Editor’s note: Meet Bryan Kane, one of Coursera’s summer interns from George Washington University. Bryan, in this insightful blog post, shares the day-to-day adventures of working at Coursera this summer. Thank you for all your hard work, Bryan. We will miss you!!
This past summer, I had the lucky opportunity to intern as a software engineer at Coursera on the infrastructure team. As the summer came to a close, my mentor suggested that I write a blog post about my experiences and projects, so here it goes:
Being an East-Coaster at heart (raised in NY, going to college in DC), I was nervous about moving across the country on my own for the summer. Luckily I came to realize very quickly that the people at Coursera are some of the nicest and most welcoming people I’ve ever met!
On my first day, I remember waking up around 7am, checking my phone, and finding over 20 emails from people all across the team welcoming me to Coursera. Once I had made my way into the Mountain View office, my orientation began with me being shown my brand new Macbook Pro and ginormous monitor sitting on my GeekDesk. Throughout the day I learned all about how Coursera operates from a technical standpoint, and by the time I left that night had already deployed code to the live site and added my photo to the team page!
The Birth of Team Dragon
Each team at Coursera has a team name / mascot used to represent their team. The product team is Team Pineapple, the Signature Track team is Team Unicorn, analytics is Team Pirate, and so on. But for the first month or so of my internship, the Infrastructure team was just “Infrastructure.” Boring, right? After about a month of discussions, heated debates, spreadsheets, and whiteboard drawings, we finally came to an agreement: Team Dragon. (complete with a squishable mascot!)
Over the course of my first week or two, I learned all about the unique culture that we have here at Coursera, including Formal Fridays (a fun reversal of casual fridays), Show-and-Tell on Mondays (who doesn’t love show-and-tell?), “owning” someone (lock your computer when you leave, or someone will send an email to the entire company on your behalf!), and team mascots.
Despite the fun that goes on in the office, I learned quickly that everyone here works extremely hard. It’s not unusual to get an email from someone after 2am, and see them back in the office before 8am. That’s not to say that people here don’t do anything but work though – I’ve come to really enjoy our Friday happy hours, movie and laser-tag outings, and hilarious dinner conversations! But with over four million students, and only 60-or-so employees (including 9 interns this summer!), there’s a lot of work to go around!
As for my personal experience as an intern here – I can’t say that it’s much different than anyone else’s on the team. I never once felt like “just an intern,” and I’m pretty sure they didn’t adjust my workload to that fact! During my first month or so here, I got to build a pretty cool product named Moncour (almost every tech product here has “cour” in its name, including PlayCour, Courservice, PyCoursera, etc.), which monitors our ever-growing list of services.
Once that was finalized and launched, I was thrown in the deep-end and worked alongside my mentor Brennan (and Frank, one of the original Coursera team members) to revamp our authentication system. Behind the scenes, there’s a lot involved with user accounts, and something as simple as changing your email address ends up touching about three or four different systems! Plus, with our recent partnership with ten state systems, there are a lot of schools to integrate systems with.
While these past 15 weeks have gone by extremely quickly, I can say that it’s definitely been an absolutely incredible ride. I’ve had the opportunity to work with some of the smartest (and craziest) people, interacted with school administrators, instructors, and students from all over the world, and learned more about online education than I realized was possible.
Now for the thank-yous / shoutouts:
- My mentor, Brennan, for teaching me a whole lot of Scala, pushing me along whenever I hesitated [which was quite often), and trusting me with more than I trusted myself with.
- KPCB Fellows program for helping me get the initial interview with Coursera and having awesome events this summer
- And everyone else that I’ve worked with at Coursera for being patient as I learned, teaching me an incredible amount of useful [and some useless) information, and being the most fun group of people that I’ve ever worked with.