“I was finally coming to the realization that academia might not be for me”

Post by: Luke M. – Engineering Intern – San Francisco

After three years of working on my dissertation, in my sixth year in the PhD program in the Philosophy Department at UC Berkeley (which I started immediately after completing my BA in the same subject) I was finally coming to the realization that academia might not be for me. Since I enjoyed the occasional computer science class or small programming project, software development seemed as good a backup career as any I might almost qualify for. But how could I expect to get a job writing software if I graduated with a degree in philosophy and no relevant professional experience? Luckily, I had one summer left before I expected to finish my dissertation, and since I was technically just another full-time student at Cal, I was eligible for an internship.

One part of being a graduate student that I still really liked was teaching, and I doubted I would fit in well in a more corporate setting, so when I started looking for internships, I focused my search on small- and medium-sized educational startups. But when I saw Redfin’s ad, I immediately bookmarked it for my list of must-apply companies because it mentioned technologies I had used (so I thought I might stand a better chance of getting an interview) and—more importantly—because it claimed Redfin struck a good balance between the agility, individual responsibility, and fun atmosphere of a smaller startup and the sanity, stability, and work-life balance one typically only finds in more established companies. Having watched friends of mine work at tech companies from early-stage startups to Apple and IBM, I knew the problems one could encounter at either end of this spectrum, and so I knew that striking this balance was important to me.

One of the main reasons I chose to intern at Redfin, then, was that at my in-person interview I was able to see that Redfin really did strike this balance—that Redfin employees really did enjoy the benefits of a startup culture as well as the benefits of working for a company that knew where it was going and how it would get there. And once I started my internship, I saw that Redfin struck the right balance in many other ways as well: between a floorplan that was open enough to allow everyone to socialize and one that was sectioned enough to allow everyone to concentrate on their work; between roles that enabled developers to focus and become an expert on certain features or technologies and roles that enabled developers to work on new and different features, using new and different technologies, so that their work was always interesting; and between a mission that made Redfin enough money that it was able to test new ideas and a mission that involved doing enough to make the world a better place that working at Redfin didn’t require selling one’s soul.

Of course, as I would have at any really good internship, at Redfin I learned a great deal about the many technologies I used, about how writing production code is different from writing code as a student or hobbyist, and about what it’s like to work full-time in an office. I met a lot of wonderful people, and I wrote a lot of code that is now in production. But what set Redfin apart for me—what makes me sure I was right to pick Redfin instead of any of the other cool companies working on interesting problems I could have interned at—is that at Redfin I found out what it was like to work at a company that had figured out how to be a great place to work. At Redfin, I got to see a company that was doing it right, and I now have a high bar against which I can compare any future potential employers.

If you’re interested in reading more posts by our interns, check out the Internships category.