Risky Business: Interning on Square’s Risk Team

Square’s main purpose is economic empowerment. Most people associate the company most strongly with its credit card processing product, the iconic Square Reader.

Square’s credit card reader

Allowing small businesses to accept credit cards has enabled them to grow their businesses in an era where everything is going digital. Today, I can tap my phone to buy groceries without ever pulling out a physical card. However, credit cards are an inherently risky business; credit card fraud accounts for $190 billion in loss for merchants in the United States annually. This summer, I had the awesome opportunity to intern on Square’s Risk team working to find fraud or malicious activity on Square’s platform.

Interviewing

How did I end up interning at Square? After being put in touch with a recruiter, I went through three rounds of technical interviews with Square engineers before receiving my offer. Interestingly, Square’s interview process is a little different. Rather than being asked to solve a question in front of an interviewer (such as checking the validity of a binary search tree or use a stack as a queue), my interviewer would introduce an interesting problem and pair program with me to solve it. For example, if I was missing a return statement, my interviewer would mention it to help me out rather than wait for me to realize it on my own. I found the pairing style of the interview to be much less stressful than a regular technical interview, and Square was one of my favorite interviewing experiences for this reason.

Work

As an intern, I had a manager who I directly reported to as well as a “Sidekick”, aka my mentor. Both my manager and Sidekick were women, which was so cool! It meant a lot to me to have female role models to look up to in my first software engineering job. I interned on the Risk Data Systems team. Our role at the company is to provide data solutions for the dynamic needs of Square’s Risk Machine Learning platform. Unlike a lot of other companies, Square allows you to put team preferences for what you want to be working on in the summer. I was super excited to be placed on the Risk team!

As a new hire, it can be really intimidating to come into a job where you don’t know the technical infrastructure or norms. Before starting my internship, I’d never even used the language I would be coding in all summer! In order to get up to speed as quickly as possible, I asked a lot of questions and wrote down everything. My teammates were incredibly helpful and accommodating; I think I asked every single one of them a question at least once. I felt really supported by my teammates and loved the positive culture of the workplace.

My team!

In my time at Square, my first project was implementing a different method for bank account information storage. When I finished writing code and thought it worked, I put in what’s called a pull request, or a PR. My teammates reviewed my PR to make sure my code was up to standard and they didn’t see any problems with it before it got deployed to production. After finishing my first project, I worked on a feature that allows aggregation of user data to detect account takeovers. My final project of the summer was integrating a new data source into our system for fraud detection. One of my favorite things about my job was that I got to work on real code that got shipped to production and was integrated with the rest of the team’s work; I wasn’t relegated to an entirely separate “intern project”. During the summer, I really felt like a member of the team, not just an intern.

Intern Hack Week

One of my favorite parts of the summer was Square’s annual intern hack week, where interns leave their normal teams and get to work in intern teams on projects of their choosing. An MBA intern also on the Risk team suggested a project that her team was hoping to get built, which my hack week team ended up taking on. Square has begun offering contract templates for small businesses to use in order to empower them to dispute chargebacks. I worked with three other engineering interns and the MBA intern to build on top of this feature. I really enjoyed learning more about frontend development during the project, especially Ember.js. My (all-female 💪) team ended up winning hack week, and had the opportunity to present to both Risk and company leadership. Our hack week project is on-track to be deployed sometime in the next month or two, which is super exciting! We’re all super psyched that something we worked on will be helping Square merchants in the near future.

Our hack week team!

Work +

My internship wasn’t all about working! The Campus team organized fun events throughout the summer, like visiting the San Francisco Exploratorium and getting ice cream at Salt & Straw. The Bay Area is a really fun place to intern, because there are so many other interns in the area and tons of activities to do. Whether you want to hike, go to a museum, or get a cup of boba, anything you want to do is pretty easily accessible.

After the Internship

After my internship experience at Square, I feel like I have a real understanding of what it’s like to be a software engineer. I loved feeling like a part of my team and getting to learn about cool technologies like those in the Google Cloud platform. Everyone at the company was so nice about answering my questions and sharing their expertise. During intern hack week, several engineers took time out of their workday just to help us out! I had a great summer at Square and would recommend the company to anyone. If you have any questions about my experience or just want to chat, email me at tatidoyle01[at]gmail.com!

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