Spring semester at universities worldwide proved difficult this year, with the spread of COVID-19 forcing professors and students to shelter in place and shift abruptly to online learning. Although some welcomed working from home, others found the transition difficult.
The shift to remote work also raised questions for students accepted to participate in the Equinix internship program. Would the internship go forward? If so, how would interns get to know their manager, team and fellow interns and work together effectively from a distance?
With our focus on enabling digital business around the globe, Equinix was more than ready to help our remote workers, including interns, meet the challenges. Our University Relations team provided interns with the tools and equipment they would need for a successful summer internship at locations worldwide.
According to Yun Freund, Senior Vice President, Platform Architecture and Engineering, “Interns are the future of our workforce. The interns not only bring in a fresh perspective on the advanced technologies from named universities, but also we as a company can share with them the important skills they need to thrive in their future workplace. Not only can these young and talented interns make an impact and drive real-world outcomes for Equinix, they are also the future of our workplace.”
We recently spoke with three interns who joined Equinix remotely this summer from their homes across the globe to work in product engineering and product management.
Feeding a desire to learn
You’ll have to lace up your running shoes if you plan to keep up with Tarunam Mahajan. After completing undergraduate studies in India, she spent three years as a network engineer for a mobility provider, meeting one-on-one with field engineers from a major telecom operator at locations in the Chicago area. Together they integrated the telecom’s hardware at each location with the mobility software and optimized the network so that the parts worked together efficiently.
Now 26 and a graduate student in engineering management at Duke University, she brought her self-starter spirit to Equinix. “Product engineering is a domain that requires a lot of understanding of technologies and of how a product is built,” she said, speaking from her Santa Clara dining table, a microwave beeping nearby. “I always want to learn more. And there’s a lot to learn here.”
Working over Zoom, email and Microsoft Teams with manager Suraj Dasika, Director, Product Software Architecture and Engineering, Tarunam began her internship in May. Her primary project was helping colleagues on three teams plan and visualize their processes, streamline their work and establish a monthly release cadence for Equinix SmartKey®.
This global secure key management and cryptography service is the first Software as a Service (SaaS) product from Equinix, said Tarunam. “SaaS is different than colocation, and it’s opening us up to new opportunities.”
She met regularly over Zoom with the teams working on the project, including the network operations team, the documentation team and the Fortanix partner team—15 people all told—to track each element of proposed software updates and each team’s progress against targets. “It’s a unique framework,” she said, and she loved all the collaboration.
Tarunam gave this advice for a successful internship: “Overcommunicating is the key: ‘I did this, I am now moving to this.’ Or I just talked and let my manager and mentor know what I was engaged with. They’ve been super supportive and provided me with open space to ask as many questions as possible.”
Gaining confidence to work on large projects
“Before I started this internship,” said Zachary Cooper, speaking from the kitchen table in his Tempe, Arizona, apartment, “I had only a very general idea of what it would mean to be at Equinix. But it’s been something I could not even have dreamed of.”
He chose computer science at Arizona State University because the field constantly changes: “It’s never going to get stale. It’s never going to be the same work.” The 21-year-old said his Equinix internship has given him the confidence to take the building blocks he learned in classes and apply them to real-world projects.
Since joining the Sunnyvale product engineering team remotely in late May, he’s participated in several projects. Working with Sudhanva Gnaneshwar, Senior Manager, Product Software Architecture and Engineering, Zachary began with a data analytics project, studying port utilization for customers.
Unsure how to get started, the intern learned by asking “a million annoying questions” of his manager, mentor and colleagues. He also provided regular feedback about challenges he was facing or things he didn’t quite understand. “If you have questions about the UX or the back end, people will just talk with you.”
He’s learned that a project “starts with a big monolithic idea, and you break it down into pieces.” Zachary is now working on microservices development, developing RESTful APIs for Equinix Cloud Exchange Fabric® (ECX Fabric®), which interconnects data center locations on demand via software-defined interconnection.
He explained, “Two weeks ago, I couldn’t even imagine working on this latest project. But I understand how to do this now, and I could do this on my own. Deep down all I needed to do was to throw myself at it. And I’m learning so much.”
Zachary is particularly pleased that the Equinix projects he’s worked on will continue to be useful even after he’s gone back to school. “I feel like I matter,” he said.
Helping to connect customers
“Initially when I started,” said 21-year-old product engineering intern Vivian Lee, seated in the living room of her parents’ Singapore apartment, “I wasn’t sure what I would be doing. I knew I would be doing testing, but I didn’t know what I would be using.” Already familiar with C++, C and Java programming, Vivian joined the Equinix customer apps team in the Singapore Global Development Center (GDC) in May, working entirely from home. Mohit Mathur, Senior Manager, Product Software Architecture and Engineering, and her other colleagues welcomed her warmly, if remotely, from homes in the area.
Daily meetings quickly helped her get oriented. “If I have any questions, I just ask. We use Microsoft Teams for meetings and the voice app for phone calls. For questions, I just message them.” She describes her colleagues as “really nice and friendly. People reply really quickly anytime I ask them something.”
Vivian’s main project has been writing reliability testing code for the Equinix Customer Portal (ECP) app, where customers can place orders, get reports and manage their interconnections. “It’s already on mobile for iOS and Android,” she said, “but the team wanted to rewrite the whole app using a new language, Flutter, writing one code base that would work for both platforms.”
Testing app reliability is crucial, helping the company deliver a solution that works consistently and lets users get things done efficiently. Vivian credits her manager and colleagues for their support: “When I realize something is wrong, I just ask one of the team members and he will guide me.”
She found learning Flutter easy because it uses Dart, a programming language similar to C++ and Java: “It has similar syntax and supports object-oriented programming. That helps to structure the whole project. It was like I saw something familiar, and it was actually quite nice—I could apply something I learned in school to what I do in my internship.”
Vivian looks forward to continuing her internship for several more months, perhaps extending her code into another app. She’ll continue her university studies online during the pandemic, and hopes to be working happily in software engineering once she graduates.
Social and connected across the company
The interns within the product organization met weekly in smaller groups to talk about their projects. Interns who wrote code for products worked closely with their manager and product team to learn best practices, review API standards and gain access to documentation, with code reviews in scrum calls over Zoom or Teams.
Support for this summer’s interns included a weekly Zoom meeting led by the University Relations team. Interns could talk about how they were doing and what they needed help with.
They also met remotely for career-building webinars, such as resume writing and use of social media for professionals; lunch-and-learn events with guest speakers like President and CEO Charles Meyers and CFO Keith Taylor; virtual coffee breaks and happy hours; and team games with prizes, such as an Equinix trivia competition.
“The University Relations team really made the effort,” said Zachary Cooper. “They’ve worked hard to make this program really great.”
The original article was published here.