A Perspective from First Year Bay Area ScriptEd Intern

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Guest post by Dequan Zhang, undergraduate student and LaunchDarkly intern.

Hello, I am Dequan an intern in LaunchDarkly from June to July in 2018. I graduated from Phillip and Sala Burton High School in June 2018. In the fall I will attend City College of San Francisco, and hopefully transfer to UC Berkeley to study computer science.

(This picture of me was taken at Olympic National Park.)

ScriptEd is a non-profit program that started in New York that teaches students how to code in HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. The primary teachers are software engineers from the tech industry. It was first introduced in the Bay Area back in January 2017, and my high school was one of the three schools it launched at.

After taking the initiative to join ScriptEd in my junior year of high school, I finished the foundation and advanced classes in my junior and senior years respectively. Being a part of this program has inspired me to seek out a career in tech.

Getting Started

In May 2018, I was selected to participate in ScriptEd’s summer internship program. I partnered with Jian Xie, another intern in the ScriptEd program, and was placed at LaunchDarkly.

On my first day, I was the first intern in the office. I sat in the kitchen area because they didn’t have a desk for me. Even though all three of us interns had to awkwardly work in the kitchen instead of at real desks (the office was full!), it did bring us closer together.

In the second week, the company settled into new, bigger offices. We all had our own desks and could sit closer to our mentor, Alexis. Sitting so close meant we could just ask him questions at any time.

Our Project

Throughout the internship, Jian and I worked on making improvements to the internal administration application called Vitalstatistix. This is used by different teams at LaunchDarkly to see customer information, including how they use the product.

We made many improvements, such as: create an info sign next to the search bar to give context on what’s included in a search, create a warning sign for users who are over their usage limits, sort accounts in alphabetical order, make a new tab to show pending user invitations that shows which haven’t joined yet, and many more. It was amazing that we accomplished some of these tasks using feature flags, it’s pretty cool to work with a company that uses their own product.

Challenges

As life is full of surprises, so was this amazing internship. The Advanced Class of ScriptEd was meant to prepare us for the summer internship. We learned Jquery and the Bootstrap library in Javascript to help us learn about web development.

Though we thought we would use the same library in the internship, we didn’t. At first glance it felt very strange. I realized it is because Vitalstatistix is written in ReactJs. Yes, that meant we had to painstakingly to pick up ReactJs while applying it every day, but Alexis who’s our manager was always available when we had questions.  

What I Learned & Gained

While coding is what we did most of the time, that is not all we learned. During the internship, we were very fortunate to meet with the CEO and CTO of LaunchDarkly, Edith Harbaugh and John Kodumal respectively. We learned about the values and history of LaunchDarkly. I was especially excited to talk with John, who earned a PhD in Computer Science from my dream school UC Berkeley.

Another highlight worth mentioning was building my network. I connected with many LaunchDarkly employees on LinkedIn so I can stay in touch with them after this summer.

And finally, there is the experience of actually working in the tech industry. I got to experience the company culture first hand. I learned about taking care of my peers. We all come from different backgrounds and have different levels of experience. By the third week Jian and I found a working style that matched our strengths, I would navigate while he coded.

Future ScriptEd Interns

There are some things I wish I had known before starting the program this summer. The first, of course, is ReactJs. Second is being more familiar with BART, it can get really crowded during commuting hours.

If you are a future ScriptEd intern don’t worry about being located in downtown Oakland. It’s an amazing place—there are lots of fabulous restaurants and coffee shops, and it’s easy to use BART. Jian and I had a more unique experience than other interns that were located at other companies in San Francisco.  

And if anyone has the opportunity to intern at LaunchDarkly you should definitely take it! You will meet a variety of people, including John and Edith, and learn things about the industry that school will never teach you.