2016 Interns Reflect…

We asked a few questions to some of the SurveyMonkey 2016 interns about their experiences. Here are their responses..

Catherine Johnson, Rising Senior at University of Washington

How did you find out about this internship?
Catherine_Johnson_1_I first found out about this internship at my school’s internship fair when I talked to some employees at the SurveyMonkey booth. After having a pleasant conversation with someone at the booth, I gave them my resume and a day later they contacted me for an interview. The interview process itself was very straight forward. My future manager and I just sat and talked about my experiences, what I knew about the company, and solved a few problems such as constructing a method that converts ascii characters to integer values. The interview even went a little over time because we were having such a great conversation. In the end it was a great experience for a process that tends to be surrounded in anxiety.

What projects have you been working on?
At SurveyMonkey, I got the chance to work on a variety of projects including adding extra features to an Admin survey tool and creating an email only sign-up for SurveyMonkey Contribute. Each project has challenged me and opened my eyes to how software engineering works in the industry, away from the isolated setting of a classroom.. For instance, these projects required me to work far more with legacy code then any of my course assignments, a skill that is necessary in the industry. I was taught to manage my tasks effectively to meet deadlines. In the end, these projects got me knee-deep into some exciting projects that not only taught me a lot about my future career field, but allowed me to create some exciting features that are now in production and enabling SurveyMonkey users to make smarter decisions.

What was your most interesting technical challenge?
I think one of my more interesting technical challenges this summer was actually the least technical, it was deciding how to organize content for an admin tool. There were some challenges with organizing the data to send to the front end, but for most of the project I was constantly battling with how to present the information to fellow SurveyMonkey employees without overwhelming them with the mass of information gathered from one survey. While design is not my specialty, I know that design is important when conveying information. Bad formatting and presentation could lead to misinterpretation and poor customer service for our customers. In order to design an effective user interface, my mentor and I met with the project stakeholders to get feedback. I leveraged the feedback to then construct a more usable tool. It might not be the prettiest design, but with their insight, I was able to design an interface that conveyed what is important to all Product Managers and customer service representatives at SurveyMonkey.

What is the one thing you have learned about SurveyMonkey that you didn’t know before?
Before coming on as an intern, I never really knew how complex surveys really are. Even with prior experience with research, data collection, and survey gathering methods in my undergraduate studies, I never thought about everything that has to go into survey or could potentially go into a survey.

What is the SurveyMonkey culture like?
It’s like a big family here at SurveyMonkey. Everyone tries to enable each other to do their best and to explore what they are passionate about in the company. Even my manager constantly checked in on me during my internship to see how I was liking the company and at the end of a project he always encouraged me to do more projects that I was passionate about, even if that meant picking an alternative project than the one selected for me. After spending a summer here at SurveyMonkey, I feel empowered to explore my options as a Software Engineer.


Brit Biddle, Rising Sophomore at Colby College in Maine

How did you find out about this internship?
Brit_BriddleAs a Bay Area native I’ve always been aware of tech internship opportunities in Silicon Valley. I’ve been a longtime user of SurveyMonkey and a friend at the company told me they offered internships for college students. In January, Danielle, the university recruiter, reached out to me and we exchanged a few emails before we got on the phone to talk about the program. Then some time passed before we talked again, and I panicked about the status of my application and started to reconsider all the choices I had made. In mid-spring the email exchange started up again and we set up a phone interview with a Product Manager who became my manager during the program. This was a pretty typical interview in which I talked about myself and my work experience. I assume it must have gone well because a few days later Danielle called to offer me the job.

What projects have you been working on?
My main project this summer was to research and design an events planning platform. A lot of people already use SurveyMonkey for events, specifically to gather pre and post event feedback. There isn’t currently a competitor that does event scheduling, planning and post event feedback in a seamless way. I started out by doing a lot of competitive research and trying to understand the use cases for this product. I then drafted and sent a survey to 30 thousand SurveyMonkey users to better understand the needs of an event planner. From there, I formed recommendations and evaluated the business opportunity. This project was really interesting because it’s part of the “future of SurveyMonkey” so I got to be involved in a lot of the creative redesign.

