Duncan: Engineering Intern and Pokeman Master

Duncan: Engineering Intern and Pokeman Master

Who are you?

Hey, I’m Duncan Deutsch! I’m 20 years old, and I study computer science at the University of Washington. In the fall, I’ll be heading into my final year there and entering the real world this coming spring. I’ve lived around the Seattle area my whole life, but I’m spending this summer at Groupon’s Palo Alto office.

What have you been working on?

I’m working on the Android team, which is subdivided into a few different areas of focus. Specifically, I work on the Groupon to Go (GTG) team, bringing Groupon’s up-and-coming food delivery and takeout service into the mobile application. At the start of my second week here, I received my first feature assignment! I was asked to assist with creating brand new restaurant cards within GTG that would bring them in with the deal cards present throughout the rest of the app. Working on this feature was extraordinary because it was labeled as our high priority feature for the next release, so I really got to feel what it’s like to be a core developer on my team. Three weeks later, my feature was merged into the master branch of the codebase for release in our next update. Recently, I’ve been working on improvements leading up to the release of our native checkout experience, and shortly we’ll be transitioning to more new feature work (which I probably shouldn’t disclose 😉).

What is your favorite part of working here?

I don’t feel like an intern at Groupon. In fact, I’m already preparing myself for the trauma of leaving my team at the end of the summer because I feel so integrated into my role here. Do 8:30 AM stand-ups sound fun to you? Probably not. They don’t sound fun to me either… yet I truly enjoy them. There is a real sense of camaraderie among our team, and it’s always nice to see everyone face to face (physically or via telepresence). Students going through the internship recruitment process know to take it with a grain of salt when a company proclaims “We don’t have ‘intern projects’ here. Here at [said company] you’ll be working on important features for our product.” Every company wants to promise you this and few mean it. At Groupon, they meant it. I get to work with my team on bugs, improvements, and features just like any other permanent employee here.

What do you think you’ll gain from this internship?

Besides the weight I’ll gain from grabbing snacks every time I’m waiting for a build to complete, I’m gaining so much experience in areas I did not expect. Obviously, I’m learning a ton about Android programming. Beyond that, this internship has given me the chance to work with so many tools, libraries, and design patterns I hadn’t been exposed to before. It’s amazing how foreign Java code can become when you throw RoboGuice, Butter Knife, Dart & Henson, Jackson, Glide, and RxJava into the mix (just to name a few). The learning process of an internship is akin to learning a language through immersion. Internships are fast, immersive, and effective at training you to be comfortable with a colorful variety of key industry practices. On the non-technical side, I’ve also been exposed to the application development process from start to finish for an app with 50-100 million installs! Being a part of this process and getting to take a look from the inside is probably the most invaluable knowledge I’ll secure from this internship.

What has your biggest challenge been so far?

The challenges I’ve faced this summer have definitely not been in the areas I expected to find them. Without any previous Android experience, I anticipated being constantly lost. It turns out that learning to program for Android is intriguing, natural, and refreshing. The challenges that I’ve faced have instead centered around becoming one with the various tools and practices that are an integral part of the workflow here. The first week I arrived, I constantly felt clueless. I forgot everyone’s names within seconds. I asked myself: What are these strange words and acronyms I keep hearing? What button do I press to do that thing you said? How do I test this code without buying an actual Groupon? WHAT AM I SUPPOSED TO DO WITH ALL THESE QUESTIONS THAT STACKOVERFLOW CAN’T ANSWER? I could go on for an uncomfortably long amount of time, but I’ll spare you the war flashbacks. It is really important to have faith in yourself and know that it gets better. With some dedication and willingness to constantly be asking, observing, listening, and improving, it doesn’t take long to get comfortable. It especially helps when you have amazing mentors on your team to constantly bother with your questions.  (Shout out to David Luu, Carlos Rubio, and Cody Henthorne!)

Most memorable experience so far?

I can not foresee how far in the future one may be reading this post, so I’ll preface this anecdote by saying that this past month we experienced the birth of Pokémon Go. For a few weeks, lunch with the Android team effectively became Pokémon Go hour. A couple of times, we actually went on field trips to take over a nearby gym together. Spend a moment picturing ten or so adult software engineers mobbing their way down the street to battle Pokémon (#SQUADGOALS). Another memorable experience for me was the time that I accidentally ordered Groupon to Go delivery from a pizzeria in Chicago, but let’s not talk about that one…

And finally… what drew you to Groupon?

