What I got out of my internship with Lucid

Ethan Olpin

Reading time: about 7 min

Topics:

  • Career

Before my software engineering internship began at Lucid, I naturally had some concerns about beginning a new job remotely. How am I going to find answers to the questions that I’m sure to have hundreds of? Am I going to find myself floundering in an enigmatic codebase because everyone has something they would rather do than answer my pleas on Slack? How am I going to connect with those on my team when our interactions are limited to fleeting Zoom calls and Slack messages? To my relief, Lucid had cultivated an environment that tackled these concerns in stride.

Even when faced with growth and the challenges of remote work, Lucid continues to offer interns a rich and lasting learning experience. In this post, I’d like to capture the reasons I feel  my internship was so valuable.

Mentorship and learning opportunities

According to the Dreyfus model of skill acquisition, a novice in a certain skill depends on hard and fast rules to play by—context-independent principles that, if they don’t help ensure one’s success, at the least serve to delay overt failure. 

For example, the beginner cook has a recipe offering exact measurements, temperatures, and cooking times. The amateur musician has sheet music dictating notes, tempo, and dynamics. Similarly, a novice engineer relies on documentation, design patterns, best practices, etc. 

Dreyfus model of skill acquisition

As one gains experience in a field, they begin to acquire a holistic understanding that guides them in the gray areas where strict rules start to break down. The expert chef gains a feel for ingredients that need more heat than a recipe dictates. A professional musician knows how to go off the script to play to the mood of the audience. 

But how do such experts even make it past the novice stage? Particularly, what does this path of progression look like for an engineering intern at Lucid?

I entered Lucid this summer with the goal of becoming a better engineer, and I’m happy to say that I feel close to what you might call an “advanced beginner.” In this section, I’d like to explore the aspects of Lucid that I feel gave me a headstart on the path from novice to expert.

Documentation

Engineers at Lucid work hard to maintain rich and dependable documentation that I imagine must be cherished by all newcomers. The varied intentions of a dozen engineers who changed a given piece of the codebase can’t all be garnered in a glance. By documenting common APIs, patterns, and practices, Lucid minimizes instances of this kind of dreaded scenario:

“Hey, what is this code doing?”
“Oh yeah, Nancy would know all about that.”
“Cool, which Nancy?”
“The one that quit two years ago.”

Tech talks

Everybody knows something that you don’t. What better way to improve productivity than to have everyone get together once a week and teach each other about the things they’ve mastered? Even over the short course of my internship with Lucid, there have been several occasions in which I’ve been saved from spinning my wheels on a problem by recalling: “Didn’t someone talk about this in a tech talk?” 

At Lucid, tech talks not only provide great value to the interns and other newcomers but also do a great job of informing even the most seasoned members of the team. 

Front-end and backend courses

Those who are interested are invited to participate in Lucid’s internal front-end and backend courses in which Lucid’s tech stack is discussed in depth. These courses are an effective way for an intern to start mastering the technologies they’ll be using for the rest of their career. Many topics that might be opaque to a beginner are covered at length, such as:

  • Test frameworks and automation
  • Browser developer tools
  • Advanced TypeScript / JavaScript
  • UX tools and practices
  • Design patterns and architecture

Slack culture

Of all the things that sets the Lucid internship experience apart in a time of remote work, its Slack culture is perhaps the most significant. 

One of the major challenges facing those working remotely is the difficulty of asking questions. In the office, resolving  a problem is often as simple as swiveling your chair around and asking the expert two desks down. But what’s the remote-work equivalent to this? Messaging the relevant person, channel, or both, and hoping that someone feels like answering you before the day is out.

Lucid has fostered a culture in which almost everyone not only makes an effort to help each other out but is  actually eager to do so. At Lucid, most queries made to a Slack channel can expect a response in a matter of minutes. With so many experts willing to drop what they’re doing and support those who are stuck, remote work at Lucid is rendered a non-obstacle. The rich discussions seeded by a simple question on Slack comprise some of the most valuable learning experiences my internship had to offer.

Career guidance

Lucid provides its interns not only with opportunities to improve their technical skills, but they can also expect to receive invaluable career guidance. Despite the fact that many interns might see their careers take them elsewhere, they can count on Lucid to invest in their long-term success.

Intern Lecture Series

Over the course of the summer, interns at Lucid have the chance to pose questions directly to top executives and career experts in Lucid’s Intern Lecture Series. These lectures were a great opportunity for me to learn about the skills one needs to prevent stagnation over the course of a  career. Lectures in this series, led by Karl Sun, CEO; Ben Dilts, CTO; Brian Pugh, SVP of engineering; Kat Judd, SVP of people and culture; and several others, covered topics such as:

  • Maintaining a work-life balance
  • Resume, interview, and networking tips
  • Early career advice
  • Entrepreneurship

Networking

Interns at Lucid are also given ample opportunities to connect with their peers during intern activities, meet and greets, and company-wide events such as Lucid Game Night. With the numerous chances to connect with others and the aforementioned Slack culture at Lucid, I’ve had the chance to receive a great deal of advice and guidance that is sure to stick with me through my career.

Ownership of things that matter

When I started at Lucid, I had the chance to jump directly into my first development task on my second day. Of course I had a knowledgeable mentor helping me every step of the way, but having never worked in a commercial codebase before, this caused me some mild fear . 

However, diving right in like this left a meaningful impression. 

It became clear that Lucid holds its interns to a high standard, and in doing so, enables them to take the fast track towards expertise. At Lucid, interns work from the same pool of tickets, on the same projects, as the rest of their team. That is, they work  directly on code that will reach millions of users.

Admittedly, learning that Lucid holds its interns to such a high of a standard left me feeling a little intimidated at first. I asked myself: “In three short months, am I capable of learning enough to be trusted with tickets meant for real engineers?” However, after some thought, it became clear that I wouldn’t like it any other way. Would anyone honestly prefer to spend a summer tucked away, doing grunt work destined to never see the light of day? Would such an internship add any value to one’s career?

My time spent at Lucid has been filled to the brim with learning experiences. In hindsight, it’s clear that many of these resulted directly from the fact that I was given tasks that challenged me. It’s hard to imagine a way in which one could become a “real” engineer without getting the chance to do “real” engineering work first. 

Having recently joined Lucid for a full-time role, I am thrilled by the prospect that I will continue to be challenged in new and exciting ways.

About Lucid

Lucid Software is a pioneer and leader in visual collaboration dedicated to helping teams build the future. With its products—Lucidchart, Lucidspark, and Lucidscale—teams are supported from ideation to execution and are empowered to align around a shared vision, clarify complexity, and collaborate visually, no matter where they are. Lucid is proud to serve top businesses around the world, including customers such as Google, GE, and NBC Universal, and 99% of the Fortune 500. Lucid partners with industry leaders, including Google, Atlassian, and Microsoft. Since its founding, Lucid has received numerous awards for its products, business, and workplace culture. For more information, visit lucid.co.

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