Drawing Conclusions and Drawing the Owl: Summer 2017
Senior year of college has just begun and summer has ended, so that means reflection in the form of a Medium post. As I was in NYC for most of the summer, there will be a theme of Broadway musicals.
*This is a long post since a lot happens in 3.5 months so feel free to look for the headers that may interest you.
To quote the Sound of Music, “let’s start at the very beginning.”
“First Steps First”: Pre-Internship
Post-finals in mid-late May, my mom and I drove down to Santa Barbara to pick up my brother Tommy, and we made some stops in Southern California on our day trip. I hope to do more long car rides post-graduation next year.
I also went to 4 conferences and volunteered at one hackathon. First up was Google I/O (left with Addy Osmani), from which I was kicked out at the very end before the last talk session…Long story involving tickets and pictures. Another post perhaps, but this year was better than last year because of the weather!
I led a workshop and mentored at CodeDay Bay Area (bottom left and middle), attended Twilio Signal, and volunteered at API Mixtape and DevXCon (favorite slide, below right.)
“Say no to this”: New York
I didn’t want to be in New York. I wanted to be near the other interns (I got so close to ones both at my company and around SF last summer) and proximity to my 94-year-old grandmother didn’t hurt, either. She finally moved into assisted living in June, which was a stressful time.
NYC took time to get used to but I honestly love it now: how you can walk everywhere, the subway is humanizing (everyone takes it, even celebrities!), places are open late at night/early in to the morning, and I feel safe taking a midnight stroll because so many others are outside, too.
I’ll be back over Fall Break, maybe for Thanksgiving, and hopefully a day or weekend trip this year.
“Follow in my footsteps, and you can do it too”: Beginning of Internship
My first day concluded with a NYC evangelists meetup at MLH HQ (below left), and my first week was marked by what I had once considered the dreaded five-minute demo.
The 5MD, to me, is a Twilio evangelist staple where we live-code a Twilio app showcasing SMS and voice capabilities in, ideally, five minutes (but it’s usually more like eight.) I was so worried about live-coding and the 5MD in general that I took notes when Ricky and Devin went over what goes into a 5MD (part of on-boarding, below right.)
As I mentioned in my intro post, I had two opportunities before starting to live-code-demo Twilio. Hell, I even emailed and met my teammate-to-be Matt to ask about it! I was so nervous, I chickened out of both of them, and simply used slides instead.
I had to do my first 5MD on Thursday (my 4th day), and I told a family friend that I couldn’t watch the NBA Finals with him at a bar that Wednesday because I needed to watch and practice in my dorm common room.
I added a personal Disney spin on it, and though it wasn’t perfect, I caught a bug, and phones buzzed and also rang (although too many rang…) At the end, we did my first Worked/!Worked (below, going over what went well and what did not go well.)
A few weeks later, I was interning out of HQ for a week to participate in some intern events, like lunch with our CEO Jeff and a tour of SF (below, right).
I learned a lot at both events, and had the chance to earn my Twilio track jacket and Kindle at my first Wednesday night dinner (WND) as a Twilion. Demoing for me meant a mini-live-code (below, left), and that’s the beginning of some personal growth: I didn’t need to live-code, but I wanted to. Looking back, that was pretty neat.
I love WNDs for the atmosphere and community, although they were already special to me because that was where I met Sam and some of my team last summer through a mutual friend. Again, maybe more detail in a different post >__< .
That week, I also met Wil and Kim, GitHub Dev Rel interns, in-person. That was the beginning of a beautiful friendship (they’ll appear later in this post) and I’m so lucky to have them in my life now.
A few days later, I was back in NYC for ByteHacks, a hackathon for HS and college women. It took place down the street from Twilio and roughly 6 blocks from my summer dorm. That was my first 5MD (below, left), and I also led a workshop and it was the second hackathon I judged (below, right). It didn’t feel like work, and I was impressed with so many of the hacks.
My teammate Sam also came to watch and support that Saturday morning for my first 5MD. The atmosphere was so empowering and supportive, I really enjoyed spending most of the weekend there early into Sunday morning. Sam would continue to advocate, mentor, and help me for the rest of the summer (in terms of talks, content, ideas, ping pong, and making NYC home.)
He helped set up my first (and only) meetup talk this summer at QueensJS on July 5th. The worst part was feeling stressed over the long weekend, but it was all worth it — that was the best talk I’ve given, and — surprise, surprise — it was all live-coding (no slides.)
