The Co-Ops Speak! Fourth Time’s The Charm

Interning at TextNow and what keeps me coming back

Karn Saheb
Jun 7, 2018 · 5 min read

As we ate our delicious rice bowls in the TextNow kitchen, we spoke about all the new faces at TextNow this time of year — aka “co-op season”, as I like to think of it. We joked about me drinking the TextNow Kool-Aid, to which I responded “I started drinking the TextNow Kool-Aid a long time ago”.

The running joke is I’m a lifetime co-op, which is hilarious and definitely accurate. I am now on my fourth co-op term with TextNow and, even in that above conversation, it felt like I had never left. I’m an honorary lifer.

As seen here, TextNow sends its interns out to hunt and gather before we allow them to sit down. (The ones who are standing didn’t make their fish quota.)

I suspect that everyone has had a few “defining moments” — those noteworthy points in your life which you look back at with fond memory. For me, it was my first summer term with TextNow. I remember everything about my interview except perhaps the questions. I wore a dark blue dress shirt with my black suit. I was nervous as hell and I replayed interview in my head for days.

In hindsight it had gone great, but it also led to my first real “job” and so I feel the butterflies were warranted. I started as a Windows Phone Developer a few weeks later, and got a mug with a picture of myself on it. I knew right then I was going to love my time at TextNow — it was a pretty sweet mug — but it wasn’t until much later that I really grasped what TextNow was doing and what now brings me back. It was game changing then, and its game changing now.

One hundred million downloads! We threw in the squiggles and triangles for free.

TextNow began with a lofty aspiration — to bring free calling and text messaging to everyone who had a wifi enabled device. A few years, and over a 100 million downloads later, TextNow has expanded into affordable wireless phone services. Fast-forward to my second term, where I was part of the team that made it possible to seamlessly move an ongoing phone call from wifi to data, and from data to cellular (something that was a personal milestone for me and another “defining moment”). I recall testing the transitions in the first floor fire exit hallway of the TextNow office, our MacBooks whirring as we walked in and out of the door with our USB cables plugged in and terminal windows flashing with log lines. It was the only place we could reliably simulate the scenario of quickly losing wifi and immediately switching over to mobile data. As a developer, reproducibility is critical, and so we took full advantage of the “field tests” as we called them.

What was a challenge a few years ago is now the norm for the product. We’re able to switch calls between wifi/data/cellular incredibly efficiently — although I suppose as developers we notice the times where it isn’t working as efficiently as we’d like — but it is quite remarkable what the team has built. We’ve branded this tech Elastic Calling, serving thousands of TextNow Wireless users and enabling affordable and reliable calling, even when the network doesn’t want to cooperate!

TextNow is not just building a service of the future. It is investing in the people that drive its success.

TextNow invests in me, and so I invest in it. Working on the Elastic Calling project, along many other projects over my co-op terms, I have always felt like I was just like any other developer at TextNow. That’s an awesome feeling to have as an lowly intern — I get to work on real projects, and have real opportunities to make an impact. I work to bring amazing ideas to life, and do it with incredible and unbelievably talented people. [Not to mention a terrific blog editor — Ed.]

This summer, I’m working with the Client RTC Team as an Android Developer, but like many others around here, I like to wear multiple hats. We’re continuing to work on making calling even better for our users, hacking away at bugs, and innovating at every step of the way. I guess what continues to bring me back is not just the awesome list of perks — rather, it’s the feeling of working on something that I am passionate about and knowing that the work I do makes the world more accessible for people everywhere. That is something that is very hard to find. Its incredible to hear and read about happy TextNow customers as they praise the amazing app experience and affordability, even more incredible is knowing that my code is in the hands of millions of users who rely on TextNow to connect with the people that matter most.

Soon we’ll be moving to a new and bigger building down the street, and I am reminded of my first day at the TextNow office, maybe a quarter of the size it is now. A humble beginning for me as a junior developer. Looking back, these past few summers have been exceptional, I’m proud to be part of such an great team and to have an opportunity to build such a game-breaking product, and also have a ton of fun shipping great code (well, mostly fun — I only broke calling one time), eating amazing lunches, and hanging out with everyone, whether it be in the kitchen, go cart tracks, or bubble soccer fields.

I’ve got about a year left of school so I’ll be heading back to my hometown of Toronto come September to wrap things up. If you’d like to get in touch and learn more about TextNow and interning here or if you’d just like to say hi, you can find me on Github or on LinkedIn! 👋🏽

Also for all you developers and builders out there, the TextNow family is growing quickly, we’ve got a ton of openings for all sorts of cool positions here in Waterloo and in San Francisco!

TextNow Engineering Blog

The official TextNow Engineering Blog.

TextNow Engineering Blog

The official TextNow Engineering Blog. Learn about what keeps us up at night and gets us out of bed in the morning. A first-hand look at the problems and challenges TextNow devs experience on our quest to build a better wireless phone service for everyone.

Karn Saheb

Written by

Building cool stuff — https://karn.io

TextNow Engineering Blog

The official TextNow Engineering Blog. Learn about what keeps us up at night and gets us out of bed in the morning. A first-hand look at the problems and challenges TextNow devs experience on our quest to build a better wireless phone service for everyone.