Have you ever wondered what it’s like to work at Lyft? What a remote internship looks like? I’ve been getting lots of questions, and I’m here to share my experiences from my Lyft summer 2020 internship.
This summer, I had the opportunity to complete an 8-week internship at Lyft. Towards the end of my internship, I spoke on the Intern AMA webinar to share about my experience with ~250 prospective interns. Alongside 3 other Lyfterns (Lyft interns!), we covered topics such as company culture, application process, mentorship, and more.
After the webinar, I received many LinkedIn messages with follow-up questions and coffee chat requests. I was happy to answer the questions, as I was just in their shoes applying for internships last year. I started seeing common themes between the questions I received. So, I decided to consolidate my answers here for students who didn’t attend the Webinar. I collected questions through a LinkedIn post, and I will make my best attempt to address them here!
How was your internship?
I really enjoyed my experience! I took ownership of projects, grew as a front-end developer, and connected with my manager and mentor. My team is based in San Francisco and I worked from Vancouver due to COVID. Despite working remotely, the quality of the internship was the same as any of my past internships. We were offered a thorough onboarding process, intern events to connect with other interns, and “lunch & learn”s to ask questions to executives, such as Lyft’s co-founders, Logan Green and John Zimmer.
My favorite part of my internship was my autonomy. Instead of being handed a project, my manager reached out prior to the internship with a list of potential ideas. I had a say in what I wanted to learn and picked one that aligned with my goals. In my project, I was encouraged to make architectural and design decisions and propose ideas outside the scope. My manager’s manager even shared my work with the head of our organization! My experience was not a one-off case — all the interns work on projects with direct business impact.
How was it like to intern remotely?
Working in the office offers the automatic face-time that remote work just can’t equate. Without the chit-chats by our desks, in the elevator, or the snack bar (where I visit often), you have total control over how closely connected you are with your coworkers. You can choose to only have work-related interactions, or you can participate in existing events or suggest new ideas to bring people together. I personally like to get to know my coworkers, so I made a conscious effort to set up coffee chats, host a birthday party call and ask my manager to introduce me to new people.
The same applies to communicating with your mentor and manager. In person, every question feels casual because my mentor is one shoulder-tap away. In contrast (while it’s all in my head), I felt like I was shooting a question all the way across the border to San Francisco. I quickly overcame this friction during my first week and reminded myself that mentors were there to answer questions, and by unblocking myself early I could accomplish more.
What I found most helpful was to have a daily morning stand-up dedicated to my project with just my mentor and manager. This is separate from the team stand-up, where I shared the high-level summary of my progress. Instead, the project-specific sync served as a platform to dive into details, adjust timeline, and maintain clear visibility of my work. It was a great avenue to resolve blockers and provided organic opportunities to raise questions.
A common side effect of remote work is the struggle of work-life separation. I picked up a new hobby to make tech-themed food and have been having lots of fun with it (think of breadboard, spaghetti code, spam filters, and other puns). Check it out at my Twitter account @DevDaphne to see more!
How was the mentorship?
Every intern has a dedicated mentor, or someone on the team who is there to answer questions and support our growth. I had a 1:1 meeting with my mentor every week, where we reflected on what I learned, exchanged feedback, and created action items for the next week. My mentor was helpful, gave clear explanations, and encouraged me to take my learning to the next step. He was open to have conversations to align our expectations and break down my objective into digestible bits. Most importantly, I felt supported throughout the internship.
I came into the internship with an open-ended goal to hone in my front-end skills. To work towards it incrementally, my mentor and I came up with a list of specific skills during my first week, such as “using React Hooks” and “writing Jest tests”. We revisited them during our 1:1s to check off the practiced skills or look for tasks they could be incorporated into. We were able to pinpoint tasks that were context-heavy and set aside time for pair programming.
Mentorship is an integral part of Lyft culture, which was evident by the elaborate mentorship structure laid out for all interns and new hires. We were provided with documents detailing expectations from mentors and mentees, a template to fill out the aforementioned objective list, auto-generated progress reports, midterm and final evaluation surveys, and check-in calls from a recruiter. Not having to build the mentorship foundation from the ground-up gave us the bandwidth to build on top and get creative with our preferences.
Why did you choose to work on front-end?