In order to get a more hands-on approach to product management I’ve started another smaller project that I hope will be implemented this summer. I’m working to build a feature that lets you quickly copy a survey from the homepage, minimizing the number of steps for the user. This project gives me the chance to learn more about design and to work with engineers to code a feature.

What was your most interesting technical challenge?
A big challenge for my events project was that I was the one who had to make the decisions. I did research and got a lot of customer input, but at the end of the day I needed to evaluate the business opportunity on my own and to make a gut call about the future of the project.

What is the one thing you have learned about SurveyMonkey that you didn’t know before?
I’ve always loved the product and thought it was a great tool, but I never knew how elaborate and useful it was until I started deeply looking into the creation flow, watching customers use the product, and using it myself to gather data to make decisions. I also didn’t know how active the company is in election polling and gathering data to sell to news outlets. SurveyMonkey is taking the power of data to a new level and using it to make real change in the world.

What is the SurveyMonkey culture like?
The culture is very laid back and casual (and I’m not just referring to the dress code). This isn’t my first tech company experience, so I’ve already been exposed to the incredible perks of game rooms, flexible hours, and free lunch. It’s so nice to work at a company that really values work/life balance. Every Thursday during lunch you can find me sweating up on the roof during our weekly circuit class (in which I dominate) and on Friday afternoons I’m out playing pick-up soccer against Amazon engineers (also dominating). Perks are nice, but the most important part of being at any company is the people and everyone I’ve met this summer has been so nice and welcoming. At SurveyMonkey there’s a deep sense of community that extends to both employees and our customers– and that’s what matters most to me.

I think that the most important thing I’ve learned this summer is not specific, technical skills, but rather broader people skills plus a lot about myself. For example, I think I’ve learned how to better work with people and have gained valuable public speaking skills. I’ve also learned that there’s nothing more important than asking questions and asking for help when you’re struggling. When you’re young in your career, as I am, I think it’s easy to overthink and freak out about the future. A few times this summer I asked myself if I could really see myself doing this job for the rest of my life. I’ve learned that the purpose of an internship isn’t necessarily to bring incredible value to the company while we’re here, but to discover and develop our own confidence and skills. With luck, I’ll return some day to SurveyMonkey and bring future value to the company as my skills and business maturity develops.


Yaovi Babara, Rising Senior at Georgia State University

How did you find out about this internship?
Yaovi_BabaraI found out about the internship through my school’s career services center. I’m subscribed to their emailing list, so I received an email about SurveyMonkey coming to host an info session and recruit students in our area. I applied later that night, and went through the interview process which took about 6 weeks.

What projects have you been working on?
I’ve been working on adding the ability to auto-populate the city and state fields based on the zip codes provided by users in the US on the SurveyMonkey checkout page. Working on this has been really different from other projects I’ve worked on in the past because I was responsible for everything from start to finish. I enjoyed working on it because it was customer facing and could play a part in bringing the company more revenue.

What was your most interesting technical challenge?
The most interesting technical challenge for my project was understanding all the different pieces of the tech stack. What seemed like a simple change quickly became a task spanning many different parts of the stack. It took some time to fully grasp how everything was connected and how a change in one area would affect another part of the tech stack. It was very enjoyable because I amassed a holistic understanding of the application I worked on while working on my project from end to end.

What is the one thing you have learned about SurveyMonkey that you didn’t know before?
Before interning at SurveyMonkey, I was not aware of the state of growth that the company is in. I’ve always known about the product and have used it before, but the thought of it being a place to work never crossed my mind. I was pleasantly surprised as I learned more about the company and how it is positioned in the industry. The reach that it has and its potential to expand even further was something I learned through research and the time I spent here.

What is the SurveyMonkey culture like?
The culture at SurveyMonkey is very open and inclusive. It was very easy to assimilate with the culture because I found that a lot of the people here are easy to get along with. The office environment fosters collaboration, which made it easy for me to reach out for assistance and make friends within the office.


Kim Seltzer, Rising Junior at University of California, Los Angeles

How did you find out about this internship?
kim_seltzerMy relationship with SurveyMonkey began at the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing. I took it as a good sign that upon meeting, they were already celebrating me. Even though I really only approached the SurveyMonkey table to pick up a monkey sticker for the sticker collage I was working on, I ended up stopping to chat with one of the engineers, and we quickly hit it off.

