The Life of a Delphix Intern: Shannon Ren
Written by Shannon Ren (University of Washington '17) -
"Where are you working this summer?"
"D-E-L-P-H-I-X, Delphix, it's an enterprise startup in the Bay Area."
In the lead up to this summer, a variation of this exchange happened numerous times. Having previously interned only at large, well-known companies, I had never had to explain where I was working, and later found it was simpler to say "a startup" when prompted with the initial question.
Besides the new series of questions I was receiving, I was also preparing myself for a new experience. I knew that this summer would be my chance to experience a different kind of company, be in San Francisco proper, and learn more about an enterprise product. This summer would essentially be my trial run to see if any of these would make an appearance in my long-term career.
While I know that Delphix is 400 people large, my experience centered around the ~50 person San Francisco office with an occasional foray to the ~100 person Menlo Park office. The big question, company size and the related environment, held a noticeable presence in my head throughout the summer. From my first arrival, the difference was apparent. The San Francisco office spanned one floor instead of a campus. I sat down at my desk, and my recruiter who I had been speaking with for a few months sat a row away. This theme continued throughout my three months, working near, meeting, eating lunch with people who weren't necessarily in my group or even my function. This exposure gave me a more complete picture of the company, interacting with everyone from those who delved deep into the kernel to those who created customer's first impression of Delphix.
One experience from early on sticks in my head as an example of logistics at a smaller company. I had the fortune of experiencing frequent Eclipse IDE crashes my first week or so at Delphix. Instead of emailing the IT group and sending in my computer or getting a replacement, I went down to Headquarters in Menlo Park and spoke in person with someone in IT. He was unaware of a solution to the problem and pointed me to another person. This person also did not know of a solution and pointed me to someone else. In parallel with this scavenger hunt, I posted on various Slack channels asking for help and received various attempts to troubleshoot and diagnose the issue based on error messages.
Finally someone who had peripherally heard about my problem suggested a simple, but counterintuitive fix: downgrade Java. It worked! While this multiple day endeavor to fix this issue meant I lost some time in development, I was able to interface with multiple people I wouldn't have otherwise. I also got a chance to see my fellow employees willingness to help and reach out. My hunt for a solution wasn't a solo endeavor.
That's something I have noticed while here. I have a support system that extends further than my mentor and manager (who are both wonderful). People care about me as an employee and as a person. That's not to say that doesn't happen at other companies, but I've had an expanded network of that support here. I've been able to insert myself into various groups here and have been welcomed openly despite the short duration of my tenure. People listen to what I have to say; I believe that I have made an impact here.
As the summer comes to a close, I am weighing my preferences: big name companies or smaller startups? The thing I realized is that the question itself is too simplistic. A 400 person company is going to seem large to someone who gravitates towards a 50 person company, and a 5000 person company is going to seem small for someone accustomed to a 50,000 company. I've had great experiences at a larger company, and I've had great experiences at a smaller company. What I've come to realize is that the size affects certain aspects of your job, but in the day to day, what it comes down to for me is the people. People who care about you, look out for you, help you grow, and most importantly, giggle with you.