Josh: Philosopher and Chicken McNugget Expert

Josh: Philosopher and Chicken McNugget Expert

The #GrouponU Blog is back for 2016! We’ll regularly feature a Groupon intern or recent college grad telling you about their experience tackling challenging problems and working with our teams.

Who are you?

My name is Josh and I’ll be a junior at Northwestern University studying Computer Science. I’m from Cincinnati, OH. I can identify all four distinct Chicken McNugget shapes by taste alone.

What do you do?

At Groupon, I’m on the Goods CX (Customer Experience) team, which basically owns the Goods part of the Groupon website where you can find deals on products. Because that’s a wide net, however, I’ve also gotten to work on code from other teams as well that are used by the Goods team. My main focus for this summer will be working on a dedicated tips page for local deals, which allows users to see reviews, ratings, and advice given by previous customers on a given deal. Since I’m on a web team, I’m writing in the standard languages, but with slight twists (mustache instead of pure HTML, Stylus instead of CSS, Coffeescript instead of Javascript). This is my first time writing a lot of code in Coffeescript, which is really neat and not at all like real coffee.

What’s an internship at Groupon like?

If you’re like me and this is your first time working on code that gets used in a fairly large company, you are going to get absolutely dunked on in your first week by a field you once thought you were on friendly terms with. Jumping into an established codebase and trying to figure out how everything works is a task in itself. Combine that with making changes, debugging, writing tests, and figuring out why code doesn’t work on your machine when it works for everyone else, only to realize it’s because your config files are pointing to staging, when they should be pointing to production. Luckily for me though, everyone on my team has been super helpful and is always willing to put up with my questions (especially my mentor, whom I asked a question probably every ninety minutes during my first week here). Everyone here really understands that you’re here primarily to learn, so they’re very accommodating while you get your sea legs under you, and that’s a huge help.

What’s a typical day at Groupon like?

Josh (right) with Groupon interns and mentors @ the Cucina Bambini cooking class!

I get in around a quarter ‘til nine and have a bowl of Special K Red Berries® cereal with soy milk. I refer to it as Special K Red Berries® because that’s what it’s labelled as on the dispenser, but to be completely honest I have no idea if it’s actually Special K Red Berries® cereal because I’ve never seen any Red Berries® in it, or berries of any variety for that matter. I don’t know what happens to the berries on their journey to its container, but the result is me eating the equivalent of unfrosted Frosted Flakes out of a paper bowl, which isn’t as unappetizing as it probably sounds. Other than that, the constants of my time here have been daily stands, which is how Groupon ensures that you’re not slacking off, and intern outings, which is how Groupon ensures that you’re slacking off sufficiently. I would also say that around 30% of my day is split between asking my mentor to help me, asking someone who isn’t my mentor to help me, and thanking whomever I just asked for help. Besides that, I spend my day taking care of issues that come up every now and then, writing tests followed by receiving and implementing feedback on my code.

Any advice for prospective interns?

Don’t be afraid to say that you don’t know how to do something, especially if it’s Groupon-specific. Seriously. No one is going to think less of you for not knowing how to rebase and squash 15 commits your first week, even if you’ve told them that you’ve used Git before. There are a lot of things that you just don’t get exposure to until you start working. Just go at your own pace and ask a lot of questions…which is pretty much how I’d recommend going through life in general.

Groupon Culture & Inclusivity Brought Sarah Back

Groupon Culture & Inclusivity Brought Sarah Back

Name: Sarah Kim
Title: Software Development Engineer
Start date: July 2015

You were previously an intern here; how did your internship impact your decision to come back to Groupon as a full-time employee? 

I had such a great time at my internship on Pull in Chicago. I think the biggest influence was the people I met during my internship. As a new graduate, I knew I would be able to grow and learn as much as I could anywhere I went, but I wanted to work somewhere I felt comfortable among my coworkers. I also knew I wanted to be in the Bay Area to expose myself to as much tech as possible (and maybe for the weather :P), so I decided to relocate to the Palo Alto office.

Can you talk about your team and team culture?

Layout Service is a core platform team that supports all of Groupon’s front-end teams. When you go on Groupon.com, there’s a header, a footer, and the content is in the middle. We serve the header and the footer; other front-end teams serve the middle. We provide the bread for the Groupon sandwich, if you will. This means we interact with a lot of different people on a daily basis. To top it all off, due to how large our scale is, we support over 20 countries. It’s only fitting that with such a global impact, we have a global team. We have two developers in Palo Alto, CA; a QA in Denver, CO; a developer in Santiago, Chile; two developers in Berlin, Germany; and a project manager in Chicago. This provides for 8 a.m. meetings whenever all of us need to meet for those of us in Pacific time. It can surely be painful to get out of bed, but in the end working with Layout Service is worth it. Our team is expanding soon with another developer to join us in Palo Alto next year, raising our female:male ratio to exactly 50% once she joins.

Are there any notable differences between being an intern and a full-time employee? 

The biggest difference is the time. With 10 weeks during my internship, I only had so much time to learn about the code base and gain experience. However, as a full-time employee I started out doing similar things from my internship, but as I continued working I became more and more knowledgeable about our codebase and am slowly opening myself up to be a face of Layout Service. I feel confident in answering for the team when people aren’t available, and it’s definitely something I don’t think I could have done as an intern.

How have you grown professionally since working here? 

I’ve learned to become more confident in my work. I’ve struggled with impostor syndrome a lot, but the more time I spend on our codebase and our team, the more confident I become with myself as a developer. Also, because I’m on a platform team that interacts with so many other teams, I’ve learned to communicate effectively with so many different people.

As a woman in Computer Science, how do you feel as an employee here? 

I feel really safe working here at Groupon. I’ve heard many harsh comments doubting my skills as a developer throughout college years, and I have yet to hear like that here. For many women in computer science, impostor syndrome hits a lot harder due to many stigmas in the industry. I used this as an opportunity to buckle down and work harder; to show everyone that I am an effective developer. Here at Groupon, I’ve met so many other women in engineering (Hi Melody, Monica, and Jena!), and it’s so encouraging to be in such a safe environment that pushes so hard for equality.

Anything else? 

Outside of work, I enjoy dancing to K-Pop, listening to music, and binge watching TV shows. Oh! and I have a blog where I talk about a lot of things I mentioned here. 

Thanks for reading the People Blog—a blog about people at Groupon. Want to work with Sarah and her global team? Apply here!