Today’s #GrouponU Blog entry was written by Edwin (below,right), a rising junior at MIT. Edwin had a unique intern experience here at Groupon to say the least. What started with a recruiter telling him that he’ll be working on a different team that he got hired into ended with more autonomy, ownership, and uncertainty than he could ever imagine.
My internship was to begin in a month, finals were arriving, and I had been frantically searching for a place to live in Chicago. My main focus here was to be as un-homeless as possible, in a city I’ve never been to. Yikes.
It was also about this time that I got a call from my recruiter. I had already accepted my offer to work with the Communications Engineering team, but because of internal restructuring, I was to be placed on the Financial Engineering team instead.
Okay. Not what I expected, but cool.
I should probably introduce myself. My name is Edwin, and I’m a software engineering intern at Groupon’s Chicago HQ. I’m a rising junior at MIT, pursuing a degree in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science. Right now, I’m on a brand new team of five people. We’re officially called UIE (User Interface Engineering), but we like to call ourselves Browser Town, because hey, we make UIs for browsers. It’s kind of cute!
Wait, what? I thought you said you were on Financial Engineering?
Yup, more on that later!
My senior year of high school, I applied to MIT for chemical engineering. Chemistry was my jam, and I was almost certain that I’d be studying something related to chemistry or biology in college.
Computer science took my world by storm during the month of January 2013, during my freshman year, when I built an autonomous robot with Lego, coded in C, and competed solo.
It was awesome. I got a huge rush from coding, and seeing my work in action. I lived for the late nights and all-night code sprints. Man, was I hooked.
Since then, I’ve worked on numerous projects, learned many new programming languages, attended many hackathons, and worked with a lot of really cool technologies.
“I’ve submerged myself in a bubble bath of code and computer science, and I don’t want bath time to end.”
Yeah, that was a weird metaphor. I’ll stop now.
When I arrived at Groupon, I didn’t really know what to expect. Frankly, neither did my team. I began by familiarizing myself with the various tools the Financial Engineering team used, and paired with some developers on Bling, our internal UI for accounting.
There weren’t really any stringent deadlines or high-profile features pointed at me, so the first days were spent wondering whether or not there was anything really I needed to do here. It didn’t really seem like I had too much direction.
Little direction? That sounds awful.
Wait, no. That’s actually awesome!
What I initially mistook for lack of direction actually granted me a unique opportunity to do (almost) whatever I wanted. When it came to crushing bugs or adding features, I was more or less in control, and I got to choose my own strategies while discussing best practices with some very experienced coworkers.
Within the first week I was already adding some major functionality to our tool, and would continue to work on Bling-related features for a few weeks.
Around week 2-3, I sat down at my desk to find that some of my team was moving their stuff over to a different section of the office.
Oh, right! I’m on a new team now. Again!
Following my hiring manager, I was absorbed into the new User Interface Engineering team, while continuing to work on developing features for the Bling UI. In the transition, I got to experience firsthand the uncertainty and complexities of figuring out where the team was headed.
Our team now acts as a sort of ‘internal consultancy,’ by creating and fixing user interfaces for teams that need them, while also teaching best practices in UI design and front-end frameworks, currently focused on the use of Ember.js.
I had the ability to pick the project I wanted to work on, have taken it under my wing, and we’re in the process of open sourcing it.
In my extremely short time here, I’ve transitioned through 3 teams, witnessed the formation of a new team, learned two new frameworks, strengthened some languages I thought I knew, contributed to open source, and really felt ownership over the projects and features I’ve worked on.
Most of my internship (and my life) has been surrounded in a certain sense of uncertainty, and I am extremely grateful for it. I can’t say the same for everyone (every team and person is different!), but I’ve personally found a lot of value in not necessarily knowing what the next step may be.
Just go with the flow!