I was not expecting to start spring semester of my third year at the University of Virginia with an internship. It came out of the blue as just an email describing the desired position. I had hesitantly emailed back, but now I am glad more than ever that I had. As a student, I have set goals for myself to accomplish before graduation; goals such as fulfilling some traditions at the university, being published in a journal, and even skydiving. But I know that plans change with time, and as such, I adapted my goals. I started college hoping to be a mechanical engineer, but soon felt a stronger calling in computer science.
This was my first internship and not at all what I had expected. From speaking with friends about their internship experiences, it definitely was a very unique experience. Parse.ly is a startup, and I had joined the team about a year after their flagship product had launched. It was quite an exciting time as new team members were joining, and I was not alone getting up to speed with the project and getting acquainted with the team.
The differences were apparent from the start. The team uses agile methods for its development lifecycle. This method typically calls for frequent and brief meetings which were often collocated. To solve and adapt this method for distributed teams, we use many asynchronous debriefings to let the team know what we are working on, or need a hand to press forward on. Communication happens almost entirely through the chatroom, email, and to a lesser extent, Google Hangout, when face-to-face is necessary.
This set up solved two key problems for me. The first was that I was concerned with not being able to follow a conversation in real time about technologies in use as the other engineers discuss design strategies. By having it logged, I was able to go through, search up each platform, and discover the merits of the technologies for myself. I learned more than if they had sat me down and told me the designs planned out, because I was able to ask questions even after they were done with the conversation and had disappeared back into their focused development.
The second solution I came across was that I was able to continue developing on my workspace set up at home. With two monitors and a mechanical keyboard, I was quite attached to this set up and, as such, enjoyed working from home with it. Not to mention, it is nice to be able to make a quick trip to the kitchen for an impromptu snack.
The amount of data available to us is far escaping our ability to easily comprehend it all. To this end, we build tools to assist us in this endeavor. And to this, I have found much enjoyment in building these tools to aggregate and empower users with the interpreted data.
I had not fully known this before I started interning at Parse.ly, but I find a deep enjoyment in designing and building tools to interpret data and finding the solution to a problem simply too large to completely see all at once.
—Raymond Tang, Engineering Intern