Light on, Fight on: The program that turns interns into engineers in 6 months

It was January 2017 and things were getting hectic in our Tech-HQ in Bangalore. New year, new initiatives. Multiple of them were underway and we had just launched our first official internship program. Meanwhile, at BITS Pilani University, Shantanu Srivastava, a student in his final year of engineering, was in the process of making a big decision: choosing the company where he would do an internship during the last 6 months of his studies. Shantanu would have to choose between many options, two of which being startups in highly dynamic environments and another being a big corporation where most processes were already set up and running smoothly.


At this stage, college students often find themselves doubtful about what is expected from them in the workplace and which challenges they would encounter. Sometimes, even after completing years of engineering College, they would not know which area to focus on. And while some students look at internships as just another step that they need to take in order to get a job, Shantanu wanted to use this opportunity as a time to learn, practice and improve his skill set.


“During my college years at BITS Pilani I became very interested in two things: big data and startups, as both offer rapid growth opportunities and a steep learning career. Zeotap offered me a great opportunity to experience both  during its internship program” – Shantanu Srivastava


Since last year, zeotap has been hosting a biannual internship program in collaboration with BITS Pilani and VIT – two of the Top 10 Universities in India. The program starts in January and July every year accordingly, lasts 5 to 6 months and is particularly designed for 4th year engineering students who, like Shantanu, want to join a startup and are ready for a real big data challenge. The application process is fully taken care of by the respective College based on the company requirements, students’ grades and preferences.


“I think I was very lucky to get my “dream” internship with Zeotap as it is one of the best places to get your hands on a real big data infrastructure. I joined the comparably small data engineering team and had the best mentors to coach me and help me adapt to the fast-paced work environment. In other companies from my experience, it takes weeks or even months until an intern is allowed to work on real projects and often they do not use top-notch technology as they are assigned to maintain or rework legacy code”  


Once Shantanu started his internship at zeotap, he undertook a rigorous two-week onboarding which gave the new joinee exposure to the technologies being used by the company. Some of the sessions hosted included Java, Scala, Go, Maven, Advanced Linux, Play, Django and NoSQL along with assignments which were lead by the experts within the organization. After the onboarding was completed, he went through an assessment center which, together with his preferences, was used to decide which team he would end up joining. Shantanu was then immediately involved in real projects and became part of the sprint planning.


“The internship was overall very challenging. My first project was about the migration of the entire company’s infrastructure into a different cloud server provider, from SoftLayer to AWS. During this activity I got to work on Hive querying, Oozie for scheduling Hadoop jobs, Python scripts for automation and gained a great understanding of the AWS and Hadoop Ecosystems. After that, I started to work on developing the company’s core data platform, zeoCore. This project really helped me to put the software development skills I had learnt during College to work and further improve them using industry best practices. I also got a chance to get down into the weeds and get my hands dirty with various technologies  such as Scala, Spark, Hive, PostgreSQL, DynamoDB.


The internship program is designed to not only give the interns the first workplace insights but also to offer them the opportunity to build something and have a real impact in the development of the company.  However Shantanu´s experience was not all about work: the daily team lunches – free food and snacks, the evening table tennis games and the intense foosball matches at the office helped maintain the right work fun balance.


“The best part for me was to see how those products developed, even after my internship, and seeing how my contribution made an impact. Another highlight was the Global All Hands meeting in Berlin where I got a chance to meet my colleagues from all over the world. I never thought that even interns would have the opportunity to attend such an event in Germany. And when my internship was about to come to an end I got an offer to join as a full time employee of Zeotap. That was the icing on the top of the cake”!


After the internship, Shantanu joined Zeotap as a full-time software engineer and almost a year and a half later, he is still a core part of the Data Engineering team. These days he focuses mainly on building our Segment Library that exports 1 Billion profiles to create different targeting segments for our advertising clients on a daily basis. Lastly, also his tech stack skills have widened and comprise but are not limited to Scala, Spark, Big data, Paraquet, ORC, AVRO, Hadoop, Kafka and Tranquility.


“The freedom to explore things, the learning experience, the amazing startup culture and the awesome colleagues are the biggest factors which led  me to choose Zeotap as a starting point in my professional life. I was pretty sure that I would have missed out on a lot of cool things if I didn’t join Zeotap and that’s when I decided to turn down an offer from a tech giant and carry on with the startup life. One of the great aspects of working as an intern here is that you are treated on par with a full-time employee. You get to be the owner of the modules you are working on and you get to decide how to tackle things.All this makes the transition from an intern to a full-time employee very smooth with almost zero change in your daily work life. They make it seem so easy, but after 6 months and all the trainings – one has really arrived.” 

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