Beyond just being a fan of the product, I can honestly say that what made the difference was the zeal of the recruiting staff. When you are waiting 2-3 business days for Company X’s recruiter to respond to a small clarifying question, then an email pops up from your Groupon recruiter within a few hours of inquiry at 11:19 PM, you realize just how passionate about their jobs these people are. From your first day here, they only continue to work hard to make sure you have the best experience possible in your internship. I am so happy that I came to Groupon because every day I feel excited to enter the office, and I wouldn’t trade this experience for the world.

Lily – Engineering intern

Lily – Engineering intern

Lily FulopHi there! My name is Lily Fulop. I’m a rising junior at Carnegie Mellon University studying Communication Design. This summer, I’m a visual design intern at Groupon in the Chicago headquarters. I currently live in southern Virginia, but I’ve lived in six different states, so anywhere feels like home. I have a lot of family in the Chicago area, so I really love being here for my internship this summer, and might try to stick around once I graduate!

At Carnegie Mellon, my primary focus is design. In my classes I learn about fundamentals like color, typography, grids, and composition, as well as higher-level concepts like information visualization, systems design, human factors, and user-experience. I love illustration, photography and telling stories through the things I create.

I love design for several reasons. First, I can’t stand it when things don’t make sense. I’m the kind of person who needs answers and clarity. Through good design, I can provide those things to others. Design has the amazing capability of conveying complex messages with simplicity. A user should never have to work too hard or be made to feel like they lack common sense due to clumsy communications or designs. They should be able to trust their intuition to navigate information with confidence. Second, I get bored really easily by convention and routine. I love color, pattern, excitement and surprise. I believe in the power of beautiful and clever design to bring joy and meaning to people’s lives. Finally, I’m a perfectionist. I need things to be done right. I appreciate things made with quality, time and those little details that show that someone cares.

This passion for design led me to my internship at Groupon this summer. At Groupon, I work on visual design and branding for the Food & Drink division. Food & Drink has three sections: Deals (everyday discounts), Card-Linked Offers (a cashback program), and Groupon To Go (a food delivery service). I work on email campaigns and marketing for these products which involves designing across platforms (i.e. desktop vs. mobile and internal ads on the Groupon website vs. ads on affiliate websites). This summer, Groupon has been undergoing a complete change in brand– a new aesthetic, a new typeface, a new message. We’re focusing on bold, fun experiences; like our new commercial says, we’re valuing the “have-dones” over the “haves” and encouraging our users to “own the experience”. It’s been really exciting to have a say in how this new brand direction is implemented in our designs. In addition to working on brand consistency across platforms, I’ve also been faced with the challenge of creating brand nuances between products. For example, the Card-Linked Offers service ought to be differentiated from Groupon To Go aesthetically, but similar enough so that both services can be recognized as a part of Groupon as a whole.

From day to day at Groupon, you can catch me refining typography and composition on Illustrator, searching stock image sites for the best pictures of pizza, helping with in-house photoshoots (a.k.a. launching my hand modeling career!), critiquing designs and discussing strategy. I’ve learned so much here already! My eye for detail has developed, my workflow is much faster and I have a deeper understanding of branding. I know so much more about local commerce and how Groupon operates. It’s been great to see how design functions within such a large company and to learn how to communicate across teams here.

Outside of work, I’ve loved exploring Chicago and hanging out with the other interns. As the only non software engineering intern, I’m having a bit of a different experience than the others at work, but we’re having a great time together outside (and inside!) of the office. Groupon has sponsored some really fun events for us, like going on an architectural boat tour of the city and doing a cooking class with our mentors. A bunch of us also walked in the Chicago Pride parade with the Groupon float, which was an incredible experience. We’ve had fun exploring different neighborhoods and trying to taste all of Chicago’s best food (Jeni’s ice cream in Wicker Park is a favorite!)

This summer has been amazing, and I’m sad to see my internship come to an end, but grateful for the people I’ve met and the things I’ve learned!

 

Lily Fulop_pride paradeLily Fulop_other interns

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

On conquering butterfly swimming technique & a massive codebase

On conquering butterfly swimming technique & a massive codebase

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.

Tell us about yourself!

My name is Matt Gibbons and I recently finished my junior year at Princeton. I study history and computer science. Prior to working at Groupon, I did some software development for a small San Francisco-based startup. While I had a phenomenal experience working under some great developers there, I wanted to try working at a larger tech firm. This led me to apply for an internship at Groupon!