I practiced a lot with Sam and Greg, my assigned mentor (featuring a Worked/!Worked, below left) and really fed off of the passions and energy of the crowd (below right.)
Big lesson of the summer: the secret to a lot of things, including live-coding which I feared so much, is rehearsal.
I used to be a zero…but now I may be the hero… I may be chasing the impossible..I may be chasing after miracles
Everyone always says tech interns are treated like full-time employees, and I didn’t truly realize it until later, but Devin and my team had a lot of faith in me. It should have become apparent at the Developer Network Summit, which was a week in mid-July where the whole Twilio Developer Network (comprised of the evangelism, community, and education teams) flew in to San Francisco to discuss a variety of topics.
I saw it as team bonding, and it was honestly the best week of the summer. I’d met most of my team before, and communicated with them online, but it was neat to finally spend a lot of time with them (like watching Jenga post-WND, below left.) and learn from them in person.
Something I realized was that I craved that feeling of belonging and for me personally, that meant I craved other people around me. It was after this week that I really felt like I belonged at Twilio and on the Dev Net team (hey, it can be tough for anyone, not just an intern).
On a separate note, I found someone online who had a SF Half-Marathon ticket she wasn’t going to use, so I bought it from her at a heavy discount and ran under her name (below right.)
I had never run more than 8 miles before, and after a packed-schedule with Summit and just hanging out with the team, I hadn’t run at all for a week and a half. The 13.1 miles was rough (especially after the first 10 miles), but the atmosphere, experience, and mental growth that day (and week) made it worth it.
Oh my god you guys — HackCon: the best weekend
If the Developer Network Summit was the best week of the summer, the best weekend was definitely HackCon. I’d never attended before but had wanted to do so for the past few years.
I attended both as a sponsor and a speaker (below left) and had a blast bonding with other hackathon organizers over workshops, talks, discussions, ping pong, and other camping activities.
Square organizes an annual or biannual code camp for college-age women, with things like technical workshops, soft-skills workshops, travel, a hackathon, and more. I’d applied and been rejected six times before, and was finally accepted this summer. I enjoyed going to Atlanta for the first time, and liked the intimacy of the small office. I met two Swarthmore alums on the first day!
The atmosphere was sort-of like Twitter Early Bird Camp, except here, we didn’t have a sole focus (EBC was all Android development, whereas Code Camp was iOS, Ruby on Rails, web development, UX design…) My team made a Ruby on Rails app with the Twilio, Twitter, and Square APIs (below right).
The worst part of going to Atlanta? I did not finish my final Twilio post on using ARKit with Twilio Video. It is still currently in review, it’s been two weeks since my last day, and my courseload is getting heavier (although honestly I’m doing the bare minimum, I swear it’s a senior mindset and this isn’t normal!)
I started an events newsletter in June where I compiled meetups, hackathons, GitHub repos, blog posts, and other things I found interesting. I publicized it online and it grew to over 350 subscribers.
The newsletter was based off of a GitHub repo I made in March, and soon, people were sending me events they found — not even ones they were affiliated with — and that made my life easier! The repo and the newsletter are very uniting, and it was neat to meet people I didn’t know who knew me from the repo or the newsletter.
Looking back, I feel so grateful to friends both old and new. High school friends like Elise and Lea keep me grounded (basically family), and are the friends who I don’t need to talk with every week to still be close with (tagging them in memes doesn’t count.)
I’m also so grateful to have met Kim and Wil way back in June because they’re honestly so fun, funny, amazing, inspiring, hardworking, and real. I loved getting to know them over the next three months. Seeing the great work they did at GitHub, with their respective college hackathons, and side-project-wise motivated me as well, and I hope they can say the same.
They and their work are inspiring, and I also loved seeing their dynamic together. Weird as it may be, they helped me feel like I belonged this summer since they, along with Prince (a former dev rel intern), understand the dev rel intern thing, which was neat since there’s not many of us!
Similarly, Prince helped me feel welcome in New York. I knew him from the Clarifai Champions Slack channel, but we’d never really been close and now it’s just insane how much we talk. He’s a cheerleader, advocate (developer and otherwise), and all-around great person.
TL;DR here’s a list to sum up how I soaked up water and grew like a plant.
