Summer of 2020 is coming to an end and so is my internship at Dwolla. I’ve had the incredible opportunity to intern as a software engineer where I was assigned to work on the Internal Services team, servicing internal tooling for teams within the company as well as maintaining integral infrastructure for Dwolla’s platform.

Throughout my internship I acquired new skills, met some really cool people and developed features that help improve the lives of the employees at Dwolla. I was part of company meetings as well as daily standups with my team where we reviewed day-to-day tasks such as feature work, bug fixes and code review.

This summer could have gone many different ways. After leaving my study abroad in Australia and coming back to the United States in a state of lockdown due to COVID-19, I was uncertain if my internship would proceed as planned.

Not only did my internship proceed as planned, Dwolla provided me with the resources to make the most of my situation. I am grateful to the incredible people at Dwolla for the sacrifices they made to keep the internship program this summer—as well as the work put in to make this summer such a great experience! After some reflection, I’d like to share highlights of my summer internship.

Finding Dwolla

As a student at Iowa State University I had access to great resources such as an annual career fair. My freshman year, bright-eyed and forward-thinking, I walked past the booths of farm equipment, airplanes and cars to find this cool startup tech company with a “Dwolla” sign on the table. The Dwolla reps looked like super chill people.

I talked with them, exchanged information and applied but didn’t get accepted. This did not discourage me, as next year I did the same thing and got the internship! (Looking back I wouldn’t have hired me my freshman year; the amount I learned in those two years really prepared me for my internship at Dwolla).

Working for a tech startup has been a dream of mine since trying to make my own companies with my friends in middle school. Dwolla is the quintessential tech startup with a world-changing product and world-class talent hidden in Des Moines, Iowa. I was extremely excited to be working alongside the team learning new programming languages, methodologies and seeing firsthand what day to day looks like at Dwolla.

First Impressions

With companies going remote and my internship starting May 18, the plan was for me to work remotely from my parents’ place in Las Vegas, Nevada. The first day did not go as planned as I didn’t get my laptop until day two. After I got my laptop and met my supervisor, I got started with the onboarding process. My first week was filled with meeting new people and learning new things. I met the team that I would be working with during our stand-up, attended an all-company meeting, got an overview of the entire company and learned much more about the actual product that Dwolla is developing.

The Projects

Over the course of the summer, I worked on two main projects as well as helping out with other smaller tasks. As a member of the Internal Services team, projects that I worked on affected those who help manage the platform operations, such as the Risk and Compliance (R&C) team.

My first project was to implement a page that shows the differences between identity verification responses. So if someone mistypes their social security number, gets rejected and then types it in again successfully, there needs to be a way to easily see that change. The old process involved carefully reading through each individual response while flipping back and forth between two browser tabs, which is both a time consuming and mentally taxing process. The work we accomplished now allows members of R&C to select the two timestamps that you want and then the differences will be highlighted in a single view, to speed up the process, reducing the error rate substantially.

Something that was invaluable to the success of these projects was the communication between me, my team and R&C. For both projects, I would create mockups and outline the proposed changes. Before getting started I would meet with the R&C team to explain what was going to be added and improved. This was helpful for keeping cross-functional teams in the loop as well as allowing them to share feedback and ask questions that improved the final output of the project.

Project number two was to make it easier for the R&C team to identify risk information for customers. Before this, if the risk action of a user needed to be seen, R&C would need to find the specific user, remember a specific code and then go to where the actions are set for each risk code to find the matching numbers.

This process was tedious and unnecessary. We wanted to show the risk action alongside the code on the user page as well as add symbols and colors to improve visual identification time.

ADA Color Compliance was taken into consideration with this feature to make this as accessible as possible to those with visual impairments such as color blindness.

With regard to the second project, an interesting aspect was learning about different types of accessibility that are needed at each point of building user interactions. Before adding colors, I did research into what colors can be used to make the interface as accessible as possible to those with visual impairments such as color blindness.

Another “smaller” project that I worked on was to add CSRF (Cross-Site Request Forgery) protection to the main internal application. CSRF is when bad websites can submit forms on your site such as editing banking information. This was a massive addition and required testing of almost every page and link that was present—which was a lot!

Life During COVID

Living and working remotely, especially for an internship, is not an ideal situation for an internship. In spite of what was happening with COVID-19, the people at Dwolla made this internship such a great experience.

My team had a video chat going each day that we would pop in and ask questions periodically as a parallel to sitting next to each other in an office. We really made the absolute best of a not so great situation. My supervisor was great at helping set goals and showing me the resources to which I had access in order to feel like I was not on my own in this process.

Over the summer, I didn’t feel quite connected with the other engineering teams as I would have liked; however, after sharing this concern with my manager he scheduled multiple meetings so that I could hear about the other parts of the company and meet the people behind them. This feedback led me and my supervisor to create an internship handbook as a roadmap for future interns. The handbook will have a lasting impact on the internship program at Dwolla by allowing new interns to have an immediate understanding of expectations, roles and responsibilities.

Final Thoughts

This internship, for me, was a further exploration of the software engineering space and really helped solidify the type of company that I am looking to work for. Being able to work on Dwolla’s large codebase and see changes that I made being used in production was a great experience.

Overall, I grew both professionally and personally over the summer. My supervisor and team members made such a large impact on my summer and really helped me make the absolute most of my time interning at Dwolla and for that I’m extremely thankful.

Hopefully, my contributions make a lasting impact on Dwolla.

I look forward to staying connected with Dwolla in some way even after my internship and when the world returns to normal—actually meet in person.

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