I was an Android intern at Yelp and Shopify. I enjoy Android development and can see myself doing it long-term. I enjoy the Android community and the challenges to containerize the code into a small screen. However, I explicitly expressed to my manager that I wanted to focus on something new.
A past mentor told me about the idea of the T-shaped developer, someone with the breath of knowledge but also deep knowledge in a select topic. One of my coworkers at Yelp truly exemplified this idea, as he switched to Android after years of back-end development. He was adept in bringing developers from different stacks together, built reusable architecture, and tracked down bugs across multiple platforms.
I see the value of specializing in a stack and becoming a domain expert in a particular field, which is my plan after graduation. I believe that diversifying my experience can help me speak everyone’s language. I had worked with the front-end in previous projects, but I knew there was so much more to learn. Instead of closing my options to Android, I took the chance to try something different in my last internship at Lyft.
What did you work on?
I worked on “RiderWeb”, or Lyft on the web. It’s a brand new third platform of Lyft’s business in addition to the iOS and Android apps. The web app allows riders who can’t or prefer not to use mobile apps to check ride prices without logging in and book rides without installing.
The first version was launched a few months ago and includes the main booking flow. My project was to integrate core features missing from RiderWeb, such as coupons, shortcuts, payment methods, and dark mode. These projects, written with React and TypeScript, were fun and challenging to work on. I got to transform data from server, translate UI from mobile to web, and build maintainable infrastructure for other features to build on. Along the way, I picked up on other tasks including adding A/B testing support using Lyft’s in-house experimentation framework. If you’re interested to check out RiderWeb, head to ride.lyft.com.
What challenges did you face switching from Android to web development?
My main challenge was the lack of muscle memory. I was used to Kotlin, so it took some time to become familiar with TypeScript syntax. I had a TypeScript syntax cheatsheet open in a tab at all times. I didn’t want to force Kotlin coding styles for the sake of completing tasks quickly. Just like a direct Google translation, I wouldn’t be leveraging features specific to TypeScript and the code wouldn’t be as readable for other developers. I took the time to read documents knowing that it would reduce the total development time long-term.
The theories behind Android and front-end web development also differ. In Android, it’s uncommon to see data being shared. The screens are responsible for fetching their own data and the fragment gets destroyed when transitioning to another screen. In React, data can be passed downward and put into props and context. It’s a whole different way of thinking about the data and I had to throw all my intuition out the window.
What is it like working as a Canadian intern?
I was in the same time zone with my team, so no adjustments were needed. However, we did have people in the Eastern time zone on the team. They started working 3 hours early and ended work early, and we just planned our meetings accordingly. We had a Slack channel for Canadian interns where we exchanged information about payroll and holidays and hung out.
What works for you when coding for long periods of time?
The environment differs from person to person, so optimize your set-up by trying things out! When I sit at my desk for a prolonged period of time, my energy level drops and my legs fall asleep. (yes, I’m only 23.) Standing desks are expensive, so as a university student, I made a makeshift standing desk by putting a box underneath my laptop. It has helped in facilitating my full-body circulation.
To avoid burnouts, I highly recommend switching between tasks and changing things up periodically. I like to work on the balcony or bike to an empty park. The change of scenery helped me overcome my stir-craziness after being in the same space 24/7. I was able to give my mentor a mini Vancouver tour too! If this is not an option, it’s the mindset and mentality that need to change. Having distinct hours or space set for work and home can help your brain unplug so you can recharge for the next day.
How do you stay motivated every day?
Tea and knowing that I could play Animal Crossing after work. (That was a few months ago though, I’m Animal Crossing’d out at the moment.)
The Lyft university team put together daily lunch video calls and placed interns into small groups of “families” to compete with each other in Slack challenges and Family Feud tournaments. Socializing is part of the culture and taking some time off helped me regain my focus when I jumped back to work. It’s motivating to start my day knowing I’ll be seeing my coworkers.
Lyft provides the opportunities for interns to work on impactful and visible projects under strong mentorship structures. What you get out of an internship is up to you, and this is especially true in a remote internship. You’ll need to understand your working style, experiment with ways to maximize productivity, and establish habits to sustain long-term.
I hope this blogpost was helpful, and best of luck wherever you are :)