Pandora founder talks background, internship opportunities at Oakland headquarters

Jane Nho/Staff
Pandora founder Tim Westergren held an information session at the company’s headquarters on Wednesday.

Related Posts

OAKLAND — About 40 Bay Area college students packed into Pandora Media Inc. headquarters — its walls plastered with Led Zeppelin posters and fictitious band names — to hear about founder Tim Westergren’s road to creating the online radio giant and the company’s internship opportunities.

The event, held Wednesday night in downtown Oakland, targeted students from multiple fields and promoted the company’s Road Crew program, a 10-week summer internship that trains students and provides them with the skills to potentially pursue a future at Pandora. Attendees hailed from UC Berkeley, UC Davis and the University of San Francisco.

“(The Road Crew program) is not a place where we just park you at a chair,” Westergren said in an interview with The Daily Californian. “It’s a deliberate program to actually teach you something, and the point of it is that maybe you would come back to work at Pandora.”

The nearly 15-year-old company only recently started a formal student internship program for students last year. Wynt Curliano, a Pandora recruiter, worked as an intern — or “roadie” — last summer.

“It was nice to do something that had an impact on the company beyond summer,” Curliano said. “It wasn’t just inputting things into a spreadsheet — you’re actually part of a team here.”

While a portion of the event was dedicated to answering questions regarding the program, Westergren also discussed the history of the company.

Pandora began as a recommendation technology that Westergren, a former musician and film composer, planned to license to other companies for personal use on their websites.

The technology that lies at the core of Pandora’s success is the Music Genome Project, a database and algorithm that analyzes and decodes songs for musical attributes, later creating individualized playlists for listeners based on their search inputs.

According to Westergren, a team of musical analysts listens to every song and measures those songs one by one using “musical DNA.”

Though other companies such as Spotify and Last.fm have followed suit with similar concepts to Pandora’s, Westergren expressed that the increased competition has not greatly impacted Pandora’s revenue.

“There is one thing that stands above all else, and it’s the quality of our playlists,” Westergren said. “It looks relatively easy from the user standpoint, but it’s actually fantastically hard,and we’ve been working on this particular problem for 15 years, and we’re good at it.”

Although the majority of the attendees were students from Bay Area colleges, the event was open to the general public.

“I’m consistently kind of amazed when I look around,“ Westergren said. “If I look out five, 10 or even 20 years from now, I would want the legacy of Pandora to be one that has changed peoples’ relationship to music.”

Jane Nho is the lead student government reporter. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @JaneNho.