Works and Days



Tableau Software: Justine Wang, Winter Shadow 2016

I headed to Seattle on Saturday the 9th to rendezvous with my host, former classmate, and Shadow contact person, Christina Gremore ’14. Christina had not only made the Shadow possible by petitioning her former boss, but also offered up her apartment for two lucky Reedies to stay for the duration of the Shadow. I was doubly lucky as an old classmate of hers, since she invited me to arrive two days early in order to have dinner and catch up with her before her business trip to Austin. Though we would only reunite for those few hours for the duration of the Shadow, I was reminded exactly how lucky I am to know her. I can only hope that one day in the near future, I will be just as accomplished as Christina in my personal and professional life.

Christina had arranged for us Reedies to Shadow her old department and thereby develop an understanding of the demands and growth potential at an entry-level job. Andrew Barker, Christina’s former boss and a manager in the Product Consulting department, graciously took the three of us Reedies under his wing for the entirety of our time at Tableau. Coming into the Shadow, I honestly didn’t expect too much from the experience. I already knew that I liked the product and believed in the company’s mission, so I was skeptical that I would learn much more from the experience. Andrew and the rest of the employees at Tableau quickly made me eat my words. Throughout my time at Tableau, I was blown away by the generosity, hospitality, and candor of the employees. It was one thing to have done my research on the company and another to be able to speak to people working there about their own career journeys. Andrew and the other employees were happy to talk about their time at Tableau and their experiences transitioning into gainful (or more satisfying) employment.

For the first day of the Shadow we received a general overview of Tableau as a company. Andrew talked about Tableau’s beginnings, its organizational structure, and gave us a tour of the Seattle campus after providing lunch. I found the tour to be one of the highlights of the Shadow since we got to learn more about how the different departments (and the people within them) work together. Taking the American Capitalism Sociology class has really impressed upon me the importance of organizational structures for employee satisfaction, so I was pleased to hear that Tableau is conscious of the potential perils of transitioning from a national business to a global corporation.

Gloopen: Emma Miller, Winter Shadow 2016

This winter, I spent a week working with Arun, Ranjan, two other Reed externs, and one Lafayette extern. Working from 3 continents, 4 time zones, and 5 cities, we met each morning (PT) by video call to try to build a web application through our collected efforts.

Arun and Ranjan are about 6 months into their startup, Gloopen Inc., which is an extremely versatile communication platform. Their guidance helped us simulate a startup experience.

On the first day we thought of our product: a web application that allowed users to comment on and create events on a Google map.  Next we took the idea to the "drawing board” (a.k.a a Gloopad), and fleshed it out with code. This involved programming in HTML, CSS, Javascript, jQuery, and learning how to use MongoDB and Node.js. Our goal was to exemplify what strategies and frameworks real tech companies use to create their products. A big challenge was working under the time constraint imposed by the externship. Building a web application can take months, so we were severely limited by how much we could accomplish. Nonetheless, I feel proud of what we were able to accomplish, and am really glad to have had the opportunity to learn how to design and program collaboratively.

Tableau Software: Ziyuan Zhong, Winter Shadow 2016

Ziyuan Zhong shadowed at Tableau, a software company that helps people visualize, analyze, and share their data.

I went to Seattle on January 10 for my winter shadow, which spanned from Monday to Thursday. This shadow was probably one of the best experiences of my life. I learned how to use Tableau, how to give a presentation using Tableau and data analysis skills, and how to solve real-world problems using what I had learned at Reed.

This shadow consisted of three main parts. First, we shadowed customer technical sales calls. By listening to the conversation between the workers and the customers, I realized the importance of good communication between people, in addition to having mastery of the technical details. This motivates me to grasp every opportunity in the rest of my academic life at Reed, and to practice my oral skills and communication skills.

Lumnicenter Lighting, Brazil: Nate MacFadden, Winter Shadow 2016

In January of 2016 I traveled to Curitiba, Brazil, for a winter shadow at Lumicenter Lighting, an LED lighting company. Immediately after leaving Boston on my plane to Brazil, I felt a mixture and excitement and anxiety: I did not speak Portuguese, had never been to South America, and was going to be doing some challenging engineering. However, as I met my host family I learned that my nerves were for naught. The family I stayed with was warm and inviting. They gave me some of the best home cooking I've had (somehow making healthy food taste really good), and showed me around like I was one of their close friends. They took me to beautiful parks, cities by the coast, drove by the tropical rain forest, went to excellent restaurants, and went go-carting. The most memorable meal for me there was at a churrascaria restaurant. It is a type of all-you-can-eat barbeque with every preparation of beef and pork you could want. I generally graze on food, eating many meals but always small in portions, but here I rarely said no when offered a cut of meat.