- Outside of comfort zone: New York was new for me, and took time to get used to. The wait was worth it, I went to new meetups and met new people, and I really like it now.
- Ask questions: For a while, I felt like people were too busy, so I didn’t really talk to them. One question at a time changed that, and I realized I could learn both technical and non-technical things from everyone, regardless of background.
- When others trust you, you trust yourself. It took until the end of the summer for me to realize that what my internship gave me was confidence. Looking back, I feel like I was trusted a lot, and that made me do better work.
- Time off means more productivity. I’ve said this a lot because it was surprising to me (in the best way since the following sentiments aren’t common in tech or the dev rel sector in general), but I really appreciate Twilio evangelism’s focus on self-care to prevent burnout. I didn’t feel guilty for taking a few hours or even a day for myself to explore New York, see family or friends, or just take time for me, and that helped make my summer more fun.
5. When to say no. Like a typical millenial, I’ve had trouble with this since middle school: I get FOMO a lot. I want to do everything. New York has so much to do 24/7 that it taught me how and when to say no. It taught me to be more selective with my time in terms of meetups, events, concerts, people, and everything because it was impossible to do everything I wanted to do.
6. Put time in your work calendar to play. I heard from Ricky and Sam that it is important to schedule time to play with new technologies or APIs because otherwise, you won’t do that. I also realized it’s okay to play around and not have anything to show for trying something new. Sometimes I felt guilty for not having a polished app or blog post at the end of trying something out, or for not seeing something to the end, but it was tough to gauge how something would turn out or if it would be worth my time.
7. I need that push. Seeing what my team around the world was doing showed me what I needed to do, and that made me work harder. Sometimes I wished for another intern to confirm, “this is normal”, “you should be doing this”, or “this is okay.” (In the end, I began to bug Nikita and Sam about that.) There was never a solid answer because there is no normal day or week for an evangelist. And I knew that…I just was grasping at straws to measure something, anything. I jumped to wrong conclusions, but that made me “draw the owl” (a company value), which pretty much means solve hard problems with little hand-holding.
8. Being treated like other teammates was a confidence-booster. At the time I thought I was faking it till I made it, but having the same autonomy as the rest of the team gave me the confidence to look for more events, to write the first Haskell posts for the blog, and honestly, act like one of them: an evangelist, not an intern. That’s really neat.
9. Go where you feel supported. You hear the tales of minorities in tech who feel like they have to acclimate to fit a certain culture or team. That was not the case…I felt like I could be myself.
The main question I asked this summer was probably “How have I grown?” which is what I saw as the purpose of an internship and particularly this last summer as a student. I now realize asking that was silly. Growth comes with the company, growth comes with the job, growth comes with the team, and growth comes with me: it’s just difficult to measure. It’s tough to measure a blog post I write, or an app I build, or implementing an API. It’s tough to measure success of an event I attend or speak at.
Like in the dev rel community a lot, one of the challenges facing a lot of programs is knowing what to measure, but just because you can’t quantify something does not mean it hasn’t happened.
So how have I grown? I’ve used more APIs and languages, thus becoming a better developer. I am waaaay more comfortable public-speaking, and considering I refused to live-code at the start of the summer and now almost look forward to doing so…that says a lot.
I’ve also become more confident, and I think that also speaks to the team and company. An evangelist is a very public-facing role and for a while I wasn’t sure about representing the company as an intern.
As the summer went on, I did more things by myself (I can’t believe they had that much faith in me sometimes!) and I also learned more about our APIs and products, so I felt I could serve more people.
Our motto is “to inspire and equip developers” and that really resonates with me and my work. I, however, was inspired and equipped, too, and that part’s important to note.
Because of that, of course I’ve grown, even if it’s not concrete.
If you’ve ever seen my Snapchat stories, or talked to me for more than 15 minutes, you may know that I call two dev rel womengineers I know “mom” or “queen” depending on the instance. It’s both crazy and wonderful that Tomomi and Bear have been such positive and constant influences my life for over a year now.
However, I now contrastingly have some who I could call “dad”, “(big) brother” (sorry, Tommy, you’re still 13 minutes younger), or “king”. Diversity is key (haha.)
As an intern, I fed off of my manager and team, and looking back, they gave me the tools and confidence to succeed. I can’t begin to articulate how grateful I am for that and now can’t imagine working for a program that does not care about inspiring, equipping, and reaching developers.
Senior year, here I come.