My Summer Engineering Medium

Or My Short Summer as a Small Person at A Medium Corporation With a Long List of Big Ideas…

What a Summer to be Alive

I remember when I was younger and the summer was the best time of the year. School was out. Life was great. My mind was free to conceive the wildest ideas. And I had all my friends near to help me bring those crazy ideas to life. All I had to do was open my mouth and share to open ears.

Unfortunately, as life goes on, ears start to close along with minds and opening your mouth becomes a little harder. While that’s never stopped me, the company I was fortunate enough to keep at Medium this most recently past summer made it easier to have ideas and open my mouth to share with open ears and minds.

The following story is that of my summer with the wonderful people behind Your Friends @ Medium.

The Preparation

When I started at university in 2013, I decided I would be a marketing major because I wanted to market the products I used everyday. I enjoyed discovering new products and telling people about them and why they were the best thing since… well, I don’t know. Either way, I have always enjoyed reading on the internet and sharing new found knowledge, so when I found out about Medium in the fall of 2013, I was determined to tell everyone I ran into about it.

I was the biggest fan of Medium. I was like SF Ali, Medium’s resident cheerleader. I read Medium everyday, sharing the best stories I came across on my social accounts, and engaging with other authors and readers. My occasional writing was well received by the network Medium had built and I made many remote friends. Soon, I found myself curating a publication of articles on anything from inspiration and tech to marketing and growth hacking. I couldn’t get enough of Medium.

With a great affinity for the platform, I still criticized when the platform made some choices I wasn’t so fond of. I had many ideas as to how to make the platform better and how to advance publications, my favorite feature of Medium. I also had the skill to build out those ideas. What I didn’t have was a job at Medium, yet...

“Luck Is What Happens When Preparation Meets Opportunity” — Seneca

The Opportunity

I eventually became a computer science major, and after spending my 2015 summer at the oldest and one of the largest tech companies as a software engineer, I realized that, at least to start my career, I wanted to be at a small tech company where I could make real impact on the product and its users. I wanted to be somewhere like Medium where I knew the product and enjoyed using it everyday. Now I just needed to get a job at such a company, so in the fall of 2015, I applied to and interviewed with all such companies I knew of… except Medium because they didn’t have any easily listings that I could find.

I never even thought about Medium as a prospective internship, but I knew that if given the opportunity to work there, I’d take it over just about any other position. That’s how much I loved the platform. Well, to my surprise, the opportunity came knocking one day that fall while I was interviewing with other companies. Medium wanted to interview me. I said no. The end.

“Are you kidding, me? Of course I’ll interview,” I thought. The interview wasn’t bad, but I thought I performed subpar as I was lacking sleep. While walking home from studying on, I received a call from gianni who told me I was selected for the internship. I couldn’t believe it. I was in shock. I called my girlfriend telling her about what had happened with the excitement of a child who had received all of his holiday wishes and much more. I can’t remember ever being that excited in my life. The platform that had changed my life through its content and network of intellectual users was about to change my professional life. With that call, I was given the potential to impact this platform as I had always wanted to.

My Mentor, Gianni

I always heard that your recruiter has your best interest at heart. That your recruiter would be your sponsor. While I’m not sure Gianni, who interviewed me, was considered to be my recruiter, he was my greatest sponsor since the call. My girlfriend was jealous of how nice he was being to me since extending me the offer to intern at Medium. Gianni sent me books to help me learn Javascript (JS). He shared resources with me that would help me get acquainted with the stack that Medium uses. He shared my ideas with the team far before I arrived. It was months ahead of my start at Medium, but there was no question that Gianni wanted to see me succeed and ensure that I enjoyed my experience with Medium. Aside from all of that, I am forever appreciative of his mentorship throughout this summer. He made some weeks feel better than they may have been in actuality.

“You learn how to cut down trees cutting them down.” — Bateke Proverb

The Preparation for the Internship

I’ve always believed that you only learn to cut down trees by cutting them down and that you should always prepare yourself to be prepared by others. With that and a determination to excel in the internship, I worked hard to learn NodeJS and the MEAN stack before arriving at Medium. I read the books that Gianni sent me. I read some articles online about Node. Above all else, nothing prepared me more for my internship than the two weeks I spent developing SuperMeditor in the spring of 2016:

By building SuperMeditor, I was able to learn the stack that I would be developing in at Medium while solving a real problem for Medium publication editors and writers like myself. I was happy to learn that it was well received by the Medium team before I arrived.