Once at the actual company, I was greeted by staff members with whom, once we learned how to get over the language barrier, we immediately started having fun and teasing each other, all while working on a better heating solution for a LED driver. The heat had to be reduced because the higher temperature an electrical component is, the shorter its lifetime. Even if the component is within its safe operating temperature range, being near the top of that range causes the product to break significantly earlier. Many methods were already tested so I had the challenge of coming up with new methods to hopefully be applied either in conjunction with the previous methods or by themselves. The staff made sure to give me feedback on my ideas and helped me every step of the prototyping way. They also knew that nobody could work on an empty stomach, so they introduced me to a snack called Paçoquita which I ended up loving. It was basically crushed nuts and sugar pressed into little cylinders and it was fantastic.

I'm going to miss everything from my trip: the people, the food, the weather, the work... I'll be sure to visit again soon.

Center for Democracy and Technology, Reed Winter Externship Program, Eloise (Anqi) Chen

Anqi (Eloise) Chen, first-year psychology major, spent a week working with Center for Democracy and Technology (CDT) as her Reed’s winter externship program. CDT is a multinational nonprofit organization based in Washington, DC that aims to preserve the user-controlled nature of the Internet and champion freedom of expression.

The externship I took part in was not even listed on the Winter Externship Program page. Paul Alan Levy, an attorney in Washington, DC and also a Reed alumnus redirected me to Erik Stallman, who offered this opportunity. I highly appreciate the fact that they acknowledged my prior experiences in the legal industries back in my hometown Shanghai, China while reviewing my application.

CDT is located at Farragut Square, the center of a bustling business district in Capitol Hill. Like many other employers in D.C., I spent about an hour commuting from Silver Spring, Maryland to work every day. The first day I came to the firm, I was immediately struck by the sense of familiarity: an incredibly dynamic and efficient work environment as I have experienced in a law firm in Shanghai. A major and critical difference was that I would have to communicate out of my mother tongue. Despite the fact that I had done an extensive amount of preparation with the law-related aspects of the U.S., from watching Boston Legal to reading various articles, there were still more professional vocabularies and terms than those I had encountered in my life. You have to love challenges!

A Week With Bulleit Group, Reed Winter Externship, Julia Selker

Julia Selker, senior physics major, spent a week working with Bulleit Group, a tech PR firm based in San Francisco as a participant in Reed’s winter externship program.

When I walked into the Bulleit Group’s office in the Marina district of San Francisco, I didn’t even know how to pronounce the name of the company. It’s the same as “bullet,” by the way. I was a small town physicist in a big city tech PR firm and I was ready for some surprises. In just one week I went from wondering whether people who work in public relations are agents of good or evil to ghostwriting two articles (read theme here: CES Roundup: A Date with Power   and Huffington Post: 5 Simple Swaps That Slim Down Everyday Cooking) and gleefully doing market research. I was sold, so to speak. I signed up for this externship thinking that I would get a sense for what the tech world was like from the outside, and maybe one day I would be manufacturing microchips for one of their clients. I had not considered that I would leave Bulleit wondering if I could take a few years off before grad school to do PR.

After an hour and a half on public transportation from Berkeley, I dove right in. The bus was too slow to get me there in time for a real introduction, so I went straight into a conference call where about 8 people worked quickly and meticulously through an agenda about the PR plans for one of Bulleit’s biggest clients. Then I started working on a summary of the press coverage that the company had received. I have done my share of research--read literally hundreds of articles from jstor or sciencedirect--but rarely did I consult the news. I discovered a new kind of reading on Google news,TechCrunch, Re/code, and Twitter.

Groupon, Reed Winter Externship, Richard Adcock

 Through Reed’s winter externship program, Richard Adcock, junior linguistics major, worked with Groupon, an online commerce marketplace. This post highlights a few of his impressions:

The conference rooms in the Groupon office are called things like "Touch me, I'm sick" and "Hold all my calls." The open floor plan houses more than one standing desk, and there are more Seahawks jerseys than button-ups. Employees in all departments bounce from teleconference to meeting to teleconference, this being the marketing hub for a rapidly growing, multinational corporation.

A given call might be to go over the week's numbers and prep for an internal meeting, but even this level of bureaucracy and internal review is dispatched in minutes, and employees are back to their own projects. This is a common thread I came to appreciate in my short time at Groupon--analytics are collaborative, ongoing, and maximally quick and responsive.

