We want everyone’s Dwolla experience—from our customers to our employees—to be meaningful and beneficial and that includes our interns. This summer, Kristin Lau and Dhruv Phumbhra joined the engineering team as interns and had an immediate impact on company initiatives. Their experience in growing their career skills, bonding with colleagues and playing lots of ping pong made them excited to share their learnings. They discuss their experience below. 

By Kristin Lau and Dhruv Phumbhra, Software Engineer Interns @ Dwolla.

Finding Dwolla

Kristin Lau: The first image that comes to mind when people think of internships is likely one of bringing coffee, stapling papers, making copies and other essential grunt work. Basically, Anne Hathaway in “The Devil Wears Prada.” So when I started applying for summer internships, the only thing I was sure of was that I wanted to spend it productively.

Dhruv Phumbhra: I had just returned from a blissful semester abroad and was definitely late to the party when it came to applying for internships. In all the panic, I somehow managed to obtain a phone interview from Dwolla. I won’t bore you with the details of a rigorous technical challenge and a video interview that followed but I managed to survive till the end and was offered the position of software engineering intern. #success

KL: I wanted to feel that I would actually gain something from my experience; learn new programming languages, work on an actual project and have some fun along the way. These three months at Dwolla have been all that and more.

First Impressions

DP: May 21st was the fated first day of the internship. I had just moved into my apartment for the summer the day before so I had almost no time to put together my most presentable outfit but somehow arrived at the office 30 minutes before I was expected. I nervously waited and was eventually greeted by Stephen, a software engineer, who was supposed to give me a tour of the office before I got set up. The office is a gorgeous work space with an open format and windows all around. I was already excited to work here but even more so now because my desk was so close to the kitchen.

That was also the day I met my co-intern, Kristin, who I had the opportunity to work with for the entire internship. Awkward and nervous about our first day, we did introductions and quickly found a lot of common interests. I was excited to be leaving here with a new friend and some fun experiences.

KL: In the first week, Dhruv and I jumped headfirst into a slew of tutorials for ReactJS, Redux and Scala. It was simultaneously exciting and challenging to learn all these coding languages with the knowledge that we would be putting them into practice very soon. We tore through online tutorials, blogs and forums. Our supervisor was also super helpful in answering any questions we had and guiding us towards useful resources (Side note: There’s a really good article on Redux called the “Understanding Redux: The World’s Easiest Guide to Beginning Redux” by Emmanuel Ohans that really helped).

DP: As with any first day, it got pretty hectic but we got all the logistics out of the way and dove into some real computer science. Optimistic and inexperienced, I ventured on.

The Project

KL: By the second week, we were briefed on the requirements of our project, which was to expose clients’ lists of webhook subscriptions on the dashboard. This was so that clients would be able to more easily diagnose their own webhook issues.

DP: The team told us that we’d be working on something called “Webhooks in the Dashboard.” In classic intern fashion, I proceeded to google “What is a webhook?” A great start to the internship, I’d say. I found out that webhooks are really cool and really useful when working with APIs and was stoked to work on something like that.

I’m sure a great quote about failure would fit right in as a segue into this next bit but I guess I failed at thinking of one. As is expected with any project and inexperienced interns, there were fumbles. One of the most embarrassing, but also humbling, mistakes we made was the incident that will forever be known as the ‘<p> tag fiasco’. As it is too painful to recount the exact experience, I will only say this about it: Don’t expect things to go perfectly and always be open to learning new things.

KL: We plunged into the work and while it took a while, we slowly got the hang of it. Over the course of the internship, we got to accidentally break some stylings (sorry!) and see our changes pushed into production. Probably one of the most exciting moments for me was when a client actually used our view to see that they had a paused webhook subscription.

DP: This was my first experience working on something that someone would use prior to the end of the internship, so there were definitely high hopes and nervousness all around. I hadn’t done much front-end work and it was certainly a learning experience, trying to figure out React and Redux and all the moving parts that go into it. On the back end, we used Scala and although I had some experience with that, it was completely different working with Dwolla’s huge codebase.

Aside from the technical experience, I also learned tons about the infrastructure and administrative effort that goes into making a big company function and Dwolla definitely does a stellar job at that.

KL: After we finished exposing webhook subscriptions in the dashboard, we worked on adding additional functionality to it. This time around, the work started flowing a little easier and I started feeling like I had a better grasp of how everything worked. It was a small but palpable feeling of accomplishment. We added the ability to restart a webhook subscription and see a list of webhooks associated with a specific subscription through the dashboard. Just when I thought it couldn’t get cooler, we were informed that they had meetings scheduled to run through our newest addition with some clients! It may sound small but it was just really cool to feel like you’re making a difference at an internship.

Beyond the Code

DP: I may have made Dwolla sound like an all-work-and-no-play kind of workplace but that is very far from the truth. One of the things I loved and appreciated about the work culture here is the flexibility with schedules and the various internal team events that took place throughout my time here.

KL: I got to brush up on my table tennis skills a little, even though I got absolutely destroyed in a solid number of games. I even got the chance to play in Dwolla’s Official Unofficial Golf Tournament, DOUG, which led to getting to know even more great people across the different teams at Dwolla.

DP: Some of my favorite events included the annual DOUG tournament where we got to test out our golfing abilities, the internal hackathon, where we got the opportunity to try new technical things and have some fun, the bi-annual office outing and more. By far, the one activity closest to my heart is the competitive ping pong culture in the office. We even have a slackbot that calculates your ranking. Although I wasn’t that good at ping pong, it was a great way to get to know people around the office that you wouldn’t otherwise meet, especially if they were on a different team. The ping pong table was where we formed new friendships and strengthened bonds.

Final Thoughts

KL: Probably the biggest thing that has come out of this internship for me is that I feel like I have more direction for my career path. Prior to coming to Dwolla, I’d always had a vague idea that I wanted to do either front-end work or something in game development, but I never really had any real work experience to back up this inkling. Now, I can pretty confidently say that I enjoy front-end work and can focus my efforts on learning more related skills.

DP: This internship, for me, was about exploring and potentially deciding if a job like this was something I’d be interested in or not. A month into the experience I was certain that this is what I want to do after I graduate. So, I would like to sincerely extend my gratitude to everyone at Dwolla for making this experience so great!

KL: Coming from a small, private university without a diverse class offering, the breadth of experiences this internship offered was honestly invaluable. It gave me the opportunity to experience a real work environment, work with new development tools and learn new languages. I even got to taste a few fried crickets on the way! All in all, I really appreciate this whole experience at Dwolla and am grateful for the opportunity given to me.

DP: I’m sure I’ve left out a lot of the experiences I’ve had over the past three months, some in order to preserve brevity and others because of my bad memory. My time here really has been a life-changing experience and I hope I can maintain the bonds I’ve made and continue to make more memories and friends.

I look forward to staying connected with Dwolla in some way even after the internship ends.

 

Interested in joining the Dwolla team? Visit our careers page to see what is available. 

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