In a lot of ways, our first day as interns at Illumio was a lot like the hackathon that brought us here. We remember feeling excited, nervous, and completely out of our depth. Looking back now, it’s incredible how much we’ve achieved since then. As our internships come to an all-too-soon end, we’d like to reflect on some of the highlights.
You’d think that at a startup, the resources and exposure would be limited in size. However, as we quickly learned, being small in size only made it easier to reach out and learn from people.
For example, we’d spend the occasional Thursday afternoons with the rest of our team, walking through Redux tutorials and collaboratively asking and answering questions.
We’d also have bi-weekly “Lunch & Learn” sessions, where different employees would explain a part of the product and the technology that drives it, offering a chance to learn something new straight from an expert. We even got to demo our project to the entire engineering division a couple times, getting feedback from and bouncing ideas off senior leadership and executives.
Along with working closely with engineering, we also got lots of glimpses into the rest of the startup ecosystem. Whether it’s been chatting with founders Andrew and PJ over lunch, hearing from investors and customers at the first-annual Onwards! employee conference, or even playing ping-pong with people from sales and marketing, there’s always been so much to learn about.
The All-Hands meetings were especially insightful, as Andrew and other executives would go over topics from new sales deals to customer feedback. As an intern, it was inspiring to learn about the large-scale operations of the company and see how the technology we’re working on is being adopted by real customers.
Another great part of our experience was spending time with the other Illumio interns and employees. Lisa ran the official intern program and organized some awesome activities like footgolf, Waffle Wednesdays, and volunteering at the local food bank.
Over the course of the summer, we’ve barbequed with our bosses, turned ourselves into office-wide emojis, and hung out together at music festivals! These events gave us the chance to get to know the people here more intimately and pick their brain in a non-strictly-work environment.
And our exposure extended even beyond the boundaries of Illumio itself: Andreessen Horowitz invited us to a bunch of events where we met with interns and employees from other a16z companies, ate a ton of great food, and chatted with Ben Horowitz himself!
As much fun as the Waffle Wednesdays and Orange Fridays have been, without doubt the most rewarding part of our time here has been the actual work. As part of a small but seriously talented team, we developed new visualization capabilities that help security teams intuitively see their network structure and detect potential malicious attacks.
The dynamic and agile structure of the company meant we had the opportunity to engage with multiple stages of the development process; from sprint to sprint, we’d jump back and forth between writing and refactoring code, reading research papers, designing interfaces, and grappling with the challenges of rendering at scale.
By the end of our internships, not only were we able to synthesize all these moving parts and ideas into a final product, but we were also able to ship it to some of our customers! When we were told that the code we wrote would be used by a massive multinational firm to identify thousands of potentially vulnerable servers, we knew that our efforts weren’t wasted on intern busywork.
We’d like to give a huge thanks to — along with everyone else we interacted with — Roger Chen and XianLin Hu for being amazing mentors and teaching us a ton, both technically and professionally. As we go back to college, we definitely plan on keeping in touch with Illumio and look forward to seeing it grow in the coming years!