Right Place, Right Time

I met Jane and Vince for the first time in early February. At the time I still had no idea what I would be doing this summer, so I was at a career fair at Berkeley, talking to every recruiter who gave me the time. I hadn’t heard of Redfin before, so I stopped by to chat. I thought it was a novel idea. Real estate online. I hadn’t heard of putting the two together. Jane and Vince showed me the website and I was fairly impressed.

My on-site in the Redfin San Francisco office was in mid March. When I first walked in, I was first greeted by the charming wallpaper of Redfin icons and the slick informational dashboard by the front entrance. As the day went on, I found myself increasingly charmed by the office space itself, from the brightly colored walls, to the red swivel chairs in the beautiful Lombard meeting room, to the Redfin branded umbrellas I was offered as we headed out for lunch in the San Francisco showers. I have this conviction that a working environment is a powerful reflection of the people working there, and I got a great vibe from the Redfin office. Honestly speaking, the feel of the office was a significant deciding factor when I chose to intern at Redfin. It just felt like the right place to be.

So Redfin made a series of good impressions, and I decided to go with them for my internship. Jane and I talked about working on some data mining, machine learning type of project, which was great news for me as well since I was definitely interested in the field. So as my internship kicked off in late May, I settled in for what I expected to be a solid internship, working with some cool people.

I was completely blown away by my internship experience. To be fair, the first couple days were a little slow. But what really sealed the deal for me was the first day of bootcamp. Glenn came out and was his usual self. What really resonated with me though was the mission: reinvent real estate in the customer’s favor. It was refreshing to hear a young tech company describe itself with none of the usual buzzwords. The customer service oriented, mission-driven approach to a tech company is an uncommon one in today’s startup era. I loved hearing the stories too, giving the sense that we’re each part of a bigger narrative. I think I’m a total sucker for this kind of storytelling, but I won’t hesitate to admit being part of Redfin has fundamentally changed my beliefs on a company’s (particularly a startup’s) role in its environment.

As the internship went on, all my first impressions were validated – that Redfin was full of really great people. Another thing I discovered about Redfin – everyone working there was full of character, with their own very unique quirks and backstory. It was a pleasure working and socializing with all of them. On top of the strong company culture, we the interns developed our own culture, with our own ‘secret’ chatroom, intern-only adventures, and endless supply of inside jokes. The work itself was plenty exciting as well. Redfin is still growing, and still trying to do a lot with not that many people. As interns, we each had a chance to make a real impact on the Redfin experience, something that I came to value much more as my internship went on. Hearing the project you’re working on be described as one of the most important pieces of intellectual property for the company moving forward is both simultaneously frightening and thrilling. I’m not sure we could have picked a better summer to be interns.

I’m writing this blog post just after having finished delivering my intern presentation. Probably one of the most important aspects of an internship is how you feel leaving it. There’s so much room left for exploration in my project that I wish I could stay on to continue. And on top of that, it’s going to be hard leaving behind all the terrific people I’ve met along the way, the wonderful office, and the jars of  never-ending snacks. But everything ends eventually. For me, it’s with the satisfaction that I was in the right place at the right time.