My Khan Academy Internship, Summer ’15

This summer, I left the friendly confines of Cambridge and journeyed out West to strike it rich intern as a software engineer at Khan Academy. And that’s not quite doing it justice: it was a totally transformative experience.

Salman Khan of Khan Academy
With the awesome Sal Khan, the founder of Khan Academy

Awesome projects

I grew a ton as a software engineer by working with my mentor on such cool projects as:
– Creating SEO’d landing pages for our videos
– Building a feature to send users notification emails whenever their questions on our videos get answered, working closely with a designer
– Tracking down and fixing bugs in our new video player

Wearing a lot of hats

I took on every side project I could so that I could try out a bunch of different roles:
– Data scientist: analyzing data from a donation drive using loads of SQL
– PM: proposing a massive new feature to add flashcards to the website
– Mobile developer: a mobile app to play Khan Academy CS programs
– Game designer: Pokemon Leaf

A steep learning curve

Keep Learning wall at Khan Academy
Just another wall decoration at Khan Academy.

Adjusting to work life after having just barely adapted to college life was a huge challenge. But I learned a ton from it and came away with a couple more key realizations:
– Stay out of rabbit holes. I spent a solid week on this one seemingly-minor feature that grew into a monster. Cut scope aggressively.
– Everyone has a really different background, so sit down and talk to all the stakeholders in a project and understand where they’re coming from.
– 8 hours a day to focus on one thing sounds like a lot, but you have to manage your time effectively, else you still won’t accomplish anything.

Back in Cambridge, I’ve been tackling problems so differently than I used to… and I’m profoundly thankful for that.

I swear I found time to code

San Francisco Giants ticket
From Fenway to AT&T Park… quite a journey.

This was easily one of the most fun summers of my life. I got a chance to:
– Skateboard to work and back every day
– Bike 50 miles to San Francisco
– Ride all the coasters in Great America
– Experience an SF Giants game (their garlic fries are sick)
– See fireworks with interns on the 4th of July
– Make friends at intern mixers at tech companies and VCs

Incredible people, incredible mission

Khan Academy interns at Mozilla
The Khan Academy interns take Mozilla HQ!

What really set Khan Academy apart was the people and the mission. Everyone comes in day in, day out with big dreams to reinvent education and then actually gets to work on it. Sal Khan is nothing short of an inspiration, and a really chill guy to boot.

Published by

Neel Mehta

Harvard College. Web developer. Sometime philosopher. Baseball junkie.

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