My Never-Ending Internship

With my internship at UnifyID coming to an end, it’s a great time to look back and reflect. While it didn’t go according to plan, I don’t think it could have worked out any better.

My internship started February 2020 at UnifyID’s office in Redwood City, CA. I still remember my first day — meeting the team, setting up my desk, gawking at all of the free snacks and drinks. The first few days set a great precedent; from the get-go, I was treated as a valued and contributing member of the team. I was invited and expected to dive straight into the code and start working on features. Awesome! My first big undertaking was improving our PushAuth API written in Go. In so many ways I was in over my head, but I was learning quicker than I ever had before and was loving it.

It wasn’t long, though, before COVID came and turned everything upside down. Due to shelter-in-place orders we all had to start working from home. Within the span of one day my morning commute went from biking to the office to walking to the other side of my Airbnb room. Certainly not what I had planned for, but not all bad. Thanks to Morgan and her car, I was able to bring home all the gear I needed. UnifyID was very understanding as we adjusted to working from home and after a short amount of time we were all back up to full speed.

Although it seemed impossible at first, a new normal arose. I was still learning as much as ever while I helped to build our developer dashboard written in React. Outside of work, I became fast friends with my Airbnb host and every week looked forward to a quarantine special — yoga with Yuliia.

In a normal year, this would be the end of my internship story. I had planned to continue on to a new internship at Microsoft in the summer. However, I was given the opportunity to defer this internship, so I did. I really liked the team at UnifyID and the work I was doing and didn’t want to leave.

Eventually, it was time for me to leave California and go home to Canada. Three bizarre plane rides later, I was back home. However, Canadian law required that I strictly quarantine myself for two weeks. I wound up living in the family trailer in our backyard. To make sure that I had a good internet connection for work, my family ended up stringing 100 feet of ethernet cable through the house and backyard to wire me in. It was quite the tripping hazard. Despite working from a different country, I continued to grow closer to the team and improve my skills.

At the end of the summer it was time for me to go back to school. I definitely thought this was going to be the end of my internship story… but it wasn’t. Apparently, I just couldn’t kick the UnifyID bug. They offered for me to continue working part time with them and I accepted. Working part time over two school semesters certainly had its challenges. But, it was so rewarding. I got to work on all sorts of cool projects, which, among many others, included building a sample mobile app for one of our SDKs and writing an associated blog post.

Now, more than one year later, it is the end of my internship story. Looking back, it’s funny how the entire experience ended up working out. Thank you to Kelly and Mike for their excellent guidance and for putting up with my million and one questions. Thank you to Alan and Morgan for being there every step of the way with me and pushing all of my changes to prod. Thank you to Connie for helping to organize and administer my internship. Thanks to the rest of the team for all the other ways you made my internship great. UnifyID was a fascinating place to work with amazing people, and I’m grateful for my never-ending internship.

My Best Internship Yet

On the Monday that I started interning, I remember being one of the first couple of people in the office, showing up at 9:30 in the morning. It was a very rare occurrence that would, unfortunately, never happen again. I had a lot of firsts that day. I was an intern for the first time (note the title) and shook a co-worker’s hand for the first time. I ate food from a San Francisco food truck for the first time. I drank soylent for the first time. I promised myself to never drink soylent again for the first time.

Despite being an intern, I had complete control over whatever work I wanted to do, since projects were free to chose from. Most of my time was spent helping develop the iOS SDK and demo app, but I also made contributions to the backend. I learned all those convenient terminal commands that I never bothered to learn in college classes. I learned about docker and microservice architecture and the pain of pulling images. I learned how to write clean, production-level Swift code that is well-tested and well-tested and really well-tested. I even learned, on multiple occasions, how to create retain cycles — which is not a good thing, since they crash the app fairly quickly.

For the most part, UnifyID gave me maximum creative freedom. There was pretty much just one annoying rule — never push changes directly to dmz, our staging branch — but I made sure to break that one a few times. The dmz branch is now push-protected. Special shoutout to Micah for failing to stop me at first.

Just another day in the office

UnifyID does some really cool stuff with machine learning like identifying who you are based on your gait. After being surrounded by smart machine learning engineers and data scientists, I got more into machine learning and worked on a small side project during my free time on weekends (and during a day or two in the office, see “lax and carefree environment”). Gonna have to shamelessly promote it real quick since it’s pretty cool, check it out here.

