Pulak Mittal works for Facebook. Do you know it?
Name: Pulak Mittal
Major: Computer Science (doing a dual degree with Wharton)
The gig: Software Engineering Intern at Facebook
Street: How’d you score it [the job]?
Pulak Mittal: I asked a friend of mine (Penn CS alumnus) to drop me an internal referral. He did that, and I went through two interviews over the phone with Facebook engineers. The interviews were pretty standard tech interviews; I was given a coding problem or two in each, for which I had to first discuss a solution to the problem with the interviewer, and then type up the code to solve it on a Google doc.
Street: What’s your official position title?
PM: See above.
Street: So, what do actually you do?
PM: I’m working on Facebook’s Android application. More specifically, I’m developing a new feature on the photos/camera part of the Android app.
Street: Have you met Mark?
PM: Yep. It’s pretty cool, actually; our office setup here is that we all work at desks in a large open space. Mark works at one of these desks, just like a regular employee. I pass by his desk a couple of times every day when I’m exiting the building. Most notably, we had a company “Game Day” in June where everyone was divided up into teams and we spent the whole day playing games like Soccer, Ultimate Frisbee, Capture the Flag, and Dodgeball. I got to play ultimate with Mark! That was pretty sweet.
Street: How ‘bout the Winklevii?
PM: Nope. I think they avoid being seen around here
Street: Best perk?
PM: Everything is free. It’s awesome. We get three free meals a day, and there are like these little “micro-kitchens” full of snacks and drinks all around campus. There are showers in my building, as well as toothbrushes and toothpaste in the bathrooms if I decide to sleep here (which happens about once a week). I also got a stipend to purchase a bike, and I get a shipping stipend which I’ll use to ship my bike home.
Street: Biggest downside?
PM: In this size of company, it’s hard to feel like I’m really making a significant impact. Facebook is cool because the stuff I’m working on is going to affect like, hundreds of millions of people, but ultimately it’s just like a feature on one part of one application on the Facebook platform.
Street: How’s that company swag?
PM: Really sweet! I have a Facebook sweatshirt and messenger bag, and I’ve gotten like 7 or 8 tshirts already this summer. I also got a Facebook teddy bear for my girlfriend.
Street: Settle the debate — East coast or West coast?
PM: I’m totally a west coast guy. I worked out in the Bay Area last summer too, and even though I was raised in Texas, California totally feels like home. There’s just so much to enjoy – the relaxed culture here is fantastic, the people are super interesting, the weather is beautiful. And especially if you’re in tech, there’s always so much going on here that I can’t imagine living anywhere else after college.
Street: Tell us about the Hackathon.
PM: This is a tricky question because there were actually a couple of hackathons in the past week. So at Facebook, “hacking” is a huge part of the culture. But not like, malicious hacking — the term “hack” here is more about like, “hacking” at a problem you want to solve, building something which may or may not completely work, but generally gets the job done. That’s like, Facebook in a nutshell: “generally gets the job done,” and much of the website was built as a collection of “hacks” which were later polished up. So we had a company hackathon, in which many of the engineers spent from Wednesday evening to Friday afternoon (taking some time off to sleep Wednesday and Thursday night, mostly at the office), working on hacks, scratching itches they had outside of the part of Facebook they work on day to day.
Facebook has started to try to promote this hacker culture, and been at least partly responsible in the creation of many hackathons held at universities, including PennApps. So this past weekend, Facebook hosted hackathons at their Seattle and New York offices for college students interning in those two cities, which quite a few Penn students went to.
Separately, I went to a different intern hackathon this weekend, hosted by the VC firm Greylock, at the Dropbox offices. Intern hackathons in the Bay Area are especially cool because you get to meet a lot of really smart people, who share common interests as you. And along with the awesome networking aspect, there is always abundant free food and drinks through the day and even the night. The hackathon I went to had a couple of neat snacks: red bull jello shots, and ice cream-waffle sandwiches (see those here). Overall, a super fun experience.