate student at the University of California, Davis, pursuing a degree in computer science and engineering.

Soumil, what have you been working on this summer?

As an open-source machine-learning intern, I have been developing an add-on tool that will make conversations and feedback on open-source projects more constructive and inclusive.

How is your work related to your area of study, and what made you interested in it?

The tool we are developing leverages machine learning. I believe that machine learning can solve problems that humans cannot. I am interested in helping make this vision a reality, so we can employ machine learning to solve the problems of tomorrow.

Where do you see you’ve made an impact on the field or team?

Our tool will help contributors in open-source communities be more constructive and inclusive. This, in turn, will improve productivity and help drive faster and better development of open-source projects critical to VMware.

That’s awesome! What has been your biggest challenge this past summer?

Coming into the internship, my exposure to open-source communities was very limited. In fact, I had never made an upstream contribution. So initially, familiarizing myself with open-source development was a challenge. However, I now feel comfortable calling myself an open-source developer, largely because of the amazing guidance of my mentor, Anna Jung.

Sounds like you had a lot of great support. What have you liked most about working on your team? Any surprises?

Ownership and leadership are the key aspects of working on the machine-learning team at OSPO that I thoroughly enjoy. Even as an intern, I am entirely responsible for my project and am the lead within its context.

The biggest surprise was access to leadership. Coming into VMware, I imagined that my ability to interact with senior leadership would be limited, due to the hierarchies of a corporate environment. However, at VMware, I have been attending Darren Hart’s (Senior Director, OSTC) social hours and Dirk Hohndel’s (Chief Open-Source Officer) office hours weekly and have been able to engage as an equal in these conversations.

Did you learn anything new outside of your project work?

I have always been awkward responding to compliments. One of my managers/mentors, Malini Bhandaru, noticed this and has since helped me learn how to accept compliments. So now, instead of looking away or changing topics, I look right back at the person and say “thank you.”

Last question for you: what did you like most about working at VMware?

At VMware, I have the assurance that my work is directly used to solve problems across a multitude of industries and at the forefront of technological innovation.

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