Every summer, Rapleaf brings aboard engineering and business interns (like me) for 8 - 12 weeks not only for extra help, but also to give us a taste of an internet startup. I thought it would be a good idea to share my thoughts about Rapleaf culture and inner workings so future interns and outsiders get a better sense of the people, tasks, and responsibilities. Instead of just offering my own perspective, I have asked each of my fellow 9 interns -- 6 engineering, 3 business -- to share their experiences as well. Without further adieu, I introduce the Rapleaf intern class of 2009:
Adam Coffman, Software Engineering Intern
Hometown: Edwardsville, IL (St. Louis)
College & Major: Southern Illinois University - Edwardsville, Computer
Most Enjoyable Experience So Far: Company social events like Campleaf, movie nights, catered dinners, board games, etc., and the fact that the people here are so easy to get along with makes them a ton of fun!
Interning at Rapleaf has been one of the more challenging but fun things I've had the opportunity to do. Many of my friends have had software engineering internships that have amounted to little more than help desk and tech support jobs for the summer, but not so here! The interns here are given real projects to work on that actually are put into production, and never feel like they're just being handed busywork. All of the full-time engineers are incredibly smart and helpful, and the number and variety of projects here is awesome; there's always something new to figure out and learn. In just a couple months I've worked with Thrift, Ruby, Java, Scribe, Hadoop and more. If you're like me and always dreamed of coming out to the west coast to work at a startup, this is the place to be!
Alex Burkhart, Software Engineering Intern
Hometown: Columbus, OH
College & Major: Case Western Reserve University, Computer Science
Most Enjoyable Experience So Far: Campleaf
Best single word description of Rapleaf: intense. It is definitely a place where you spend the summer as a temporary employee rather than a coffee fetching intern. The first project I was assigned was a deep infrastructure redesign of our production website. I can't think of a better way to learn so much so fast.
David Goldblatt, Software Engineering Intern
Hometown: Atlanta, GA
College and Major: Stanford University, Undeclared
Most Enjoyable Experience So Far: The projects
Working at Rapleaf is a great experience. I'm glad to be somewhere that's kept its startup vibe going; when I'm confused by a big codebase, the ability to talk to the person who wrote it (and who is within rolly chair distance) is very refreshing. Another nice thing about it is the number of technologies and problem areas that even the interns get to work on. In the five weeks I've been here, I've either picked up or gotten to improve skills in Ruby (on and off Rails), MapReduce, Thrift, MySQL, data normalization, web spiders, and distributed file systems. The interns are very much included in selecting and prioritizing projects, and can design and implement them on our own.
Rapleaf rules. You should come work here.
Dan Kinder, Software Engineering Intern
Hometown: Claremont, CA
College & Major: University of California at Berkeley, Electrical Engineering and Computer Science
Most Enjoyable Experience So Far: The work plus the people support to do it. The kitchen is nice too.
I can definitely say that the best part of working at Rapleaf is the cutting-edge work combined with team support. Not only are the projects really cool to design and complete, but the loosely structured environment allows you to drop by anyone's desk, say "Hi," and ask a couple of questions. On top of that, the engineers (being as top-notch and productive as they are) can answer pretty much anything with more than you expected.
The beginning of the internship (as with any kind of technical work) had the tiring, frustratingly low productivity period of training and of familiarization with the framework, but now projects are that much cooler and more exciting to finish.
Dounan Shi, Software Engineering Intern
Hometown: Norman, OK
College & Major: University of California at Berkeley, Electrical Engineering and Computer Science
Most Enjoyable Experience So Far: Campleaf was awesome!
After interning at a large company two years ago, I knew that I wanted to get a taste of a startup company this summer. I have heard that startups are very fast paced, exciting, and the projects you work on actually matter. So far Rapleaf has met all of my expectations. There are at least three or four projects that I juggle at any given time, each with their own deadlines and priorities. Some projects have benefits internally while others have a direct impact on our customers. Plus, the enormous scale in terms of data collection and analysis at which we work at is insane for such a small company.
