The Summer Internship #TeamRookie
What can four interns do in a ten week internship? A lot, as it turns out.
With some help from the fantastic team led by Kyle Dorman, we built out a complete backend and frontend iOS app and had a ton of fun in the meanwhile. Here’s a snapshot of our summer experience.
Our internship began with two weeks of heavy learning. We were going to be building a mobile application using Swift, Scala, and the Play framework, but most of us had no prior experience with any of these tools. So our mentors led us through lab assignments to get our feet wet. We built a few simple iOS apps and a small Play application that used the Gilt Public API. As we became familiar with the languages and tools we would eventually use to build our intern project.
After our brief introduction to software development at Gilt, we started on a project of our own. Our mentors introduced us to Agile sprints, and we were off. Our progress was slow at first, but kicked up near the end, and on the last day of development we finally got our finished app deployed.
While we worked a lot this summer, Gilt made sure that we had tons of fun as well. Every Friday, we left the office early to explore a new part of New York. We went up the Freedom Tower, walked the High Line, and saw a musical on Broadway, amongst tons of other fun activities. We even had fun inside the office. We had weekly lunches with different teams across the organization, and we enjoyed random festivities like Cheese-mageddon, where tech samples more cheese than is probably healthy.
So, what was our actual project for the summer? The Gilt Style Quiz is a fun, playful way for users to start interacting with the Gilt iOS app without making a purchase. At the same time, the app gives Gilt a chance to get to know our users better as well. Through a series of style related questions, we are able to collect both brand and product category affinities for a user and are able to, as a result, better personalize the shopping experience for our users. As a team, we took complete ownership of the project and built the app from ground up. We began by developing the API and data models, and then we split up to tackle the front and back ends of the project.
What about Gilt Tech made the internship so cool?
Micro service architecture
Gilt uses micro services architecture to back the business operations. Because our service could be small and totally independent, we were able to make all of the design decisions in architecting the backend, super cool as an intern! We created a RESTful API with apidoc, an opensource project for declaring the models and resources of a RESTful API that comes with a suite of client generators.
Gilt provided a lot of resources to help us succeed and grow this summer. Right from the start we were introduced to individual mentors who helped us every step of the way, from learning Scala, Swift, and the magic that is AWS, to polishing out our product in the final week. Throughout the summer we had the opportunity to dine with the various tech teams and learn about the architecture supporting the Gilt backend and frontend. Erica also organized for us lunches with several executives from within Gilt and HBC, giving us firsthand insight to what drives the company.
From a project perspective, we had the chance to work with an amazing product manager, Hilah Almog, who defined our metrics of success and the scope of the application, as well as with a designer, Jose Salamone. It is easy sometimes to get caught in a cycle of code, test, and deploy without stopping to think of who is going to be using the product. However, getting the chance to work with non-engineers really helped keep the project in perspective. We weren’t writing code just to develop our skills in Scala and Swift or even to gather data for the personalization team. Primarily, we were developing a product to enhance customer satisfaction, to show our users that shopping on Gilt is a fun, enjoyable experience, and to streamline their transition into using their personalized product feed. While developing our technical skills was important, one of the key takeaways from this summer was definitely that it is crucial to keep your users in mind while developing!
Gilt has a unique, forward-thinking culture. The company constantly evaluates the tools it uses, and it is always open to exploring new technologies. We were exposed to this at the quarterly architecture council, where all the engineers spend a day discussing the current state of the Gilt technology stack and exploring possible new directions for tech.
Gilt is also committed to open-source and we made use of some Gilt open-source technologies in our project. The Cleanroom Initiative is an open-sourced codebase in Swift providing help with data transactions in our application. We also used an open-source apidoc Swift client generator and worked with the owner to make some additions to the project.
Throughout the summer we were exposed to a host of skills that eased the software development process. The adoption of standardized git workflows and explicit communication on project status through Agile sprints accelerated the development of our project across the short time frame. If we listed all we learned this summer it would take about, oh say, ten weeks, but needless to say this was a summer that we’ll all remember for a long time.