Yuyang Guo on the importance of mentorship
Intern program manager Yuyang reflects on her time at Dropbox as an intern, new grad, and intern mentor.
How did you first get into computer science?
I took an intro CS class my first year in college when I was still planning to major in Electrical Engineering & Biomedical Engineering. The CS class was so fun that I spent days solving every bonus problem from the homework (yep, I was that overachiever). After taking and TA-ing more CS classes, the challenging math problems and ability to create something with just my two hands still had a strong appeal and I decided to officially switch majors.
What has pleasantly surprised you the most about your team since joining Dropbox?
My team knows I’m that cheerful person who puts on average 5 smileys in every email. On my birthday, they baked me a giant smiley birthday cake!!!! Also, knowing that I’m extremely obsessed with cute dogs, they hand-drew a birthday card with everyone on the team as a cute dog!!
Share a story of when you or a teammate embodied a Dropbox value.
One of the larger projects I worked on was a foundational sharing project. A few of us who were in charge of the server-side portion of the project finished most of the work a week before our ship date. However, there was still front-end work that needed to be done, and only one person scheduled to do it. Instead of taking a rest and enjoying some downtime, everyone happily volunteered to help finish the front-end work for the project. I am touched by the fact that nobody compares “your work” vs “my work” here. Teams are truly teams. #wenoti
What is a unique challenge you’re working on (or have previously worked on) at Dropbox?
I’d say the most unique challenge here is learning how to operate in a startup mode, and being able to build robust and scalable software for hundreds of millions of people. At Dropbox, various stages of a project often require very different skill sets.
Currently, I’m working on an exploratory project with the goal of helping increase productivity. During this exploratory ‘fit-finding’ phase, you pretty much have to do a little bit of everything, just like in a startup. The day-to-day work not only includes writing code to actually build the product, but also building tools and workflows to support rapid prototyping (for example, automatic hourly release bots), collecting and incorporating alpha tester feedback, making product decisions, and constantly prioritizing to maximize impact. In this phase, you have to figure out what is the best product to build.
When a project comes out of the ‘fit-finding’ phase, you start to build the product that will get used by hundreds of millions of users. That’s when you need to carefully lay out the foundations. You need to make sure it not only works in the normal case, but also scales well with heavy usage, with large teams of more than 10k people, with accounts of more than 100k files, etc. In this phase, you get to design, build, secure and monitor real robust systems.
You could always opt to join projects at a certain phase based on your preference, and in fact lots of people do. But I really enjoy being able to get a taste of everything and developing different skill sets along the way.
Through your various roles at Dropbox as an intern, software engineer, mentor and intern program manager, what is the biggest impact you have had in your work here?
Mentorship! Mentorship is a key part of Dropbox culture and I have been blessed to have many unofficial mentors throughout my time here as an intern and full-timer. They are not only role models and advisors, but also people who go out of their way to help you find opportunities, encourage you to jump out of your comfort zone, and vouch for you. Without them, I would not be where I am today.
With this in mind, the biggest impact I’ve had was as a mentor for other Dropboxers. I mentored two new hires and one intern, organized tech talks, and gave talks on how to succeed as a Dropbox intern / new grad. This year, I’m so excited to be one of the Intern Program Managers. We are working very hard on intern matching, mentor training, onboarding, social events, and tech talks aimed to make our Dropbox interns happy and successful at all times :D As a mentor, you have the incredible ability to make an impact by helping everyone you work with be 10% happier, 10% more efficient, and 10% faster.
What are you most excited about for this upcoming summer?
This year, I am particularly excited about the Dropbox Launch program that we started. This is a very meaningful program that gives everyone a chance to kick start their career in the tech industry. In my freshman year, I got rejected by many companies for lack of “prior experience,” so I understand how hard it is to start your career (especially when you just started coding in college). I’m looking forward to the first Launch class joining us this summer for their first technical internship.