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.
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!