With enough extra cash in their pockets to practise their signature on, Silicon Valley is well-known for its mass wealth and intense drive for success... and now it seems that teens are getting in on the action. But before you start making those disapproving tutting noises, we should probably tell you that this is actually one of the good stories about the infamous industry. Rather than sending sexually harassing texts to their colleagues, some of the leading companies are instead bombarding tech-savvy youngsters with high salaries and great perks, in order to land the top talent.
After spotting his photographic guessing game 4Snaps, Facebook flew 17-year-old and still-with-braces Michael Sayman out to its California HQ to meet Mark Zuckerberg, with his mum in tow. His position at Facebook? A summer intern. His perks of the job? Hair cuts, his laundry done and and free food whenever he wants.
And he’s certainly not the only one. James Anderson received an internship from Oregon-based startup Planet Argon at just 15 - before he had even begun high school - after attending a programming conference at just 13. And last year Airbnb invited 16-year-old Conrad Kramer for a summer internship after stumbling upon his Twitter profile, whose young age resulted in a lot of extra paperwork. “We actually had to get a work permit for him,” the company declared, as he was too young to legally comply with California employment laws. Facebook’s head of global recruitment states that there is “no hard and fast rule” on the age of interns, and that their concerns lie instead with finding passionate and dedicated coders.
Inspired by the successes of stories like Zuckerberg, who dropped out of Harvard in 2005 to start Facebook, and young innovators like Nick D’Aloisio, who made news last year when he became a self-made millionaire at merely 17, after Yahoo acquired his mobile app Summly, have created a big youth culture. In order to keep up with Silicon Valley’s youth-orientated society, big organisations try to snap up talent that would otherwise be encouraged to build their own startups. (Peter Thiel on the other hand, gives $100,000 to ambitious under 20 year olds to quit school and pursue their passions.)
But rather than using them for their passion and drive in unpaid intern roles, the tech industry rewards its lucky candidates with high salaries and lots of added extras. Twitter's summer class of 2014 are expected to make around $7,000 per month, which multiplied by 12 to calculate an annual salary, equals $84,000 - a generous paycheck that competes with many adults double their age. With the average monthly household income in the US set at $4,280, interns are easily bypassing both university degrees and their parents' earnings - and that’s without taking their bonuses into account. Microsoft holds a free concert for its summer interns, which last year included Deadmau5 and Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, Dropbox pays for its youngsters’ parents to fly out to San Francisco to learn about the company and Google surpasses all its competitors (once again) in terms of freebies, providing on-site massages, laundry services and free-food.
In an industry smothered with accusations of greed and inequality, the newest revelations will undoubtedly bring even more claims of absurdity and bribery against everyones arch nemesis Facebook, but also marks a milestone in the unpaid internship industry, finally giving young innovators a voice. And hey, at least eating all of Google's free food all summer will keep them off the streets.
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