The following article is part of a series of articles about our NerdWallet Summer Internship program. Ilona Bodnar is a student at USC and shared their experience as an software engineer intern. If you are curious about joining NerdWallet as an intern or full-time employee, please apply for one of our open positions!
As a student with a lot of drive and a developing sense of direction, I’ve put a lot of thought and effort into where I work, what I work on, and how I work. I started my professional experience as a teaching assistant for Girls Who Code at Pixar Animation Studios, worked at Google for three summers on various engineering teams, and like any student who doesn’t want to accumulate debt, have undertaken my fair share of student worker positions as tech support for USC’s School of Dentistry and development for the Neely Center for Ethical Leadership and Decision Making. I’ve babysat, I’ve petsat, I’ve worked as a volunteer teacher for various after-school programs for students of all ages — so why NerdWallet? Why software engineering? What is it about this place that reeled me in, and what is it that made me enjoy my summer so much?
1. My work is actively valued and used
Onboarding didn’t consist of a series of powerpoints and propaganda videos— onboarding was getting to know my team, going out for lunch in San Francisco, taking on little tasks that familiarized myself with the work Product Platform does and working up towards bigger ones. From the onset, the tasks I was assigned were of clear value. Even small things like bug fixes and writing documentation had that instant gratification of being used by other employees with the company, so once you get to the bigger things, you feel like you’ve made even more of an impact.
My main intern project stemmed from a feature request made by a couple product managers at the company, and I had the opportunity to interact with the user data team to go over how to expose employee data and what permissions standards to follow, the opportunity to meet directly with the product manager who originally made the feature request to go over what exactly was needed, and the opportunity to go back and forth with our frontend team as I designed and implemented the way this feature would look. This was one of the few times that I was actually able to really feel like I did true fullstack work, from the API design to the final frontend details, and it was really neat to be exposed to such a variety of work. I also really enjoyed working in Python, which is my favorite programming language, and learning React, which I had not been exposed to previously.
2. The leadership & teams were amazing
The manager of my team was not just technically intelligent, but socially smart. He put in effort into ensuring that the products we were working on were of high quality and that our sprints were as productive as possible, but also took the time to respect and celebrate our individuality. Our work schedules were flexible, with some people coming in early and leaving early, others coming in late and leaving late, a very flexible work from home policy (including WFH Wednesdays!), and a clear method of communication within our team. I felt like my perspectives were heard and taken seriously, and I valued the respect that was given to me throughout my internship.
My mentor actually sat next to me and worked closely with me and talked to me (some of this may sound like the basics to y’all, but trust me, this is not always the case), and his feedback was explicit and frequent. This is actually one of the highlights of this summer; here, feedback was explicit and un-personal — I never felt like I was being attacked, and I never felt like I was being ignored. Because of this, my work hugely improved over the course of the summer, and I am very grateful for that.
3. The people & perks are awesome
As you may hear from people working at numerous tech companies around the Bay Area, I gained 8 (or 9) pounds from the amazing catered food and unlimited snacks (there were plenty of healthy ones, but of course I went for the pure sugar), I enjoyed the matcha lattes and milk options at our coffee bar (first time I ever tried oat milk), and enjoyed our various bonding events, including an escape room at the Palace of Fine Arts, going to a Giants game, bowling, volunteering at St. Anthony’s, and getting to meet and hear from executives in different departments (engineering, design, finance, marketing, you name it!). We our annual Pride Happy Hour, where employees make donations to a certain organization (this year it was TurnOut) and those donations are counted as votes toward dressing 3 of our executives in drag. Our VP of Engineering, our VP of Design and UX, and our General Counsel were selected to be our drag queens that night, and put on a great show for everyone who attended, with some excellent cake pops made by our very own CFO showcased at the front.
The people here are not only smart, but they are empathetic, forward-thinking, and honest, and I value that a lot.
How do I get involved?
There’s some great technical work being done at this company — check out my teammate Abhi’s article on building out NerdWallet’s machine learning platform or any other articles (here’s one from frontend infrastructure, the team of one of the other interns from my cohort!). Internships are open and accepting applicants, and I strongly encourage you to check them out on the NerdWallet Careers site.