Each summer, SignalFx selects qualified students to participate in our Engineering internship program. Through this program, college and graduate students gain hands-on experience in various aspects of product development, technical operations, and general business and leadership in a fast-paced environment. Our interns are valued and trusted, and they contribute on a higher level and work on projects that go to market. There is a real effort to ensure the SignalFx interns are fully immersed within the organization.

This summer, there were six summer interns in our San Mateo headquarters. They came from a wide range of universities and worked in a variety of Engineering functions, ranging from UX and design to analytics and data science to engineering services. Learn about the experience of three of our awesome interns!

Karen Magallanes

School: UC Davis
Major: Civil Engineering
Team at SignalFx: Program Management

One of the first things I fell in love with at SignalFx, was the atmosphere. My previous internship at a government agency included tall, barrier like cubicles where everyone had a work-hard but not necessarily work-hard, play-hard attitude. Here, it was charmingly the opposite. There was no such thing as a cubicle at SignalFx. Teams (i.e. the Testing team or Analytics team) sat together, and one could easily hear the ongoing conversations throughout the office whether it be about Product input for the UI, what’s being released during the week, or who’s up next for the pool table.

During my first week, I began to acclimatize to SignalFx’s fast-paced work environment while being put through a whirlwind of onboarding sessions. Here, I learned about all aspects of the product, from its overall microservices architecture to each individual service. As an intern, I was placed as a technical program manager (TPM) in the technical operations team. Growing into my role, I recognized our team’s obsession for service availability and focus on mean time to resolve and respond (MTTR). Moreover, I observed how the on-call engineer’s role was to ensure uptime of the service, in case any service issues occurred. As these pieces came together, I further understood SignalFx’s distributed system design, how it was built for resiliency and its ability to handle failure without casualties to the uptime of the service.

In the context of SignalFx, being a TPM was a harmony between people, processes, and tools. First and foremost, the majority of my internship consisted of working collaboratively with people at SignalFx. For example, every morning, I arrived to work with multiple Slack notifications from my mentor with new and varying tasks. He would go anywhere from getting the status of an increase to Analytics jobs to helping the Support team with their top tickets on Zendesk. Moreover, I held meetings with the interns, set weekly expectations for their projects and identified their next steps forward. As I communicated with team members and interns to complete my tasks, I quickly noticed that everyone was talented and respectful, while the intimate office space made everyone easily accessible.

 

"I helped drive towards structure that’s important for an innovative and fast moving startup to be successful."

Karen Magallanes
Karen Magallanes Technical Program Manager Intern

Next, SignalFx had well-defined processes and goals for the team that enabled engineers. As a TPM intern, I helped drive towards this structure that’s important for an innovative and fast-moving startup to be successful. For example, any given project could start off as ambiguous. Therefore, my role was to break down such a project into consumable chunks by identifying its scope, needs, and action items to help enable work. In addition, to communicate and implement such processes, we utilized tools such as JIRA, Confluence (Wiki), and Slack. During my internship, my largest project consisted of three surface areas with a high volume of work. Therefore, my mentor and I created over 200 JIRAs, with well-defined issues and subtasks, to organize and build processes around the readiness of the project. With the utilization of JIRA, the project was broken down/consumable and prepared for execution.

Working at SignalFx was an amazing and insightful experience. It was a pleasure to work with such a talented and fun team. Leaving SignalFx, what I take with me is a greater understanding of startup culture, the TPM role, the SDLC processes of a continuous deployment cloud startup, what it means to take a requirement to a feature and much more.

Vivek Sivakumar

School: UCLA
Major: Masters in Computer Science
Team at SignalFx: Applications

After spending just a few hours around some of the engineers at SignalFx I knew it was a place I wanted to be a part of as an intern. Even in the interview process, I saw that SignalFx is full of smart people who are super passionate about what they do. As an intern I was hoping to have a summer experience that would: push me to learn new things everyday, make me a better engineer, and help me decide what specific type of career I want to pursue in the future. After getting the offer I was quick to sign on because I felt great about the fit between my goals and the company.

The learning started on Day 1 as I was run through a series of onboarding sessions that lasted the whole first week. In each session I learned from a different engineer about a different aspect of the system, how it works, and how it fits into the overall product. These sessions included an intricate discussion of the technology used, design decisions, architectural choices, and more. It was awesome that SignalFx felt it was important for the interns to learn this stuff because it’s not the kind of information you can get while at school, yet it’s very important knowledge to have as a professional engineer.

