June 25th, 9:00 in the morning, I walked into the WhitePages front lobby. Well, actually more like 8:45, since I wanted to be there early, (and I might have been waiting at the bottom of the Rainier tower since 8:20, but that’s not important). The first day of my first internship had arrived, and determined to impress, I walked through the doors, and into a summer of amazingness.
A freshman at the University of Washington, I began my internship search months prior, at the fall CSE career fair, where I converted around 20 résumés into t-shirts, water bottles, gadgets, and gizmos. Despite being a direct admit to the CSE major, many of the companies dismissed me. I had four years of self-employed web development to back me up, but so few of them took the time to notice, and only looked at how I had only taken one CSE class so far (in my one quarter at the UW). A couple listened, and let me tell them about my experience. Among these, some still disappointed. I even stood there while one company repeatedly gushed about how perfect my résumé was, and how it essentially described their ideal candidate, only to hear it followed up with, “we don’t accept freshman, though, but I’m going to hold onto this!”
Fast-forward a few months, and I am sitting in those same meeting rooms, setting up my new work laptop, and listening to orientation overviews. After a day of that, they let us loose on our teams, and my team mentor started me on some basic tasks. A day or two after that, code I had written went out to 40 million people. And then I started my actual summer project. At other companies interns get projects created just for them, which allows a tailored difficulty level. And if they do not succeed, or write bad code, or take a long time on it, then no one else in the company gets slowed or hindered. Not at WhitePages.
My summer project was to completely rewrite their customer service tool from the ground up. An old system existed, but barely functioned. Infrastructure changes, and updates to the site rendered it largely obsolete, and unable to reliably assist them in helping users. Most of the time, the various teams would have to manually fulfill requests passed along by customer service. For the first week or so, I got to work with customer service, and people from the different teams to gather information to draw up a specification proposal. Following input, I began coding.
The project had a time budget of the entire summer, if necessary, but reached release state with well over a month of my internship left. WhitePages wanted to move more towards developer driven deploy, and my manager asked if I wanted to pioneer by helping build the new process using Chef. Interested and intrigued, I agreed to use my tool to guinea pig, and began the process of writing deploy cookbooks and recipes. After working closely with even more teams, we successfully deployed the new rails app to production. Customer service could now use my app!
Pleased with the success of our new deploy, we decided to do the same for a major upcoming feature release. I was tasked with its deploy. Refactoring and rewriting to fit the more advanced needs of our product, I developed and helped pioneer a completely new and reusable system of deploy. Reaching the end of my internship, I received an offer to stay on part-time as a member of the team. Excited, I accepted. Commuting from the university, I helped oversee the release of WhitePages Mailer, including one memorable almost-all-nighter on release night.
In the middle of all the work, we found plenty of time to have fun. Intern and company events throughout the summer kept us busy. At the company picnic, we waterskied and played volleyball. Early on, we food-toured pike place market, sampling and scouting lunch spots. Us interns even organized our own events, attempting to go skydiving (weather prevented most of our jumps), and just hanging out together. Regular company and team lunches kept me full, and allowed everyone to bond. Being a smaller company, I knew almost everyone by name soon, and they knew me. It also gave us the advantage of meeting the management, even spending an evening boating with our CEO.
Throughout the summer, not only did I learn a lot, but I also made both friends and connections. When offered a position part-time, it took no time to accept, as I knew WhitePages had plenty more opportunity to offer me. Working throughout the school year provided an enjoyable balance of theory and practice, and allowed me a break from the academic projects and homework of the major. My friendships with my colleagues grew, as well as my technical skill and résumé. This year at the career fair, I found myself on both sides of the table, trading t-shirts and for t-shirts. And when June 17th rolled around this year, I walked in, plugged in my laptop, and became a WhitePages intern again.