hack(ing more than just )NY

Synopsis

Zoom into Westwood, CA and you'll find thousands of students diligently studying for finals during the final stretch of spring quarter. But look closely enough and you'll find that room 773 of Rieber Hall is short one occupant. Me.

About a month ago, I was accepted into the 2014 hackNY fellowship. Along with about 30 other hackers, I was given the opportunity to spend a summer in the heart of New York, interning at a unique start-up while attending exclusive meet-ups and sessions with various industry figures. The program would run for 10 weeks, from May 27th to August 1st. The only problem? UCLA's spring quarter doesn't end until June 13th.

So once again, I did what any responsible student would do. I packed my bags, and flew out to New York on May 25th. Yes, weeks 9 and 10 of class are extremely important, and mastership of the material taught directly correlates to the grades one receives at the end of the quarter. But education is more than just about receiving good grades; I've been given the opportunity to learn and grow so much as a person. There was no way I was going to turn down ten weeks in New York.

I now face a test that is far more challenging than any final exam I will ever take. This is a test of whether I can, theoretically, be in two places at once. Can I keep up with my classes while being physically absent from campus? Can I work a 9-to-5 internship during the day and complete my projects and assignments at night? This is hack(ing more than just )NY.

Day 1 (May 27) - First day at work and Urban Hacking

I woke up at around 9:30 and realized I had less than half an hour to get to SoHo. It was my first day at Skillshare, and the last thing I wanted to do was be late. Thankfully, I made it just in time for their morning standup (helllllyeah #scrum). The minute I walked in the door, I immediately vibed with the company culture and office atmosphere. The engineering team was small (fewer than 8 people); I knew I had the opportunity to learn and contribute a lot these next few months. I spent most of my day going through standard onboarding procedures and setting up my dev environment.

My workspace at Skillshare

After work, I caught up with a few of the other hackNY fellows and headed to Republic, a restaurant in Union Square, for dinner. After trying to go to the gym, and miserably failing (it closed like right as I got there), I decided to go for a short run and explore more of what New York had to offer. A few miles and fire escapes later, I somehow ended up here. #urbanhacking for the win.

#urbanhacking

Day 2 (May 28) - Shipping code, lunch with Mike, and meeting the founders of Branch

Made my first commit at work today!

First commit

Ran into a few issues in the morning (I accidentally ran a cleanup script that removed a whole bunch of php dependencies), but I eventually got my box setup. I had lunch with Mike, the CEO and founder of Skillshare, and got a chance to talk to him about his vision for the company and the driving factors behind why he started Skillshare. We talked a lot about the shortcomings of higher education as it stands today, and I definitely vibed with Mike's views. Pushed out a few lines of code right after lunch and got my photo onto the team page!

Officially on the team page

After work, I headed to Facebook's new NYC office for our first hackNY Speaker Series. We heard from the founders (Hursh, Andrew, and Cemre, all of whom were hackNY alumni) of Branch and Potluck about their Facebook acquisition. It was cool listening to how they turned a hackathon project into a full-blown startup. Hursh, in particular, really shed a lot of light on what it's like to truly commit to taking time off school to work on a project. Definitely very inspirational and informational.

The founders of Branch and Potluck

Day 3 (May 29) - Welcome Lunch and Yodle Game Night

After almost two days of onboarding and getting acquainted with the company, I was able to sit down and ship actual code. It was satisfying to finally be able to dive into the code and push out a few changes.

A great thing about the first week is that lunch is covered almost everyday; I had lunch with Elliott and Conor, two great guys working in Talent & Partnerships and Sale, respectively. They were both very easy to talk to, and had very open, easy-going personalities. Prior to today, I haven't been able to interact much with the other employees in the company; I gathered what I could from a more top-down, overarching view. It was nice being able to interact with Elliott and Conor on a more personal level; it really showed that the company culture existed, not only on a macro level, but on a micro level as well.

After work, I headed to Yodle's office for their quarterly game night. My friend Sam Agnew had been in touch with Yodle because of previous HackRU sponsorships; they invited him to the game night, and I tagged along.

Yodle office

Amidst all the fold-out tables, the Yodle office was packed with engineers from every facet of the New York tech scene, playing everything from cardgames to Settlers of Catan and Guitar Hero. Of course, no tech startup party is complete without food or drinks, something that Yodle knew all too well. There were two kegs of quality beer, numerous handles of various liquors, and Mediterranean food galore.

Yodle office

Update

Okay, so maybe a post a day was too much to ask for. I honestly wasn't able to keep up past the first week. But I did end up writing a recap at the end of my summer, so check it out here!