The Big Move – From Dublin to San Francisco
After a 24 hour journey from Ireland in Mid-September, I arrived at the San Francisco International Airport. No job, no accommodation, and little to no money! I had decided to cross the Atlantic pond to start my career in the “Tech Hub” of the world. The move was daunting to say the least, but it only took a couple of weeks to get myself sorted and settled here in San Francisco. Once I had my accommodations organized, I began to tackle the hurdle of the job search!
My path to finding SparkPost was largely dependent on the last couple of years throughout college. So I’ll bring you up to speed with how my experiences in Ireland landed me in the Social Media Marketing Intern role here at SparkPost.
Sociology, Startups, Social Media —> SparkPost
I’m a sociology graduate from Trinity College Dublin in Ireland, and I have a keen interest in the tech industry. I moulded my degree in sociology towards my passion and interests for gender in the tech industry. I used my college years to get involved in as many startups and social enterprises as possible. This is really what paved the way for my interest in tech. (Not to mention my family love tech aswell!) With this in mind, I finished up my final year in college, having completed my Undergraduate Dissertation on the gender divide within the tech industry. As for the decision to move to SF, I adore travelling and learning about new cultures. As a graduate, I also couldn’t think of anything more exciting than starting my career in the tech hub of the world!
I always knew that my experiences would lead me towards tech companies, but it was a case of finding an industry that appealed to me. This is where SparkPost comes into play! I was exploring a ton of different roles in various tech companies in the Bay Area. The role at SparkPost for Social Media Marketing Intern was the first that really combined all my interests. On a personal level, I love social media so using it for business is particularly exciting to me. It’s also my first opportunity of having exposure to an established Inbound Marketing Team. Finally, the SaaS space is totally new to me so it was a completely different adventure coming my direction.
From the start of the process with recruitment, to the greeting at reception for the interview, and finally speaking with the marketing team, I fell in love with SparkPost. After interviewing with Tracy and Jen I was sure that the company would be a perfect fit. The cherry on top? The offices were super cool, amazing views and located in the centre of the Financial District here in SF!😍 In my mind, all the boxes were ticked!
“Welcome to SparkPost!”
The offer from SparkPost came about mid-October and I was super excited to get started as soon as possible! Initially I was nervous, but I was welcomed with open arms by the team and got straight into training. Soon into starting the job here at SparkPost, I not only loved the role, and appreciated SparkPost’s “Circle of Awesomeness” but I also learned how SparkPost and I share some similar passions. For example, in November for the month of giving, one of the charities SparkPost supported was Girls Who Code. This organization addresses the many issues with the gender divide in technology, something which I would have studied closely in college. It’s also something which relate to being a female in the tech industry.
In addition to this, the community here is great, with lot of emphasis on wellness of the employees. It was these things that really made me fall in love with the company from the early days.
What do I want to achieve at SparkPost?
The end goal? I want to learn and be able to inspire others through the team here. I’m currently getting exposure to a bunch of really great platforms that we use on a daily basis for the marketing. Plus, I have the best mentors, Jen and Tracy, training and managing me, and allowing me to grow my inbound marketing experience. I want to learn about SparkPost as a company and the email infrastructure industry as a whole. Finally, I’m the only Irish employee here at SparkPost. I want to use this opportunity to fully immerse myself into the American culture!
“You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards.”- (Steve Jobs, 2005)
This is one of my favorite quotes, and it resonates with how I feel about my adventure this year at SparkPost. Every path I have taken in the last few years has lead me to where I am now, and every choice I make in the next year will lead me to my next adventure. I’m using the next year to discover my exact interests and niches so I look forward to seeing where my experience of the tech industry in the U.S. brings me on the my next journey.
“Dear Grace, SparkPost is pleased to offer you a position as a Social Media Marketing Intern.”
Initially, it took me a couple minutes to fully digest the email. Then it set in all at once. I screamed, did some air kicks, and treated myself to fancy Chinese food. That’s what everyone does after receiving an internship offer, right? But to understand how I got to SparkPost–and why I treated myself to fancy Chinese food–I have to take you back a couple months.
From Berkeley to Beijing
This past semester, I studied abroad at Peking University in Beijing. I’m a third-year at UC Berkeley, studying economics, but I’ve taken loads of Chinese classes for fun so China was the obvious place for me to study abroad. I checked every cliched study abroad experience off the list during my stay–traveling, meeting new people, and trying unusual new foods (deep-fried crickets are surprisingly delicious 😋 ). And of course, the occasional studying. Aside from the “typical” study abroad experience, I also interned at TEDxBeijing. They hired me as a social media intern and I created content for their American social media outlets.
Interning at TEDxBeijing helped me to understand the immense potential within social media, and compelled me to further explore its professional use. Some people think social media is futile, but its effects on the real world are anything but. Social media is–without a doubt–connecting and mobilizing people from opposite corners of the world, which are reasons why I love and use it. (Hey, we might even have a couple mutual friends on Facebook!) Another reason I love social media is because of its effective business utility. I run an online bakery called Grace Cho Bakes on Facebook, as of now, and I wouldn’t have that privilege if it weren’t for social media.