I’m now way more motivated to take data-oriented classes and pursue research opportunities, something I never seriously thought about before. If I hadn’t interned at UnifyID, where innovative machine learning algorithms are just one git pull away, I doubt I’d be as interested in machine learning as I am now.

I’ll have some awesome memories of my time coding in the office. Feeling like a boss as the CI tests pass with green check marks. Earning Yuliia’s approval as she cautiously merges my branch into her. Shout out to Yuliia for asking me to help out on iOS work during my first week and trusting me with a bunch of responsibilities throughout the summer.

I’ll remember the funny and good moments outside of work too. The late-night dinner conversations with Andres and Pascal. Isaac mixing up Divyansh and Vinay. Chunyu and I throwing some solid insults at Lef in Chinese. (Lef threw some insults back at us in Greek, but I’m sure they weren’t as creative).

I am incredibly grateful for this opportunity to work on cool stuff over the summer; and grateful for all the help the engineers and product managers have given me, and the tips and tricks they’ve taught me. I’m humbled and feel very lucky to have had the opportunity to work in such an intellectual and driven, yet fun-filled, environment.

I’m sad to be leaving, but I’ll make sure to advertise UnifyID loud and proud when I’m back at UCSD — by wearing the extra company t-shirts I’ve surreptitiously accumulated over the summer.

63 Days of Summer at UnifyID

60 hours after I wrapped up my second year at UC Berkeley, I walked into the UnifyID office for my first day as a software engineering intern. I was not sure what to expect, but I definitely did not think that before I left that day, I would have already contributed to the codebase! The decision to work at UnifyID was an easy one. This team was working on technology that I believed was the future of security, using implicit authentication to determine what makes you unique, ultimately eliminating passwords.

Pushing an MR to master, Day 1 done!

Throughout the summer, I worked on various projects ranging from Android development to devOps to server backend work. One project I particularly enjoyed working on was the continuous integration for our Android project. It was interesting to understand how the code that was written was built, tested, and deployed through the pipeline, and how it all tied together with Docker and Amazon Web Services. I had never worked in any of these areas before arriving at UnifyID, but with guidance from my mentor, CEO John Whaley, and the incredible support of the other engineers, I was able to directly contribute to the product. I learned something new every day and noticed my growth as a software engineer as the summer progressed.

As a female engineer, I have always noticed the underrepresentation of women in engineering. I constantly wonder what I can do to lessen this gap? From this experience, I have learned that as long as you are passionate about your work and genuinely care about what you are doing, not much can stand in your way. To all my aspiring engineering peers: be inquisitive, be supportive, and a caring community will form.

Impromptu team outing at a SoMa neighborhood cafe!

The team really makes the office feel like a comfortable and enjoyable space to be in. The whole team is so passionate about their work and willing to take time out of their day to share and explain their projects to me. Everyone comes from such different backgrounds and each person is so interesting to talk to and learn from.

As the summer comes to an end, I would like to thank the team at UnifyID for this wonderful learning experience. Nowhere else would I have been able to discuss ideas, designs, and implementations with such qualified people while working on a groundbreaking solution to such a prolific problem.

Recapping our Summer 2017 Internship Program

This summer we ran our largest internship program yet at UnifyID. We hosted an immensely talented group of 16 interns who joined us for 3 months, and there was never a dull day! While bringing in interns for the summer does create an energetic cadence, fresh viewpoints challenge us to grow as a company too. 12 weeks can feel like both a sprint and marathon, but in start-up days, even the hour can be precious.

Almost all our interns mentioned a desire to contribute to the technology of the future when asked why they chose to work at UnifyID, and we think this is a testament to the quality of our internship program—interns are able to contribute their talents in a meaningful way, whether on our machine learning, software engineering, or product teams.

Our machine learning interns focused on research, under the guidance of Vinay Prabhu. Much of their work has been on figuring out how to integrate new factors into our algorithms or develop datasets of human activity for future use. Three of our paper submissions were accepted to ICML workshops to be held in Sydney this year. This brings the total number of peer reviewed research papers accepted or published by UnifyID in the last few weeks to seven! What is especially exciting is the fact that these were the first peer-reviewed papers for our undergraduate interns in what we hope will be long and fruitful research careers.

