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It's official: "intern" is no longer a dirty word. In Silicon Valley's revved-up job market, summer schleppers are commanding the kind of big bucks usually reserved for loyal veterans. At a recent lunch of pizza and soda at Cisco Systems' San Jose, Calif., headquarters, CEO John Chambers told a group of 1,000 interns they would get 500 Cisco stock options each as a bonus for their summer service. "When he announced it you could hear a pin drop," says Katie Dahmen, a 20-year-old engineering major at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo. "Then the applause broke out like wildfire." Cisco folks say it's just good business. The catch: interns have to return to Cisco full time to cash in.

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