My Journey to Becoming a Marketing Intern
To be honest, I initially hadn’t planned on interning this summer because I wanted to spend it with my family. I had also interned the entire previous semester so you can see why I wanted to relax for three months. Despite the temptation of a lazy summer, I just couldn’t bring myself to it. I had built too much momentum from interning and traveling to just pause for three months.
So in early May, I hopped onto LinkedIn and my internship search officially commenced. I searched tirelessly for marketing internships located in my dream city, San Francisco. I’m a native Angeleno but San Francisco is undoubtedly where I belong. This city stretches me to learn and grow, despite how uncomfortable or unwilling I may be. It’s also home to an incomparable culture of awareness, progressiveness, and, my favorite, food. (I mean, have you been to Tartine?) So after I narrowed down my location, I created a spreadsheet to input every company I wanted to work at. And just a few minutes later, I had made my first entry.
I was searching for internships one day, as per my daily ritual, when I came across SparkPost’s listing for a social media marketing internship. SparkPost’s mission to help companies of all sizes succeed was enough incentive for me to apply, but its company culture was what ultimately hooked me. SparkPost truly values every employee’s voice. I guarantee you most companies don’t have an “Ask Us Anything” Slack channel for anyone, including interns, to ask the CEO, and other leaders, any question that comes to mind. I knew SparkPost and I were a good fit, so I sent in my application and prayed it didn’t go into a black hole or, even worse, spam. Luckily, SparkPost’s recruiter, Amara, received my application and later sent me an email to schedule an interview. Long story short: two interviews, one congratulatory email, and some grownup paperwork later, I arrived at SparkPost.
“Grace, Welcome to the Team”
On my first day of work, I was greeted at the door and given a tour around the office. Then I sat at my shiny new desk and had cupcakes delivered to me, courtesy of my new boss, with a note saying “Grace, Welcome to the Team.” I immediately felt the warmth of the people at SparkPost. In the three weeks I’ve been here, I’ve learned countless lessons about social media marketing and I rediscover its power every day. My two mentors, Jennifer, Marketing Programs Manager, and Tracy, Director of Inbound Marketing, teach me something new on a daily basis. Everything from writing gripping content that gains traction to using Marketo to send newsletters. They also challenge me to question every method and reason, which pushes me to learn quickly yet thoroughly.
My daily routine as a marketing intern is to monitor our corporate social media accounts and write content for them. If you read SparkPost’s Tweets, you might be reading what I wrote while I drink my Philz iced chai (sweet and creamy, of course). I also take on other exciting tasks, like writing my very own blogpost! And while I’m just an intern, I feel as equal and appreciated as everyone else in the office.
Finally, the answer to what many people have been asking. Why SparkPost as a marketing intern? Well, for one, I get paid to be on social media all day, which is my second favorite pastime after baking. I also get to learn about email and the tech industry while perusing social media outlets, transforming my daily activities into professional development. And because the kitchen pantry and fridge are always stocked, I never have to worry about being hungry. A bottle of Naked juice and toast for a 2pm snack? Don’t mind if I do.
As for my future plans, I’m taking a slightly different route. I want to open a bakery and use what I’ve learned as a marketing intern to promote and build it. I started baking when I was 11 and what started out as a summer hobby quickly intensified into a passion. However, I still want to stay involved in social media. Baking and social media are both ever-changing, exciting, and collaborative–everything I want my future to be.
We’d love to hear about experiences you’ve had as an intern! Drop us a line below or give us a shout on Twitter.
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Our New Engineering Interns Pack a Punch
Summer means campouts, longer days, heat waves, and family vacations for most, but if you’re a college student, it oftentimes means an internship. Getting your feet wet in a business environment instead of in the pool, finding the best coffee shops (aka lifeblood) between your new apartment and the office, and discovering which snacks to indulge in and which to avoid in the company kitchen.
We’re lucky enough to have 3 engineering interns in our department this summer! Now that they’ve had a chance to find their sea legs, I thought I’d check in to see how they’re doing and what they’re enjoying most about their time at SparkPost.
Hello, My Name Is…
As the Community Manager at SparkPost, one of my favorite parts of the job is getting to know our new employees. Ask someone how they got to where they are and it’s rarely a straightforward answer. There’s some meandering, a little exploring, and if you’re lucky, an adventure or two to be briefed on before the answer is complete. In true form, we have three different majors between the three engineering interns: Information Science (Avi), Bioinformatics (Emely), and Computer Science (Vincent).
While all three have to do with technology and programming, there is a fair amount of nuance. Emely says, “Bioinformatics is the use of computer science to analyze and interpret biological data. Think of it like a biologist who knows how to code,” and Avi recently switched from Computer Science to Information Science, saying, “I am hoping to take a less traditional route – something with a little more exploration and fun.”
One thing they all have in common is a love for programming. Whether they love the challenge of solving a new problem or the satisfaction of the end result, they’ve each got their favorite projects that they’re most proud of.
