Meet the Team

Meet the Interns: Part 2

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Written by Anne Dreshfield

Last week, you met 6 of our summer interns. This week, meet the other 6 design, engineering, and product interns and hear their stories.

Aaron Brown

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Studying: Computer Science @ Stanford University 2016
Special Talent: Welding (I made the bench I’m sitting on!)
Mentor: Kevin Liu

Project: Over the course of the summer, I’ve been working on a variety of projects, ranging from squashing bugs for our city platform to performing a consistency audit of our website’s styles and assets. In preparation for Refine Week, a week for the company to refine our product’s features, I took the learnings from the consistency audit to create a style guide as a resource for projects. I’ve also spent some time working on both front-end and design for the Recommendations team, and I’m now designing and coding pages for Nextdoor’s open source projects.

What I Learned: I think the biggest thing I learned was how to be flexible and adapt to work at a startup. No two weeks have been the same for me, and I’ve spent some days fishing through the code base to fix consistency problems and others working with other designers to examine and iterate on a new released feature.

Favorite Memory: Late one Friday afternoon, I challenged Paco Viñoly, our VP of Design, to redesign the new employee welcome sign for a new designer starting the following week. We went head-to-head in a design sprint of sorts that ended up being a lot of fun. It was great to see our divergent ideas come together and to be able to joke around with him and the other designers spectating.

Ben Springwater

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Studying: Stanford Graduate School of Business
Special Talent: Moonwalking
Mentor: Paul Howe

Project: As a PM on the Recommendations team, I was lucky to operate on multiple levels of resolution: the 20,000 foot strategic level, the 5,000 foot feature-set level, and the ground-level of UI treatments, analytics, and user testing…all in a short summer!The Recommendations team has been hard at work structuring the experience of finding and giving local recommendations, an activity that by default happens organically through the newsfeed. Structuring recommendations is a particularly important initiative, not only because it makes it easier for Nextdoor members to find neighbor-recommended businesses, but because it lays the groundwork for two-way communication between members and local entities like plumbers, restaurants, churches, and schools — the foundation of a true local graph.This summer I researched monetization models and how they might be incorporated into Nextdoor’s product in a way that is accretive to the member experience; I contributed to the ongoing refinement of elements like the entity page, search results, and category taxonomy; and I assumed primary responsibility for the business tagging feature, the first version of which just shipped.

What I Learned: As a novice product manager, I was fortunate to learn from some particularly talented and experienced product folks (most especially my mentor/manager Paul) and work with a first-class engineering and design team. I learned the principles of agile development (including implementation of the kanban system), how to conduct virtual user-testing, how a retro meeting works, and how to contribute to a design sprint. Equally importantly, I had the chance to observe how a highly effective technology company is run — with transparency, a commitment to first principles, and a culture of continuous learning and improvement.

Favorite Memory: Discovering that Prakash (co-founder & CTO) and Aaron (21-year-old intern) were both independently partying with the Warriors at Temple Nightclub following the finals victory. That was week 1 of my summer. That’s when I knew Nextdoor was the real deal.

Denise Szeto

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Studying: Computer Science @ UC Berkeley 2016
Special Talent: Reciting the greek alphabet in under five seconds
Mentor: Kip Kaehler

Project: I wanted to focus on web development for the summer and so my projects mainly revolved around building features. Throughout the summer, I worked on several features including a neighborhood map, photo comment reply, and an address suggestion tool that allows users to suggest new residences for approval. These projects were mostly front end based and were written with the underscore.js library and the backbone.js framework, which helped to clearly separate the model and views for the pages into different files. My last project, the address suggestion tool, was a full stack project. It involved creating a new migration and table in our geospatial database, an API for the data involving user suggested residences, and client rendered templates for both the view of the users and our customer support team.

What I Learned: Project by project, I became familiar with the entire stack from querying and understanding databases, to creating APIs, to creating the web pages and user interfaces. I also learned how a project idea is put in motion, as the idea is refined between several people before an MVP of the feature is built, polished and then launched into production behind a feature configuration. On a non-technical scale, I got my first glimpse of a team’s scrum methodology and a tech company structure and culture by working alongside the self-motivated individuals of my team.

