Divya Prabhakar

Divya Prabhakar

Last spring break, I went to Cancun, Mexico. The beaches were beautiful, I had no school work, and best of all, the cell service was spotty — perfect for dropping off the grid. But my carefree attitude was quickly put to rest on the fifth day of vacation when I received an email from my dad saying, “You need to start looking at internships for the summer. Have you done any research?”

Great. In my naiveté I thought, “It’s only March, so I have four months before summer starts. Chill out, Dad.” But being a little paranoid, I did a quick Google search for summer internships and asked my friends what their plans were. As it turned out, people had started looking way back in November, December, and January.

As I began looking for possible opportunities, the first step was to decide what positions I was going to apply for. Being a computer science and fine arts double major, I was interested in user experience but had never had any actual experience in the field. I also wanted to improve my coding abilities, especially in Javascript, HTML, and CSS, since I lacked much practical experience with those. No one at Penn was looking at the same industry as I was. People either pursued hard-core, completely backend coding jobs or graphic design and publishing house internships. I didn’t have anyone to look to for career advice or guidance.

Fast-forward to August, as I end my internship with Monetate and enter my junior year. I am now much more confident in my coding abilities, I have learned valuable skills regarding design and information architecture, and I have a network of amazingly talented and accessible people from whom to seek advice.

Spending my summer at Monetate was one of the best experiences I have ever had. I was the front-end engineering intern, and I spent my time split between the Web Development and Custom Engineering team.  I was treated like a full-time employee, receiving on-the-job training while working on request tickets that actual clients were expecting results from. Any fears I had vanished as my team encouraged me to ask questions and make mistakes in order to learn. Implementing solutions helped me fail fast and then get moving again to try another method. My confidence grew because I knew I saw a problem through every step and solved it.

The idea that the process is more important than the result was bolstered by my experience with the UX team. I happened to meet Jon Aldinger during lunch on one of my first days at Monetate. I was so excited about his team and the projects they were working on, and I spent much of my “free” time sitting next to him and Tressley Cahill, learning from their work. I even participated in their Hack Days project, a facelift of Monetate’s login screen, header, and footer. Sitting with the UX team opened my eyes to the intersection of art and business, giving me a great foundation to start building my expertise on.

My summer at Monetate inspired me to continue to look for inspiration and to keep pushing to learn, even if I don’t understand something the first time. Most important, it made me sure I was pursuing the correct and best career path for myself, a rare feeling for an undergraduate.

I worked on three teams. I did actual client work, helping to develop Monetate products. I coded in three languages. And I got coffee … but only for myself.

Thank you for an awesome summer, Monetate.