Tomorrow we say farewell to our crew of summer engineering interns. Aditya Shetty is a senior at UC Berkeley studying Electrical Engineering and Computer Science and shared these reflections on his time at Salesforce.
For the last three months I have ridden the California Street Cable Car down to Front, and crossed a few blocks over into the art-deco skyscraper on the corner of Fremont and Mission. I work several stories up, as an engineering intern on one of many software teams at Salesforce HQ.
Working at such a large company provided me with some unique challenges and experiences! Here’s how I made the most of my summer at Salesforce:
1. Don’t expect to have the answers.
When most people think of interns, they picture a neurotic college kid fetching coffee and finishing small tasks. That is absolutely not the case at Salesforce. Software Engineering Interns tackle projects comparable to the work done by veteran engineers. My project over the summer has been to design and implement a Bloom Filter.
The concept itself is fairly simple; it’s just one long row of bits that start off as all zeros. Then you can pass any unique object — a person’s phone number or a company’s ticker symbol- through a function known as a hash and get a number out. That number is the location of which bit you flip to one in your filter. Now if you see that a bit at a certain location is already one instead of zero, you know that you’ve seen the unique object before, or at least something that has the same value from the hash. There are quite a few industry applications for bloom filters. Knowing whether you haven’t seen an object before can cut out whole sections of your code path. Short code is fast code and fast code in enterprise software could mean significant financial gains.
Honestly, my first thought on getting my project description was, “What am I going to do after I finish this Friday?” I quickly learned how mistaken I was. As I peeled away the layers of the project, it became apparent that what I actually had to complete by the end of summer was going to take a lot longer than a single paragraph explanation. First off, if something is going to be easy for someone still in college, it would be even easier for engineers with years of experience. No team is going waste an intern’s time with a useless project or one that should have already been completed by now. Second, nothing exists in isolation. If you’re working on something as large and complex as the Salesforce platform, adding new code isn’t like Tetris where you just keep stacking on top. It’s more like sticking a wood block in the middle of a partially-finished Jenga tower.
In school, you have the benefit of knowing that there is a set answer. It may take a couple of late nights with Red Bull to get there, but you can be guaranteed it exists. Out from the cradle of class, that guarantee is gone. Be prepared to justify every decision you make. Learn to accept constructive criticism, but also be ready to defend your position. There is no answer sheet anymore. Have a plan in place to get the data and the math to support your points. Cold, hard numbers trump everything. And finally, be ready to fail. There’s a decent chance that you could put in long hours and realize that the answer you’re looking for is non-existent. Being able to take the hits and keep going is vital if you want to be successful.
2. Take advantage of the location.
Salesforce’s engineering teams exist in in the beating heart of downtown San Francisco. Nestled in giant steel and glass hubs down the Embarcadero, engineers get to experience city life as well. For some people, the transition may be daunting. But fear not, the actual floors of the office offer a similar feel to many other modern engineering hubs. And if you need a break from that, you can always dip into any of the mindfulness rooms. However, if you want to get the full Salesforce experience, you need the full San Francisco experience. That means more than just finding a new place to eat everyday. Go play with the corgis at Ocean Beach, or spend the the day hiking Land’s End. Feel free to get a little crazy at the Haight and hit up AT&T Park after work. Just because you’re having fun doesn’t mean you can’t keep learning and networking. Dozens of tech conferences, developer meetups, tech talks, and open houses are constantly happening around the city. If you’re passionate about technology, or just curious about a new one, go seek these out. You’ll strengthen your toolbox of technologies and make meaningful connections with interesting people.
3. A company is its people.
It’s very easy to become attached to symbols. A piece of fruit, or a rainbow box, or a blue cloud makes it easy to think of a corporation as an inanimate, monolithic entity. What I quickly learned here is that is the furthest you can get from the truth. You expect the people you’re going to work with to be smart and professional, but it’s a pleasant surprise when you realize how genuinely interesting most of them are, and how unique the perspective they bring is. Your team members aren’t just people to guide you along professionally. They are multi-faceted and probably share a good deal of interests. I’ve definitely found myself late at night in the office eating pizza with Senior Engineers or getting into lively discussions about soccer with my colleagues.
Recognize the value of the people around you. And that by no means only applies to full-timers. Some of the best experiences I’ve had in my life are through the connections I’ve made with other Salesforce interns. People who I’ve only known for a handful of weeks, but are willing to share their perspective and take on San Francisco with me. If you’re going to go into any internship, go meet as many interns as you can; chances are your paths will cross again in the future.
For me this realization finally dawned when I had the opportunity to march in SF Pride with the Outforce contingent. Seeing everyone from an agency temp to the CTO decked out in rainbow gear and glitter, unafraid to be true to themselves, was enthralling. None of the interactions I had that day, from my fellow interns gushing over Bebe Rexha, to my colleagues comfortable expressing their true selves, felt filtered.
When I first started this job, I was excited about the tech stack, the brand name, and the chance to work on code that impacts hundreds of corporations. Now I’m grateful for the chance to have made so many connections that improved me as a person.
As I return to Cal for my final year, I’m excited to bring back all I’ve learned. Not just the technical knowledge that will help me ace this semester’s projects, but also the understanding that my biggest achievement in life will be the Ohana — the community of friends and colleagues — that I build along the way.
Find your Ohana at Salesforce! We offer opportunities for college students and recent graduates through Futureforce. See them all at: https://www.salesforce.com/company/careers/university-recruiting/.