For Vincent, it was building a fleet of air fresheners controlled by a cell phone. With his experience participating in and organizing various hackathons, he’s had a chance to push the limits of typical software engineering projects. He got started programming in 8th grade, when his dad encouraged him to learn Python. Being a typical rebellious 8th grader, he focused on learning everything but. “Since then, I’ve found that I enjoy building cool projects with friends, and falling into code trances,” says Vincent. “I attend and organize hackathons, teach middle schoolers how to code, and try to participate in the Baltimore software development community as much as possible… but I still don’t know Python.”
Emely has a slightly different background in programming, choosing to come at it from a research perspective. “I work with two types of cancer research studies in school that challenge me to become a better programmer. I take pride in my work because I know that I’m helping to make a difference, even in the lives of people I will probably never get the pleasure of meeting.”
Avi comes at it from a different angle yet, focusing on the projects that he’s currently working on rather than looking back at what he’s accomplished. “The day after I finish a project I immediately start critiquing every minute detail and mistake,” he says. “One of the projects that I’m still proud of is my first paid website. It was a bit scary to put my work out there and know that I was responsible for it, but I managed to walk away a little richer and more importantly, with a happy client.”
Learning how to be satisfied with the work you’ve completed rather than looking for more improvements or critiquing past accomplishments is all part of the learning process that an internship provides. In an agile environment like the one SparkPost’s engineering team maintains, it’s essential to think quickly, respond with the best possible solution, and then move on to the next open issue.
This is part of what excited Avi about working at SparkPost in the first place. “At the beginning I was afraid that I might have bitten off more than I could chew but I was pleasantly surprised. I’ve been given work that challenges me but nothing that I can’t handle. Even when I’ve run into issues I can ask my fellow interns or any of the employees for help. It has been such a fun learning experience – I really couldn’t ask for anything better.”
But before we get into what our lovely engineering interns have been working on this summer, let’s talk about what drew them to SparkPost in the first place.
What Brings Us Together Today
With as many different tech companies to choose from, potential interns, similar to potential employees, look at a variety of factors:
- What kind of projects will I be able to work on?
- What’s the culture like?
- What do I want to accomplish this summer?
Everyone has a different answer for these questions based on their expectations, experience, and desires. For some, it’s as easy as a convenient location and the potential of a cool project, or simply wanting to learn more about how something works. Vincent was predominantly motivated by curiosity: “I spend a third of my waking life on Gmail, and I still have no idea how it all works.” Learning the ins and outs of SparkPost’s interface this summer gives him the opportunity to not only learn about email protocols, IPs, and email best practices, but also contribute to the product itself.
For Emely, it’s a little more involved. “In school, there’s almost a feeling that Bioinformatics doesn’t have much practical use or that the students aren’t as ‘good at programming’ as traditional Computer Science majors. As a female programmer, I wanted to prove to myself and my fellow students that ‘Yes, I can program outside my area of expertise and not only that, I am actually pretty good at it!’”
Avi was excited by the opportunity to work on something that makes a difference in people’s day-to-day lives. “Email is such a basic piece of every business. When a technology is as ubiquitous as email, people start to take it for granted and expect it to just work. It’s really cool to be a part of crafting that experience for developers.”
Welcome to SparkPost
All good jobs start with introductions and onboarding — getting your feet wet in the code so that you can be confident in the how and why of the features you’re creating along the way. As such, Avi, Emely, and Vincent’s first few days were spent getting to know the ins and outs of the SparkPost UI & API.
Since then, the engineering interns have contributed support articles, fixed a few bugs, added functionality to the documentation and web app, and rebuilt our PHP client library from the ground up. “I could easily say I’ve learned as much as I have all year but in two weeks,” Emely said.
“I also like working at SparkPost because it gives me a chance to grow as a person,” she continues. “I imagined a very strict work environment compared to what I’m used to in my own field, and I was afraid that I would have to figure out these tremendous problems all by myself. I was so wrong. At SparkPost, people are really calm, relaxed, funny and extremely knowledgeable. If I don’t get something, I can ask any person around me and they’re happy to help. It’s a very positive work environment and I love it.”
Avi seconded: “I love the openness and culture. There’s a huge focus on communication. Everyone on the team knows what you’re working on and visa versa. The daily standups and grooming make sure that everyone is on the same page and that anyone can do each task. The code reviews ensure that each problem is reviewed by at least two people. Overall, it creates a low-pressure environment where you can get things done and have fun without worrying that you break the entire product!”
And don’t forget about the fun! Vincent’s been working on his ping pong forehand when he needs a break from the day-to-day, while Avi and Emely keep themselves energized with coffee and cappuccinos from the SparkPost kitchen.
There’s More to Come
As the engineering interns continue to learn and grow, they’ll be contributing to bigger projects and making changes that will affect the future of the SparkPost product. We’re lucky to have them on our team this summer, and look forward to sharing more about what they accomplish throughout their time here.
Interested in hearing more of what we’re accomplishing at SparkPost? Join our Community Slack group to hang out and chat with some of our engineers and community folks. If you like what you see, send us an application – we’re hiring!