The Internship

The Publishing Team

My internship wasn’t supposed to be working on publications, but when Gianni saw how much I wanted to be on that team, he did what it took to get me on it and I am forever grateful for that. They say that when you have expectations, you can only be disappointed. I expected this summer to be a good one. Jean Hsu, Marcin Wichary, Anton, Joy Chen, Mike McGhie, and Jesse Dhillon to name a few on the publishing team who helped my summer run at levels above expectations. The entire team, including the two other interns, Andres Ramos and Kaitlyn Carter, on the team, was a pleasure to work with. Needless to say, I wasn’t disappointed. My perspective on the product that is publications was welcomed with open arms.

My (2nd) Project

I had two projects during the internship. The first was to patch a hole in the system, but the more notable one was the stories management view for publications.

Stories on stories on stories. That’s the best way to introduce my second project. I had to build a new story management view for publications. The above picture illustrates well what we wanted.

With the time I had left in my internship after my first project, I was able to get this done:

That picture is what I built and demoed at our weekly company-wide meeting at the end of my internship. This is more or less what we planned to launch as the first stage of this new page.

About a month after the end of my internship, I was delighted to receive the following email sent to all publication editors on Medium:

Before my internship, I was warned by some to not get my hopes up about how much impact I would be able to make, but, while I never let that discourage me, this email was proof that I was able to make a big impact on the product that I enjoy using. My completed project was announced alongside two other projects that full-time engineers worked on during my time at Medium. With the help and encouragement of my team, I was able to solve a problem that I and other editors had dealt with since the launch of publications. We can now better manage the various categories —drafts, submissions, scheduled, published, and unlisted — of stories that exist in our publications at any given time.

Diversity & Inclusion

Or “Black Lives Matter” or “All Lives Matter”?

In tech, you won’t find many people who look like myself because, frankly, it seems they don’t want us here — hello, we’re coming whether or not you want to believe we are here or not. Thus, it becomes hard to talk about the issues that matter to those same people. It is even harder to find leadership that cares about those issues and the people they affect. Some people care so little about the issues that they detract with nonsense like “All Lives Matter”. Not at Medium, at least not as far as I experienced.

During the week of the shootings of Philando Castile and Alton Sterling, Medium’s CEO, Ev, who I had the pleasure of meeting, cut our weekly company meeting short and dedicated a huge chunk of our day to discussing the issues of racial injustice and discrimination in our society. The day before that, the company supported me as I took the day off to write right here on Medium about how these shootings and every other shooting like them affect me as a Black American:

This meant a great deal to me because I was able to not pretend that I was happy while breaking down inside. This showed that the company cares about me as a person. They weren’t simply showing off their diversity numbers and calling it a day; from the top down, it was clear that diversity AND inclusion matters to Medium. That appears to be rare in tech and other industries.

Culture Fit?

What does that even mean? At Medium, I was able to be myself every single day of the week with no worries of that nonsense idea affecting my evaluation. I got my work done and had fun. That’s it.

The Perks

Hands down, Medium has the best water you will ever have the pleasure of drinking. I told that to everyone who came to visit me this summer and I mean it. But it wasn’t only the water. Free healthy snacks everywhere, everyday. Breakfast, catered lunch, and dinner everyday. Monthly gym membership stipend. Unlimited paid time off. Standing desks! Nap Pods!

Rock climbing with the head of engineering, Dan Pupius, and our, the interns, mentors:

All of that made my time working at Medium even better.

The Offer

What seemed like a year earlier, Tuesday November 17, 2015, at 8pm, had come and gone. It was now August 2016. I had prepared for the internship, completed the internship, and was ready to head back to school to finish out my career there. After an invaluable internship, I was sure I wanted to return to Medium full-time after graduation. Then I was presented this discrete envelope:

and, once again, Medium changed my life. I am proud to say that as the result of working my butt off this summer, I will be returning to Medium as a software engineer in San Francisco after graduation. I am looking forward to it.

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