Summer Engineering Intern Reflections: Selina Feng
Selina joined RaiseMe in summer of 2018 as an engineering intern. She shared her final project and reflections in this post.
I remember I first heard about RaiseMe’s Full Stack Engineering Intern position from a post in one of my school’s job search Facebook groups. I initially reached out because the post mentioned Ruby on Rails, which I had just learned, but by the time I applied I had fallen in love with the mission: to expand access to higher education so that every student has a shot at the American Dream. Several months later, I am excited to be working on furthering that mission and making a difference!
Meeting the Team
My first few days here were a whirlwind of names, faces, and coffees. Everyone in the office was so friendly, and they all paused their work to introduce themselves to me. I met people on every team and started learning about what they do from my first day here. During my first lunch, a group of people gathered on the couches to eat and talk. I was pleasantly surprised by how interesting and random the discussions were, ranging from asking about Luke’s new house to a philosophical debate about weighing survival against morality when stranded on a boat. They were open to new ideas in their conversation and it made me feel engaged and welcomed into the company. 💖
My favorite part was getting coffee with everyone over the course of the first few weeks. I talked to Dan and Anisha about product managing, and they were able to give me insight into what they do on a regular basis. As someone who’s interested in being a product manager, these conversations were very educational and fascinating. I got coffee with everyone on my team and several people from other teams. Mark and I discussed solving cool problems over boba, and Ian and I debated football as we sipped our kombuchas. The only downside: I didn’t realize that “getting coffee” with someone didn’t necessarily entail drinking caffeine, so I was jittery all day from sometimes having three coffees in one day! ☕☕☕
One thing that simultaneously excited and surprised me was how much I learned throughout the process of setting up my development environment. On my very first day, Kat (my onboarding buddy) introduced me to the technology stack that we use and all of the considerations that had gone into choices like MongoDB over PostgreSQL. The projects that I had done in school were small enough that I didn’t have to worry about scaling or using microservices and APIs. I learned about how engineers work on a large shared code base, the differences between relational and non-relational databases, and how a variety of services are used.
Kat was super helpful and patient with me while I did my best to process the deluge of information. Her “pop quizzes” helped me understand what I knew and didn’t know–something that would have been more difficult to discover on my own. Every day, she would add questions to a Google doc for me to use as review (30+ in the first day alone! 😱), which I found very useful. Throughout the next few weeks, Kat continued to answer my questions, fill in gaps in my understanding, and help me through the onboarding process. I think that having an onboarding buddy–a full time engineer who was responsible for checking in with me and showing me the ropes–made a huge difference in my experience at RaiseMe, and I’m super grateful to have a great buddy! 💕
In addition, Dan’s product demo on my first day gave me an overview of the website and what I would be working with. As he walked me through the RaiseMe website from different user perspectives, I was amazed at the level of detail and careful decision making that had gone into factors that I generally wouldn’t notice when using websites. For example, certain components are strategically placed to introduce students to RaiseMe partner colleges or encourage a sense of accomplishment when a student is awarded a scholarship. Additionally, I like the company’s commitment to accessibility. All of the text has a color contrast ratio greater than 4.5 to make it accessible for the vision impaired, media items have aria labels for screen readers, and the color cards were redesigned to have a high contrast ratio.
My very first engineering assignment was to improve logging in the Go server using Golang, a language that was completely new to me. Even though I was intimidated, I was able to complete the task with the help of other engineers (and Google)!
I also wrote code that was focused on improving the user experience by fixing styling. For example, I made sure a dropdown menu is aligned and changed text colors to match the style guide.
These assignments offered me a gradual introduction to the code base and helped me get used to making pull requests. I also worked on more complicated tasks like changing the student sign up page to conform to European GDPR regulations, which was challenging and exciting!
I think that my introduction to the company was absolutely perfect and I’m looking forward to the rest of the summer as RaiseMe’s engineering intern! 💯🌞
Want to learn more about working at RaiseMe? Check out our jobs page.
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