What do you like about working at Groupon?

Whenever you walk by the conference rooms, you’re inevitably going to see these massive TV screens that are used to video chat with teams in other office locations. When the TVs aren’t being used for meetings, they default to a screen saver with a picture of a green cat (an obsession with cats is sort of an inside joke at Groupon) that states one of Groupon’s corporate values: “great people make great companies.” Groupon really believes in investing in its employees.

(Matt with fellow interns Abby and JT in the Chicago HQ lobby)

More than any other team I’ve been a part of, Groupon has demonstrated a huge interest in developing its developers. I’ve worked at companies and on projects where I felt like a cog. Groupon sees me and my fellow engineering interns as more than code monkeys. You can feel this attitude throughout the workplace. Senior management is constantly encouraging employees to use your personal growth benefit fund, which exists for employees to go learn about anything engineering related. Even more telling, everyday incredibly talented developers take the time to walk me through the intricacies of my team’s code base – which has been an incredible learning experience. Management is interested to hear the opinions of junior level employees (i.e. interns), and you can easily see the value add of your work. It’s an incredibly gratifying place to work!

What’s the biggest challenge being an intern?

The biggest challenge I have faced is familiarizing myself with thousands and thousands of lines of other people’s code. That’s not an exaggeration. At times, the code base feels endless. Without the guidance of a more senior developer, simple tasks can take 5-10x longer than you’d expect. Beyond the sheer size of the code base, it’s been challenging to program in a new language. Prior to starting my internship, I’d never worked with ruby or rails. Now I can say that I’m familiar with a language I previously knew nothing about. Pretty cool! I’ve learned so much in these few months.

What advice would you give to computer science students looking for internship opportunities?

Prioritize learning above all else and ask recruiters as many questions as possible. I have friends at companies big and small, prestigious and lesser known, high-paying and unpaid who have gotten little to nothing from their summer internships. Internships are meant to give you the flavor of an industry, a job, and a company. The trouble is that it’s really hard to know which internship will provide the best opportunity to grow as a developer. I ultimately came to Groupon because engineers on my team made it clear that I’d get lots of hands on experience and growth both as a developer and person. The worst possible summer would be one spent at a prestigious company, making lots of money, and not learning anything. After this experience, I’m confident that I’ll stay in tech – maybe as a software engineer or perhaps in a different role. Whatever happens, I’ll be thankful to the engineers at Groupon. I learned a lot of technical skills, but I’ve also learned how to be an effective contributor within a fast-paced team of engineers!

Emily: junior at Johns Hopkins spending the summer with not 1, but 2 teams

Emily: junior at Johns Hopkins spending the summer with not 1, but 2 teams

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.

Hello blog post readers! I’m Emily Brahma, a computer science major at Johns Hopkins University. Born and raised a Californian, I lived in the lovely, quiet city of Irvine until the age of 14, when I enrolled in Cate (a boarding school nestled in the hills of Carpinteria along the coast). When I got the call from Groupon offering me a Software Engineering Internship on the Application Operations (App Ops) team, I had a proud smile on my face that I couldn’t wipe away for hours. My mind pinballed from one thought to the next, imagining all the things I would do, the things I would learn, the people I would meet.

Emily Brahma

It has been six weeks since I moved to the amazing city of Chicago for the summer, and here’s what has happened so far:

Day 0: First Steps

I stepped into 600 W Chicago at 8:00 am – a very punctual thirty minutes before Groupon was expecting me. I sat at reception waiting, tapping my foot furiously. I was too excited to remain still. The rest of the interns trickled in and at 8:30 am, the whirlwind of information began: “here’s how you can generate your SSH key,” or “don’t use that staircase,” and “email payroll if you have questions,” “here’s the third Fooda station you can get lunch from!” The office was so big I remember wondering if I would manage to get myself to my desk everyday without getting lost (it took about three days, but I eventually figured it out). The University Relations team had a packed orientation day planned for us, with information sessions of course, but also some fun. We had a scavenger hunt and spent an hour running around the office – which is essentially a playground –  checking off the items on our list. We wrapped up the day with an ice cream sundae bar, where I got to meet my manager in person for the first time. He showed me to my desk and introduced me to the first team I was joining, App Ops. I set down my stuff neatly on my desk, feeling ready for my internship to begin.