About a month later, Danielle, my dear, sweet recruiter, reached out to set up an interview. Our initial phone call was all about getting to know each other–I talked about past projects, she talked about life at SurveyMonkey–then we set up a series of technical interviews. These were the first technical interviews I had ever done, but they ended up being less scary than I imagined. The first interview started out with a simple coding challenge–finding the greatest average in a list of lists–then the interviews got a little harder when I had to refactor actual SM production code and solve a riddle in two different ways. When Danielle called me later to extend an offer, I had one of those good knots in my stomach instead of bad knots, so I accepted.

What projects have you been working on?
My first project as an intern at SurveyMonkey was adding a feature that allows users to search their surveys from the mobile site. This project was a really good introduction to real-world coding. I immediately learned new technologies (React and Redux), had to navigate and understand a large pre-existing code base, and felt that sweet, sweet feeling of success when it actually worked.

Next, I added 3D Touch features to the iOS app. These features take advantage of Apple’s pressure-sensitive displays and provide users with previews and shortcuts for common tasks. This was my favorite project to work on, and not just because testing involved playing with iOS’s cool new 3D touch feature. I also loved getting to code iOS features that will reach tens of thousands of people, as opposed to the tens of people I’m used to. In addition to coding the project, I also wrote a technical document specification for it, which explores the technical architecture and decisions behind the project.

My final project for the summer was adding the ability to delete respondents across the whole slate of mobile channels–mobile web, the iOS app, and the Android app. Having never coded for mobile web or Android before this summer, it was cool to be able to learn about and contribute to those aspects of SurveyMonkey. In addition to interacting with all these different technologies, I was able to interact with multiple SM engineers. Before interning, I had never collaborated with so many people on a product. Obviously, a company like SurveyMonkey has way more contributing engineers than a school project, but I found this fact more exciting than intimidating. I’ve learned a lot from my mobile family (or team, whatever you want to call it).

What was your most interesting technical challenge?
My greatest technical challenge this summer came from my task of deleting respondents from mobile web. There’s a lot to update in response to a deletion (survey respondent count, survey outline, analyze results, etc.), and it was challenging to find the correct mix and order of calls to make that would update the state without clearing out variables used elsewhere. I found Redux to be well-suited for this type of problem, but an inconveniently placed bug made it a little harder to know if I was doing it correctly, especially given that I thought the bug was linked to a portion of my code that it wasn’t. As a relatively new coder, and particularly as an intern, it’s tough to know when a bug is yours, or when it’s preexisting, so I got a lot of practice with debugging this summer. Turns out, sometimes it’s not your new code that’s causing errors. I mean, it almost always is, but occasionally it’s preexisting. After becoming more familiar with Redux, digging further into the codebase, and getting help from my mentor, I was able to figure out a solution that lets our users delete respondents without interference from any bugs…that I know of.

What is the one thing you have learned about SurveyMonkey that you didn’t know before?
Before starting at SurveyMonkey, I didn’t realize how many features SurveyMonkey offered. I thought of the company as a simple “make surveys, take surveys” type of tool, and I usually limited that survey use case to academia since that’s what I was used to seeing as a college student. Part of me wondered why so many engineers would be needed for a survey tool, but after getting here, I quickly realized that SurveyMonkey actually has the ability to help its consumers in many different ways. One of the most interesting uses for SurveyMonkey that I’ve seen is its election tracking, which has obviously been very relevant this summer.

What is the SurveyMonkey culture like?
SurveyMonkey is cool. I’ve had previous (non-technical, unpaid) internships that made a clear distinction between interns and full-time employees, but SurveyMonkey is totally different. I felt included and respected in the company, which goes a long way. For example, as an engineering intern, I was able to share my thoughts (and actually have them heard and responded to!) on a UX decision in a meeting while shadowing a product manager for another team.

The open floor plan makes everyone, including executives, feel very accessible, even to interns. In addition to feeling collaborative, the SurveyMonkey culture is also just simply supportive. People help each other solve problems, understand if you need to take a day off, and don’t push each other to overwork themselves. There’s a healthy work-life balance. There’s also a stocked kitchen, game room, and rooftop bar. That sentence alone probably could have answered this question. It’s cool.

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