Favorite Memory: The product manager on our team got married in July, and while he was on his honeymoon, our team brought in a giant purple monkey in a Warriors shirt as his replacement. For those two weeks, we referred to the monkey as our product manager, made some awesome puns, and even brought it to our team offsite to Napa.

Eric Birdsall

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Studying: Computer Science @ Stanford University 2016
Special Talent: Juggling
Mentor: Steve Mostovoy

Project: I am interning on the backend and infrastructure engineering team. This summer I’m designing and implementing a new data pipeline to log events in our systems using Apache Flume and Elasticsearch. I also created an internal tool for content management on the About Us page to streamline changes.

What I Learned: I learned how to evaluate technology for specific use-cases at Nextdoor. Doing so not only requires full knowledge of our current technical requirements for a proposed system, but also how we might expand this infrastructure to encompass new use-cases in the future. This critical thinking greatly improved my understanding of technology behind the Nextdoor stack – from Flume to AWS services.

Favorite Memory: The other interns and I were given the opportunity to have lunch with each of the Nextdoor founders. I really enjoyed learning about how Nirav, Prakash, and Sarah’s experiences shaped their involvement with Nextdoor and their views on the tech industry. This experience was invaluable for understanding the motivations that drive company development at Nextdoor.

Katya Stavisky

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Studying: Mechanical Engineering, M.S. @ Stanford University 2017
Special Talent: Disturbing hand contortions
Mentor: Cliff Williams

Project: I’ve worked primarily on two teams here at Nextdoor: one is secret, and the other is the Recommendations team. For the secret team, I worked on a new onboarding flow for the new feature. This turned into a cross-platform design challenge that is about to ship. On the Recommendations team I worked on the modal web flow for recommending an existing business and adding a new business from a category page.

What I Learned: What has stood out to me most here at Nextdoor is the speed with which we ship features. We push MVP products that we know are not perfect with the goal of learning very specific lessons from each release. As a pixel-focused designer, it was at first hard to let go of the perfectionism I harbor toward each of my designs. The data we collect and experiments we run with each release is, however, invaluable and I’ve come to believe the best way to learn what works.

Favorite Memory: My very first Friday at Nextdoor the ‘secret’ team went to Napa to celebrate the soft-launch of our feature. I’ve never gotten to know a group of people so quickly or so hilariously.

Sid Dange

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Studying: Computer Science @ UC Berkeley 2017
Special Talent: Raising one eyebrow at a time
Mentor: Sophie Zhou

Project: As an iOS developer, I’m fascinated by the underlying constructs of the application and the language from which it is built.Calculating metrics has always been a key part of every mobile feature. To help streamline this, I implemented the process of client-side event tracking (user instrumentation) by swizzling through certain UIControl event flows, dynamic delegate-swapping for certain protocols (UITableView, UIAlertController, etc), and adding associative objects to allow developers to hook data to the logs. This effectively implemented the “measure everything” philosophy that also ensured no effort for developers to implement tracking in their features.My interest in the runtime characteristic of Objective-C also sparked a curiosity in the application build process. As the Nextdoor application grew larger, it became harder to enforce certain design patterns/code architectures. To support this, I converted all of the existing static libraries to dynamic frameworks and removed the model layer of the application into its own dynamic framework, allowing modularity as well.

What I Learned: The user instrumentation project heavily utilized the dynamic nature of Objective-C. Through this I learned to harness the powers of dynamic dispatching and how it can make broad changes to the software that it runs in conjunction with – in this case, user instrumentation.By dealing with dynamic frameworks, I learned a great deal about the iOS application build process. From how different types of dependencies are integrated into a resulting binary, to how xCode (the IDE for iOS development) manages and builds its projects step-by-step under the hood.

Favorite Memory: The off-site trip to a ropes course that my mentor organized for the mobile team was pretty fun! I’ve never seen my coworkers in such a hilarious setting. Find me at siddhantdange@berkeley.edu!

Thanks to all of our interns and their mentors for a productive, inspiring, and fun-filled summer!

1 Comment

  • Y’all having so much fun over there, I am jealous just reading about your interns experience. This is what people should write about going through college. What a lovely culture you’ve cultivated. Keep at it. Let me know when launch you IPO. All the best.

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