However, with great power comes great responsibilities and challenges (lame, I know). The hardest thing to overcome has been time management. Time management and goal setting is critical in order to meet the varying deadlines of my projects. While I am not bad at getting my school homework and projects done on time, I have had some trouble here. As a result, I have gotten better at setting short and realistic milestones in order to keep the big picture in mind and not get lost in coding. However, despite my improvements in this area, I still have lots of room to grow.
The biggest pro of working at Rapleaf has been its people. Rapleaf is very meticulous in its hiring process, selecting not only the best engineers, but also those who have great personalities and fit into the company culture. This combination has been great for me, as all the employees are easy to get along with and are happy to answer my abundant amount of questions.
All in all, the internship experience up to now has been awesome. Plus, during the summer, Rapleaf hosts an annual weekend camping trip, aptly named CampLeaf. Also, they provide all the necessary equipment and food: lots and lots of food. If that isn't enough, there is an open kitchen stuffed with breakfast, lunch, snacks, and drinks...need I say more?
Kelly Haxton, Business Intern
Hometown: Calgary, CAN
College: Stanford Graduate School of Business, MBA
Most Enjoyable Experience So Far: Culture and willingness to try anything from a product standpoint
Working at Rapleaf has been a fantastic experience. The culture is one of the best parts of the company. Everyone is extremely fun, energetic, and determined to solidify the lead in the social media information space. I've enjoyed directly learning about the challenges and opportunities that a premier startup faces during its early stages.
I came to Rapleaf to learn from the best leaders in the industry, to be challenged to constantly think creatively about digital information, and to make a positive impact over the summer. My job is to use my past operations, sales, and marketing leadership experience to critically analyze our product set while identifying new opportunities for the company. Additionally, I have been negotiating new deals and optimizing our marketing. I would recommend Rapleaf to anyone interested in joining a high potential startup, and who is 100% committed to creating the next big thing. I am happy to chat more to anyone interested in learning more about the company -- email@example.com
Kevin Tan, Business Intern
Hometown: Miami, FL
College & Major: University of California at Berkeley, Business Administration
Most Enjoyable Experience So Far: The quality and caliber of both the interns and the full-time employees make it an experience, not just a work place
I was personally looking to intern at a venture-backed technology startup in San Francisco this summer, and Rapleaf has fit the bill. With smart people, a laid-back but hardworking culture, as well as incredible growth by taking advantage of Web 2.0, Rapleaf has been a great experience. I work with the technical team to analyze queries and services for our clients, and am given a lot of responsibility in my work. Having started two companies myself, I appreciate this level of freedom and the can-do attitude of Rapleaf. Additionally, I work on a lot of direct marketing campaigns to help spread the word about Rapleaf's services and solutions to clients such as major corporations, fraud companies, ad agencies and networks, and internet retailers.
There's a steep learning curve to understanding Rapleaf products and offerings, as well as analyzing competitors and the space it occupies. But Rapleaf has an open culture that encourages teamwork, with top executives explaining how the company runs, its history, and their expectations of you during lunch. There is definitely a lot of responsibility and a lot of potential you can bring to the table.
Simo Leone, Software Engineering Intern
Hometown: Skokie, IL (Chicago)
College & Major: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Computer
Most Enjoyable Experience So Far: Everyone here is easy to get along with, and is the type of people you'd enjoy hanging out with outside the office
Interning at Rapleaf this summer has been an awesome experience. I've worked with a multitude of new technologies (for those of you that like buzzwords: hadoop, scribe, cascading, thrift, and mapreduce, among others) that they simply don't offer classwork on at school. The learning curve for many of the projects I worked on was steep, but mastering them was all the more satisfying as a result. Every project I worked on had real, tangible value, and was deployed to intense real-world use almost immediately. Even more amazingly, some projects I worked on produced output for customers just hours after completion. I don't think any other company can offer their interns such a meaningful experience with such immediate effects. On top of all that, the other interns and employees at Rapleaf were absolutely amazing to work with. Somehow, Rapleaf has managed to put together a team that is not only highly talented, but also the kind of people you'd want to hang out with on weekends, with no exceptions to speak of.
I can wholeheartedly recommend Rapleaf to anyone that enjoys good company, and is up to the challenge (just make sure to tell them I sent you, they've got a $10k referral bonus... no joke).