Our software engineering interns have been integral in supporting our product sprints, which have been centered around deploying initial versions of our technology to our partners quickly. As one of our interns, Joy, said: “From mobile development to server work to DevOps, I learned an insane amount from this incredible team.”

Our product interns were involved across teams and worked on projects varying from product backlog grooming and retrospectives to beta community management to content marketing to analyst relations to technical recruiting to team building efforts. Having worked across multiple facets of the business, they were able to wear many hats and learn a great deal about product development and operations.

Aside from work, there’s no shortage of events to attend in the Bay Area, from informal ones like Corgi Con or After Dark Thursday Nights at the Exploratorium, to events focused on professional development like Internpalooza or a Q&A with Ben Horowitz of a16z, who provided his advice on how to succeed in the tech world. Our interns were also able to take part in shaping our team culture: designing custom t-shirts, going on team picnics, and participating in interoffice competitions and hackathons.

A serendipitous meet up at Norcal Corgi Con!

Though we are sad to see them go, we know that they all have a bright future ahead of them and are so grateful for the time they were able to spend at our company this summer. Thank you to the Summer 2017 class of UnifyID interns!

  • Mohannad Abu Nassar, senior, MIT, Electrical Engineering and Computer Science
  • Divyansh Agarwal, junior, UC Berkeley, Computer Science and Statistics
  • Michael Chien, sophomore, UC Berkeley, Environmental Economics and Policy
  • Pascal Gendron, 4th year, Université de Sherbrooke, Electrical Engineering
  • Peter Griggs, junior, MIT, Computer Science
  • Aditya Kotak, sophomore, UC Berkeley, Computer Science and Economics
  • Francesca Ledesma, junior, UC Berkeley, Industrial Engineering and Operations Research
  • Nikhil Mehta, senior, Purdue, Computer Science
  • Edgar Minasyan, senior, MIT, Computer Science and Math
  • Vasilis Oikonomou, junior, UC Berkeley, Computer Science and Statistics
  • Joy Tang, junior, UC Berkeley, Computer Science
  • Issac Wang, junior, UC San Diego, Computer Science
  • Eric Zhang, junior, UC San Diego, Computer Engineering

Bay Area feels

Interning At UnifyID

As spring semester at Purdue was ending and college was winding down, many of my friends in the computer science program were getting ready for their summer internships. Most of them were at big name companies, and people already had their mentors and projects assigned. My desire to start a company in the future and make a strong impact during the summer led me down a different path. I decided to intern at a startup, one with less than 10 employees, where I hadn’t heard of the product before I applied for the job. The only thing I knew was that this startup, UnifyID, was working on a technology that I believed was the future and really wanted to be a part of.

The first day I got to the office, I knew that I was definitely in for a great summer. I met my mentor (the CEO), a PhD and Stanford Professor and the head Machine Learning Engineer, a dual PhD from Carnegie Mellon. Rather than having to sit through a long orientation, I was told to look through the codebase and made a contribution on the first day! This trend continued throughout the summer, as I was involved in a lot of the product architecture discussions and everything I did went into production.

Some of the interesting projects I got to work on included creating and managing a Cassandra cluster, working with OpenCV for Facial Recognition, and lots of data collection! I also implemented security protocols, registration/login flow and challenge flows. On the non-technical side, I learned a lot about day-to-day company operations, investor relations, hiring teammates, product design, the road to TechCrunch Disrupt Runner-up, and the importance of building great company culture.

Photo by Oren Haskins

The culture at UnifyID is brimming with hard-working, qualified, and interesting people. Everyone understands the startup grind, truly believes in the product, and knows that hard work is the only thing stopping UnifyID from becoming a huge success. Daily news reaffirms how terrible passwords are, and there is a really good chance that they will be replaced, the question is–who is going to build the best solution to do this? After my experience, I am very confident that the team at UnifyID is the right one to solve the problem.

Overall, my decision to work at UnifyID turned out to be an excellent one. I liked it so much that I still work part-time, during college. No where else would I have gotten to work on changing the future of authentication, to sit right next to the COO, or to work directly under a Stanford professor as an undergraduate intern. I also wouldn’t have been able to have discussions with so many highly qualified engineers about state of the art security or machine learning, and then proceed to implement them.

We are hiring and located a few steps away from the ballpark in SoMa, San Francisco!