While going through onboarding I was also settling in my spot on the apps team and learning about my project. I was tasked with closing the feedback loop when notifications out of the notification server failed to be delivered. I wanted to work on a backend project and the notification server was a great chance for me to write production-level backend code that would reach and hopefully help the end user. Before I could start writing anything I had to understand what was going on in the massive code base. This was a great chance to learn new backend technologies and design patterns. After I got around to writing up some code I was able to get new code into the staging realm of the product quickly, which is a testament to the setup of the engineering team.

 

"I had to understand what was going on in the massive code base, this was a great chance to learn new backend technologies and design patterns."

Vivek Sivakumar
Vivek Sivakumar Software Engineering Intern

One of my favorite things about the engineering culture at SignalFx was the balance between professionalism and freedom/pace. Engineers here take code review very seriously – I had more than 5 engineers comment on my code at different points in my project, some of whom were not even mentoring me. For an intern to get this type of widespread feedback is invaluable. However at no point did it feel bureaucratic – I was just given suggestions and pointers, and I was trusted to go about solving the problems on my own.

At the end of the internship I presented my addition to the product to the entire engineering organization, which was the perfect way to cap off the whole experience. Looking back at the summer I was able to: learn a ton about distributed systems and cutting edge back-end technologies, become a better coder through the feedback of many SignalFx engineers, and simply watch numerous season professionals on a daily basis to get some insights into where I want my career to go in the future.

Nisarg Shah

School: UCLA
Major: Masters in Computer Science
Team at SignalFx: Engineering Services

For my summer internship, I wanted to join a place where I can get a taste of what it takes to build a product and to understand how to build the right team to do that. I came to know about SignalFx at the UCLA Career Fair, as a part of the famed VC firm Andreessen Horowitz. I quickly found out my specialization and experience matched perfectly with what SignalFx is doing and got really excited. I was glad to get a call back and nine interviews later, here I was!

During the first week, all the interns spent time learning about the different engineering teams. I quickly got a sense of what’s required to get a product this complicated setup up and running. I started off updating Python test libraries to the newer Python client. Wrapping up this project within the first week gave me the confidence to take on more difficult projects.

Next, I extended a command line tool that helps SignalFx developers launch various services that make everything work on AWS. I recorded users who launch instances on a regular basis. I then followed up with Ram and Mike’s vision of reporting which user is launching what service and what users should or should not be running. I got the opportunity to work with AWS libraries and Slack Bots for notifications about killing instances. While at this I had the opportunity to talk to everyone in engineering and what their AWS instances do. With their help, I managed to help identify nine unused instances which helped us save costs even before the project was deployed. The tool expanded into a service which monitors instances and alerts users or groups that certain instances shouldn’t be running.

I moved on to an even more ambitious project on automated testing, with my biggest task being the testing of the system’s data flow from a client’s point of view. The automated test sends data to SignalFx via three client libraries and fetches that data via SignalFx’s data language SignalFlow at different resolutions to finally compare their results. This end-to-end system testing truly gave me a complete picture of the system and how all the components underlying SignalFx come together.

An interesting perk about working in a smaller startup like SignalFx is the accessibility to everyone in the firm. All the interns got to talk to Karthik, the CEO, and had a candid discussion about why he and his co-founder Phil started SignalFx, how they got funding from some of the top Silicon Valley VCs, and and how they formed their team. Even the Andreessen Horowitz events we attended were very helpful in getting a good picture about Silicon Valley’s startup culture. My most memorable moment was the Q&A event with Ben Horowitz. With this, I was able to check off both my expectations from my summer.

It was quite an experience to work in a growing startup. I am amazed at the backgrounds and experiences of the team at SignalFx. I loved the way everyone collaborated at work. The most surprising thing was how multiple releases to the product were made every week! The sheer speed at which features ship is phenomenal. All in all, my internship was a fun and insightful experience.

"I always wanted to work at a “Silicon Valley” startup and glad I choose SignalFx. The team here is extremely talented and it was quite a learning experience for me."

Nisarg Shah
Nisarg Shah Software Engineering Intern

Culture is reinforced every day by the decisions we make and how we interact with each other. It’s about bringing on people – interns and employees – who share these same values and want to have an impact. If this sounds interesting to you, check out the open opportunities to work with us.

About the authors

Jessica Feng

Jessica works in product marketing at SignalFx. Previously she was at VMware in product marketing and has experience working at start-ups, venture capital and technology investment banking.

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