What I’ve Learned at SmartNews

Michelle Lei
SmartNews, Inc
Published in
5 min readMar 17, 2023

--

Providing Internship Opportunities… Changes the Whole Equation” by Eduardo J. Pardon is the summary of my Software Engineering Internship at SmartNews, Inc. in Japan.

My first blog about software engineering internship life at SmartNews was here. In this blog, I would like to share the lessons I have learned during the three-month part-time internship. I would love to share my personal experience with you all, and I hope you enjoy reading this.

Technical Tools and Progress.

After spending the first month on a webpage migration project, I also improved the performance and the search engine optimization to make the landing page more efficient. By the way, if you have not seen it, please check this out! SmartNews. Then, I was assigned to a project with all skilled engineers. I was mainly responsible for a content management system that would obtain information from the client and display it in the system.

Throughout two projects, we had chances to work with TypeScript in Svelte and React frameworks. I also learned to deploy on the development website using CircleCI and engaged more with API from backend engineers. I had to catch up with many new tools like Jotai (React), Ant Design (React UI), Tailwind (CSS), TypeScript etc., but it was fun, especially when I got it done. Although I did not directly work on the infrastructure or DevOps, I gained knowledge about how they processed in SmartNews. For example, they use Serverless, CloudFormation, and Terraform for infrastructure management. I also learned how to create and deploy scalable web applications using Lambda for server-side rendering, and CloudFront and Akamai as Content Delivery Network (CDN).

In addition to web development, I also had a chance to conduct a year-end self-assessment and peer review. Objective and Key Results (OKR), self-assessment, peer-review, blog-writing, and event hosting are rarely taught at universities, schools, or some other internships. Therefore, I learned a lot more than just software development skill from SmartNews.

Management and Collaboration.

I do not use Slack, Notion, and Medium at school, but gladly, I learned to work with those at SmartNews. After I am familiar with them, my productivity, time management, and collaboration in daily life increase noticeably!

I spent a short time reading all channels and threads on Slack every morning to catch up on the tasks and get up-to-date events. I also love to read knowledge sharing from people at SmartNews on a variety of topics, from human resources to different tech stacks. Moreover, I can access Notion notes written by engineers in the company and learn new useful topics for personal interests such as Quality Assurance, machine learning for news ranking, and web frameworks.

For engineering projects, we use JIRA to assign tasks and track progress. I learned to create task tickets after discussion, work on the progressing task on GitHub, and report the completed tickets. As most of the engineers in my squad are working remotely from the US, China, and Japan, this is vital for collaboration in an asynchronous remote work environment.

Most importantly, being in real working projects and talking to different divisions taught me the company’s workflow. For example, when an idea initiation comes to a project, designers and engineers develop it. Then, data scientists and the marketing team collect and analyse insight from customers, suggesting positive feature improvement. All these are managed by product and engineering managers, where interpretation, translation, and cooperate teams help make everything smoother. As a software engineer, I am more immersed in a project’s engineering team. I was impressed to see an engineering manager called for an update from Android, iOS, backend and web-tech developers individually and concluded directions of the project during the weekly follow-up meeting. I would not be able to understand and experience the real intensive work where many teams are involved in a working environment like this if I did not receive an internship opportunity from SmartNews.

Coffee Chat and Team-building.

Within three months, I had coffee chats (scheduled casual chats) with over 30 people at SmartNews. I was glad and excited to understand different people’s work. You may think that chit-chatting is not productive, but in fact, it could lead to many new explorations and creative ideas.

For example, I was able to understand the Data Pipeline framework, Deployment Infrastructure, Graph Neural Network, and the sense of SmartKitchen in community values. Many times, they lead to new ideas and more comfortable collaboration. I was able to finalize the all-events-in-Japan feature for the tech presentation event and follow the web landing page plans just after coffee chats.

Samples of the All-events-in-Japan features

SmartNews understands the importance of good corporate culture; thus, it encourages its employees to do things together other than just work to build good relationships and bounce ideas. I joined many team-building to get to know more people, and hopefully, they will still remember me after I leave. Last December, we went on a ski trip for two days at Yuzawa in Nigata. During the trip, I saw we exchanged ideas while bonding to each other. Well, I not only learn to program but also to ski too. I always fell behind them, thanks for waiting for me.

To be honest, after the ski trip, I was much more comfortable to reach out and talk to them at the office. Thus, I believe that team-building and coffee breaks among people in a company are keys to success at the personal and organizational levels.

Three months flew fast, especially when I enjoyed working with the people whom I met. I gained a lot of knowledge and learned tons of new experiences. As the very first engineer intern at SmartNews’s headquarter, I hope that I bring positive additions to SmartNews, too. Through rounds of interviews, I have been very honored and pleased to be selected for the web engineering internship position. I look forward to meeting everyone from SmartNews, even I end my internship soon.

We only part to meet again. See you again, surely!

Chawit

(Michelle is posting this article on behalf of Chawit because we are posting this article after Chawit’s internship ended.)

--

--