What a hybrid summer internship looks like at Rokt

What a hybrid summer internship looks like at Rokt

It’s that time of year again! Back to school. We’re commemorating the start of the new school year by sending off our summer interns: Jash Gada and Logan Roach. Rokt was lucky enough to have them this summer with Jash working on the software engineering team and Logan on the data engineering team.

The Rokt summer internship program is an excellent opportunity to experience day-to-day life at a growing tech company. There’s also opportunities for select rising seniors to work full-time at Rokt after their graduation. Throughout the summer Jash and Logan were able to connect 1:1 with our engineering teams as well as Rokt’s Chief Technology Officer, Corey Bertram. They learned, contributed, and kickstarted their careers in the world of engineering. See what our summer interns had to say.

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How was the interview process?

Jash: There were 2 things that stood out to me. First was the technical round interview where I learned something by the end of it. The second was how open the recruiter was to answer questions after the interview process and willing to set up meetings with engineers to provide answers.

Logan: The nontechnical interviews were great for learning more about Rokt as a company and the type of work they do. The technical interviews were interesting, as the live coding session was actually really fun and not stressful at all. It was pretty exciting talking to the CTO, Corey, during the interview process. It was totally unexpected and a level of humility I found pretty cool.

What has been the most challenging technical problem you’ve encountered during your internship at Rokt and how did you handle it?

Jash: Adding an animation for expansion and collapse of an accordion was the most challenging technical problem I encountered. It seemed like just adding one CSS property should do the job, but a number of factors made it more complicated. To solve it, I had to learn React Hooks and use React’s state management to calculate height, set the transition, and then set it to auto every time. 

Logan: Migrating some of the queries the reporting team runs for advertiser incrementality from our AWS Redshift cluster to AWS Elastic Map Reduce (EMR). This introduced several totally new concepts and tools to me (big-data processing, Spark, Scala, EMR) and combined a lot of the work I had done prior (Apache Airflow, Redshift, S3, visibility), which was very cool for me to see come together.

What was your favorite part about spending the summer in NYC?

Jash: There is a lot that NYC offers, so it is hard to pick a favorite part, but I would have to say the food. NYC has such diversity in terms of food; it always feels like you are missing out on something. Jackson Heights in Queens is slept on when it comes to good food and I am very glad I made the trip there for the night market where they had various food stalls with cuisines from around the world.

Logan:  No matter what time it is or where in the city you are, you can always find something fun to do. For me, it was live music. I’ve never been somewhere where I can see so much of it so frequently. I took full advantage. I had such a great time experiencing many new things and meeting so many new people.

Was there anything you worked on during your internship that was completely new to you?

Jash: I had a lot of opportunities to learn things that were completely new to me, such as concurrency handling, React, and NgRx state management. The one I want to emphasize is React. I had only worked on Angular before, and so React was very new to me. One of the features I was working on required some knowledge on the nuances in React hooks. I had great support and my mentor Keith was always willing to teach me concepts, walk me through various ways I can approach the problem and provide me with resources to nudge me in the right direction.

Logan: Many of the things I worked on this summer were new to me. Something I’d never really thought about or worked on was visibility. Although it is fairly simple, monitoring the many processes a tech company is running around the clock and notifications when one or more of those processes are not working correctly is an invaluable asset to engineers and the company as a whole. Thinking about what type of metrics and data would be valuable and effective in monitoring many of our systems then implementing those designs gave me a better understanding of how engineers build large platforms and manage them efficiently.

What is one thing you learned about working effectively on an engineering team this summer?

Jash: Good communication makes the biggest difference. I learned from my co-workers that communication goes beyond simply asking for help. It is also about communicating progress and blockers in stand up in an organized manner. As a technical-heavy profession, it can be easy to focus on finishing tickets, but it is equally important to reflect on your work and discuss with your team and manager.

Logan: The most important thing I learned about working effectively on an engineering team is the balance of personal drive and team goals. A team has a certain set of tasks to accomplish collectively, and even though I, as an engineer, would like to figure out and solve all the problems I need to, sometimes it is important to ask for help, to take a step back, and learn from others. Although it can be frustrating, the humility to realize that the team could be better off if you are willing to take the advice of other engineers or possibly even allow them to take over a certain task for you.

What experience from prior internships or from school were you able to apply to this internship?

Jash: During my internship, I was able to help the F&A team as their friendly neighborhood front end engineer. While working with them, I was able to use my prior experience with Angular. Angular has a steep learning curve, and so having previous experience helped me start contributing to the team right away and use certain concepts like routing to improve UI experience.

Logan: Briefly in school and at a previous internship, I had used some AWS services. At Rokt, I was able to learn the services I had used before much more deeply and explore many I had never even heard of. These skills will be very valuable for me moving forward as cloud computing is certainly not going anywhere.

Do you have any recommendations for future interns on skills to brush up on?

Jash: There are always a lot of skills to learn or brush up on in software, especially web development. When it comes to technical skills, read up on fundamental skills and Vanilla JavaScript. Even if we use frameworks or libraries, having the fundamental knowledge helps a lot in problem solving and understanding what is going on under all the abstraction. Additionally, I would suggest focusing on solving problems using documentation more and Stack Overflow less.

Logan: The best preparation you can do to maximize your time at Rokt is coming in with an open mind and with a positive attitude. The willingness to learn, which you will certainly do at Rokt, is the best tool you can bring with you. From a technical point of view, I’d say to make sure to have a solid understanding of all the building blocks of software engineering. Topics like data structures, computational efficiency, database architecture, test writing, CI/CD, application deployment, etc. are all concepts that are extremely important and used every day, so becoming more familiar with these things when you arrive will maximize the time you can spend on other, more complex topics.

How did your intern manager assist you in growing as an engineer or succeeding in this internship?

Jash: My intern manager, Keith, was there every step of the way to help me. One of the most important ways Keith helped me grow as an engineer and succeed in this internship is to sit down with me and explain various programming and engineering concepts in depth. One of my fondest memories at Rokt is having random discussions about topics ranging from engineering to hackathons to Magic: The Gathering. All of it made it easy for me as an intern to ask questions.

Logan: Vadim was an incredible manager. As an engineer wanting to have a better understanding of our industry and know how to better use tools and go about completing meaningful work, my growth in these areas was predicated entirely by him. From explaining complex processes and concepts to giving me quick tutorials on best practices and good tools to practice with, Vadim was always so generous with his time and has really had a huge effect on my engineering abilities and approach to the craft. This is all in addition to being a hilarious person to sit next to every day and a great friend this summer.

What was one thing you learned from meeting colleagues outside of the engineering team?

Jash: Working at Rokt provides a lot of opportunities to meet colleagues outside of the engineering team such as TGIFs or through the free lunches at Meet and Eats. One of the things I learned from colleagues outside of engineering is that there is a lot of problem solving that goes on that is not technical or engineering-related. Be it in sales or in the legal department, a lot of passionate people are working towards the same goal every day and so much of it is easy to get overlooked, and yet is what keeps the business growing.

Logan: One thing I learned from colleagues outside the engineering team was the value of cohesion and transparency. Within a growing company, there are many departments and teams all doing very different jobs but pulling in the same direction nonetheless. For a company that is always changing, it’s a necessity that everyone is on the same page. This culture, which is incredibly pervasive at Rokt, allowed me to learn how a fast-paced tech company like ours is able to function and how important each and every team member is.

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