Day 1: Shadowing Shomari

As my first official day on the App Ops team, I spent it shadowing my mentor on tickets. I got to learn first hand about what exactly App Ops does, and how they do it. Being “on tickets” means that Shomari was handling the tickets that come internally from other Groupon teams to handle bugs or specific requests. For the most part, this meant running scripts to solve the issue reported. This was my first time being exposed to Ruby, and I learned a lot about the basics of the language through this process.

Day 2 – Build a Ruby on Rails App to Display Tickets (Oh…I don’t know Ruby)

I came into work on Thursday and my manager was ready with his assignment for me. He told me that I would be rewriting the code for the current ticket Heads Up Display (HUD) since it was fairly old and had a few bugs. Essentially, what this means is that I was responsible for creating a Rails app from start to finish that pulled and displayed the tickets assigned to App Ops using our ticketing platform’s API. It also needed to keep track of Service Level Agreement (SLA) failures. Depending on the urgency of a ticket, if more than a set amount of time has passed, a ticket is considered to fall under an SLA failure. This meant that I would need to check for SLA failures in the background, display any tickets that fail, and add it to the database storing failed tickets.

I felt like I was standing at the edge of a cliff and had no idea how to even begin. I didn’t have much exposure to web development and had never touched Ruby before. However, my manager broke down the project into smaller, less scary cliffs and I was on my way to building my first Rails app!

Day 3 – First Pull Request

On my third day, I got to join an App Ops pull request meeting and see how code is reviewed before any changes are made to the repository. I observed my coworkers sort through the changes made in each commit and provide feedback that might better the code before it is shipped.

Day 7 – Pairing with Val

Paired programming has probably been one of the ways I’ve learned the most during my time as an intern. It has allowed me to work through problems or try something new with the guidance of one of my coworkers. My go-to person for pairing was usually Val, and he was always patient and more than happy to lend a helping hand when I asked. Although I have “Pairing with Val” listed here only once, there were several days like this. I always ended these days with a satisfied grin, knowing that I had worked through to solve a new challenge.

Day 10 – Women at Groupon Fireside Chat

The “Women at Groupon” Employee Resource Group (ERG) holds events throughout the year to engage women and encourage diverse discussion within the company. I had the chance sit in on a  “Fireside Chat” which was a Q&A between Women at Groupon and our CEO, Rich Williams. The CEO gave career advice, candidly discussed diversity at Groupon, the efforts he has put in thus far and his some of his plans to continue to improve.

Day 13 – Watch WWDC keynote

Being as tech obsessed as we are, a few of the interns and I reserved a room and spent our lunches streaming the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference. It was a great time.

Day 17 – My Ticket HUD is on TV!

At this point, I had a running version of my project, but it was just a rough draft and I still had plenty to do. However, it was enough that my team displayed it for the first time on the TV by our desks and I was thrilled. It was such a gratifying feeling to see something I built on display and being used by the people around me. At school I often code projects just to hit a submit button and never see it again, but this was the first time real people would actually be using something that I made. Needless to say, I may have taken a picture of the TV and sent it to my mom 🙂

Day 26 – Pride Parade

(Fellow interns Lily, Abby and JT with Emily @ the Chicago Pride Parade)

The Chicago Pride Parade is already such an exciting event, but it was made even better by the fact that the interns and I got to actually walk in the parade alongside Groupon’s float! We walked those four miles with a smile plastered on our faces the entire time, sporting our Groupon Pride T-shirts and tossing out free stuff into the crowd.

Day 36 – Taste of Chicago

Taste of Chicago is a huge food festival held in Grant Park that the interns and I obviously had no choice but to attend (we really like food). The best part is that each stand offers small samples or “tastes” – so you get to try tons of different places. I know it was a successful outing since one hour later I spiraled into a food coma and passed out in my bed.

Day 38 – Last day on App Ops

(Emily working hard with fellow Chicago interns, Matt and Abby)

Day 38 was a bittersweet day. It was my last day on the App Ops teams before I would switch over to the Connection Engineering team. At this point, I had completed my project, written all the necessary tests, and even added an extra feature to the application. I wrapped up my time on App Ops with one final code review and worked through their suggested changes. I was sad to be saying goodbye to App Ops, but also excited to see what cool new work I would be doing on Connection Engineering. Being able to work on two teams is a unique opportunity I received during my internship. I’ll get to know two entirely different teams, the technologies they use, and how they operate. Really, I’ll learn twice as much and I’m excited.

I can’t wait to see where the next half of my internship will take me at Groupon!