Tuesday, August 25, 2015

My Summer Internship With Polyvore’s Engineering Team

This summer, four awesome interns joined Polyvore’s engineering team. Here, they share what they experienced and learned over the last three months.

Alexis Larry 
Alexis was an engineering intern on the Android team. She is studying computer science and statistics at Carnegie Mellon University. Fun fact: Alexis’ team went paint-balling and she has the scars to prove it. 

This summer I was thrown into Polyvore’s Android codebase and gained a deeper understanding of what it means to be a software engineer. I had never worked with Android before, but my team welcomed me with open arms and helped me realize my new passion for mobile development.

Throughout the summer, I learned the important lesson that it’s okay to make mistakes. One time, my code accidentally broke parts of our Android app, so I worked quickly with my team to learn from my mistakes. Working in Polyvore’s start-up environment empowered me to drive my own projects and ask challenging questions. One of my first projects revolved around UI. With my next project, I wanted to branch out, so I asked to do more in the data layer of the app. Because of my request, my next project got me working with the data layer, and I pushed features live to users around the world.

Brian Wachowicz
Brian was an engineering intern on the Revenue & Data Mining team. He is studying computer science at Carnegie Mellon University. Fun fact: during his internship his team had an offsite at a puzzle room where they paid money to be locked in a room and required to solve a series of puzzles to find the escape key. They didn’t manage to escape in time, but did better than the average.

Working on Polyvore’s Data Mining team provided me a unique opportunity to impact Polyvore’s multiple data systems at a huge scale. Over the course of the summer, I worked with new data pipelines to build more personalized recommendations for Polyvore’s global community.

As an intern, I was surprised to work on important projects that were immediately integrated into our production codebase. Before joining, I assumed we would just be put to work testing existing code, but at Polyvore we got to see our own code make a huge impact on the way the site performed for millions of users. Polyvore’s development cycle is blazingly fast, and the sense of community is incredibly strong. Every evening, I looked forward to going to work the next day.

Jare Fagbemi
Jare is an engineering intern on the Web Shopper Delight team. He is studying computer science at Stanford University. Fun fact: The baked goods Jare's manager brings in at the start of each week are the highlight of his Monday mornings. 

Even though I was extremely excited to start interning this summer, I wasn’t sure what to expect on my first day on the job at Polyvore. I was hoping that I’d get the chance to dive deeper into JavaScript and front-end development than I had in my previous internships. I also wanted to get more exposure to best-practices and to push more code with greater frequency.

It was even better than I had hoped. I’ve learned more at Polyvore about actually writing code than in the last two summers combined. Interning at Polyvore felt very much like being a full-time employee. By my fourth day on the job, I was pushing code to production. I was picking up the same tasks that my mentor and the other full timers around me were. The codebase I spent the most time on was a Node app hosted on a private GitHub repo. The absence of a learning curve not only meant that I could get to work as quickly as possible—it also meant that I could spend the summer actually learning way more about Node and Express—knowledge that I could actually take with me wherever I went.

Shreya Vemuri
Shreya was an engineering intern on the Web Shopper Delight team. She is studying computer science at Carnegie Mellon University. Fun fact: Shreya’s team named each of their sprints after a different Pokemon and were given a mini figure of that Pokemon for their desk.

From day one, I felt like a regular full-time engineer. Polyvore has a high-energy, fast-paced, user/product-focused environment that is also mixed with so much fun and transparency. Everyone was willing to answer all my questions and help me understand what I wanted to know related to engineering, product, metrics and experiment analysis. By day two, I was encouraged to pick up tasks that any full-time engineer would work on, and I shipped code within my first week on the job.

Looking back at the past three months, I am so happy I had the opportunity to learn and grow while making an impact for Polyvore’s global community. When I began my internship, I learned JavaScript and Node.js while working on front-end features. As I worked on this layer, I also became interested in API implementation and expressed my desire to work on that as well. My team and manager were super flexible, allowing me to do just that, and I was able to implement an API endpoint. There is a lot of trust and ownership embedded in Polyvore’s culture, which helps people grow and evolve.

This summer, I enhanced my technical knowledge, contributed to product features used by millions, learned about the company culture at a start-up and the aspects that just make a company click. These were invaluable opportunities for me to grow as both an engineer and a person.

Thank you Polyvore, my manager, mentor and coworkers, for an enriching summer!