Intern season is upon us here at Illumio. Our summer interns will soon bring sharp minds, green thumbs (more on that to come), and that Gen Z zest for tech to a multitude of projects and activities. Before we kick off, we're taking a look back at highlights from last year's internship program – and who better to hear it from than #TeamIllumio interns themselves, Teddy Tran and Ananth Suresh.
Hi! A little background about both of us. We were two of the engineering interns at Illumio last summer; Ananth was on the platform team and Teddy was on the data engineering team. Here's our story: a summer in the life of an Illumio intern.
Let’s start with the work. Because in the end, while the perks of free food and fun social events are appealing and awesome, the main point of an internship should be about the work: learning how to be good software engineers and getting real experience in industry.
All of the engineering interns worked on real features, and that was the coolest thing: that the work we did mattered. We worked on features for which there were real use cases – that Illumio's clients wanted. We could see how our features would impact the company and contribute value to the product. We were given the opportunity to go through the entire lifecycle of developing a feature, from working with product managers to discuss and fine tune requirements to meeting with senior engineers throughout the summer to present prototypes and get valuable feedback on design and implementation to make sure it followed the vision of the feature.
At the end of the program, we had the opportunity to present our project to the entire engineering department, including CTO PJ Kirner and VP of Engineering Ben Verghese, as well as many senior engineers.
We weren't treated like interns doing intern projects — we were treated like full-time engineers.
That's how we know the work we did mattered: the fact that the most important people in the company took the time out of their busy schedules to view our presentations, provide feedback, and ask questions. We weren’t treated like interns doing intern projects; we were treated like full-time engineers who had to write production code and impact the company.
As for mentorship, we were given a mentor as well as a "buddy." Our mentor was in charge of our feature and project, and made sure we were on track with the project throughout the summer. They helped us more with big picture stuff, such as API design and a high-level overview of the project. Our buddy was someone we could go to with smaller issues on a day-to-day basis, such as difficult bugs and how to use certain frameworks or tools. In addition to our mentor and buddy, of course we were also free to ask anyone in the company for help. It felt intimidating at first to approach other engineers who weren’t directly involved in our project, but everyone was extremely happy to help. The environment at Illumio is very open and accommodating. The goal is to create the best product – and we can only do that if we help others get unstuck so we can all do our best work. That was a priceless lesson learned and lived.
There were many intern events throughout the summer (go-karting, rollercoaster park, bowling, a baseball game, etc.) and we had so much fun at these events that we even organized weekends outings to hang out with each other. We hiked, went to the beach in Santa Cruz, kayaked – making the most of the Bay Area's great outdoors. Every Friday at HQ, we joined a happy hour where there were competitions such as watermelon carving and Jenga (Ananth is very proud to say that he is the reigning 'Illumio giant Jenga champion' along with Sr. Program Manager Andree Winter). We also participated in a company-wide Game Day where everyone dressed up in themed costumes and made sophisticated planes, then sent those flugtags flying!
Apart from the fun and games, one of the highlights of the internship program was our lunches with the executive team. We had the chance to meet with each of the executives, all of whom have a wealth of experience and have been very successful in the industry, ask them questions, and talk about their journeys.
Another invaluable perk was being a part of the a16z network. Since Illumio is funded by a16z, we were invited to their events. We visited the Andreessen Horowitz headquarters to meet Ben Horowitz and see Frank Chen, head of the a16z deal team, talk about autonomous driving cars. Talking to them was just inspiring. They provided a different view, like talking with the executives at Illumio, but from the perspective of building software to now investing in software companies. We also met Mariel, the a16z talent recruiter for UC Berkeley, who’s been an extremely important professional connection. That’s another big thing we learned: just show up. You can’t expect opportunities to show up to you. You have to show up and expose yourself to new opportunities.
These experiences were surreal. We learned not only to be engineers, but also got insight from any different knowledgeable perspectives into how businesses and the software industry at large works.
Last but not least — the culture
We met amazing people and made amazing friends. We're the best of friends these days, and we became close with the other interns and full-time employees. Illumio puts a lot of effort into the culture fit of the company and it showed when we all met and got along really well. As mentioned earlier, we didn’t just spend time together in the office, but also had fun out and about, all while contributing good value to the company with our work. Illumio has created an environment that fosters a supportive community, a 'work hard, play hard' mentality, and the attitude that great people doing great things is what makes a company succeed.
If you read this far, we appreciate it! Interning at Illumio was one of the best summers of our lives. We learned a lot technically, did meaningful work, made amazing friends, met leaders in the industry, and had a ton of cool experiences. What more can you ask for?
Check out this page to learn more about Illumio's internship program and opportunities.