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Summer Ending, School Emerging

A view the typical programmer would see

Some might be wondering, where have I been for the past few months?

To explain my half-year hiatus, I must admit that I have been carried away with school work and other social commitments, ranging from Science Fair research projects to organizing events at my school.

However, one ominous event looms above all... this very blog's silence this summer.

To explain the latter, I must clarify that I had the opportunity to work as an intern at Expedia (the travel company!) for 8 weeks during the summer! Throughout my stay, I worked with professional engineers and developed a tool that Expedia Group plans to put into production. So, what did I learn during these enjoyable 2 months?

1. Minimalism is best. I used to admire individuals who were able to brainstorm complex solutions to yield great results. However, through developing software, I found that it is much easier for myself and for my colleagues to work on something that is simple and intuitive rather than a labyrinth-like, mind-boggling puzzle.

2. Actions are worth more than words. I didn't encounter anyone in the Engineering Team I worked with who would talk about their previous work experiences and their skills. Rather, they would keep talk to a minimum and focus on building applications. It is really through craft, rather than talk, that engineers I worked with would showcase their abilities.

3. Keep communication brief and frequent. Every day, our team would do a stand-up meeting, a meeting in a limited time while standing up we had to discuss progress and pitch our goals for the next day. Such a meeting drastically saved precious time where we would code and build rather than listen to some hour-long monologues, thus improving our overall efficiency!

4. Continuous growth. After a few weeks at Expedia, my roller-coaster start soon metamorphosed into a regular routine. Expedia wasn't like school. There are no supervisors who monitor your every breath and effort. There are only managers to whom you regularly report to, and who very generously give you more than enough space and freedom to craft. Given these conditions, it seemed that I had unstructured 8 hour work days for the many weeks to come. I didn't want to spend every remaining day of the summer just sitting 8 hours in front of a computer. Hence, every day, when arriving at my desk, I would ask myself:

What can I do today to make me a better person than I was yesterday?

Slowly, I began to adopt habits that would make me more efficient at writing code, and developing techniques to write cleaner code, just by keeping in mind that whatever I would do with my unstructured time can and should be better than my results from the previous day.

5. Let others do what they are good at. I was very privileged to be working with another intern whose skills complemented mine. I had a background in machine learning, while she had a background in statistics and math. As time unfolded, we would begin to separate the tasks based on what we were good at, and focus solely on those aspects. The result was a highly accurate and reproducible statistical model combined with a modular programming implementation. This wouldn't likely have been possible if we didn't recognize each other's skills and had we blindly split all tasks in halves and hacked on that.

That sums up my summer!

After this perilous internship, I was happy to return to Ninnavita, to be greeted by the smiles of familiar faces and with a welcoming Taichi session from Mr. Li.

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