Reed Winter Externship Reflections 14: Number Six, Frontier Data Corp, Sarah Brauner

            It’s 4:30 on a Friday afternoon, and I’m sitting with my chair swiveled to the center of a room in “Silicon Alley”, New York City, in a recap-of-the-week meeting. Very quickly, lists of tasks completed and accounts secured turn into talk of what the next steps are, who the next clients are, and eventually, what the next ideas are. How should we design this particular feature of our app? How will we deal with the millions of people that lack addresses in the traditional sense? What kinds of services will our app be facilitating? Once our product is streamlined, how will the information seekers interact with the information finders? Should we buy up this domain name too, in case we expand the franchise in this direction?

            I don’t know much about the business world, but it’s my understanding that CEOs don’t usually hash out ideas about the fundamental next steps of their company with low-level employees, let alone interns. And yet, here I am, on the last day of my two-week stint as an intern at Frontier Data Corp, not only listening, but actually being asked to participate in a company brainstorm alongside the CEO, CTO, CFO, and other employees who don’t yet have titles with acronyms. Of course, seeing as the company is 6 members strong (myself included) a meeting with only senior staff members might be somewhat lonely—but still, I can’t help but think how rare, how adrenalizing it is to get to play an active role in coloring what is now only the outline of an application with aspirations of becoming as big as TaskRabbit, Uber, maybe even Facebook. I remember reading an article in The New Yorker this summer about the infectiously optimistic attitude that is pervasive in Silicon Valley tech startups, and at the time, I rolled my eyes; it seemed to me unbelievably naïve and arrogant to think that the world’s problems could be solved by a bunch of programmers working in a bubble perhaps thicker than Reed’s.

            Yet here I am, a more-cynical-than-average college student, in a city that is distinctly not warm and fuzzy, unable to shake this feeling of excitement, even hope, at the possibilities for the future. I can feel my future-self cringing.

The Problem of Women in Tech

Michelle Drumm, class of '95, wrote an engaging article on women's involvement (or more accurately, lack of involvement) in technology. Read her article here:

Michelle is the moderator of Women in Tech at Reed's Working Weekend 2014. 

Reed Winter Externship Reflections 14: Number One, Sigenics Inc., Joseph Joe

In the electronics lab, five guys huddle around an oscilloscope, a breadboard, and a computer. Writing code down to the metal, our circuit on the breadboard submitted to all of our orders, as servants to a benevolent king or to a ruthless dictator.

For a week I was an extern at Sigenics, a company that designs and supplies application specific integrated circuits (ASICs). Sigenics has two facilities. The main headquarters is located in Chicago and an additional branch is in Irwindale, California. I worked at the California branch with Douglas Kerns* (parent of Lydia Kerns, '16) one of the founders of Sigenics, Marcus, the senior technician, and fellow externs like me.

ASIC chips have many uses. For example, there are special ASIC chips in bitcoin miners, cellular phones, electronic sensors and timers. Companies and researchers contact Sigenics to make ASICs, or custom electronic parts for them.

Commerce Kitchen, Sofi Wright, Ch 2

PREVIOUSLY on Sofi’s adventures in Denver: Sofi started as an intern at Commerce Kitchen, a web development and marketing company that is actually a group of superheroes. Her task, along with her fellow Reed intern Rebecca, was to research and produce what is known in the industry as “linkbait”—any online content cool enough that people will want to post links to it—a strategy for content marketing and search engine optimization. She was in the midst of creating a linkbait project when we left her last…

Something More Than Your Average Linkbait

Some weeks ago, we had our idea for a linkbait: drink recipes inspired by file format extensions (JPG, TXT, etc.)—it was nerdy and reflected the interests of Commerce Kitchen. We initially wanted to make it an infographic, but after a number of discussions on how best to promote the idea, it evolved from a simple online posting into something much bigger: a multi-week drink-making competition between local start-ups.

Technical Documentation Sigenics, Inc.

Man in front of computers in home office

Aaron at work at Sigenics

Greetings from Sierra Madre, California, where I am currently interning at Sigenics Inc., a company excelling in the creation of custom silicon devices. When I first read the name ‘Sigenics Inc.’, I pretty much expected to find myself working amongst bustling lab-coated technicians scurrying around a clinically clean facility maintained by Wall-E-esqe robots... As it turns out, the Sierra Madre branch of Sigenics Inc. is more low-key—including me, it's a 3 man operation here, stationed in the guest house of my boss, the venerable Douglas Kerns. As far as bosses go, he’s awesome, the atmosphere is always relaxed, perhaps a side effect of working in this beautiful Los Angeles suburb. Doug tells me the Sierra Madre branch formed because he didn’t want to move out to Chicago—where the main facility of Sigenics is located—because the weather in SoCal was too nice to leave. Amen. Even after spending nearly every summer of my life here, I still don’t tire of it. Not long ago a Reed friend asked me, “Aaron, how come you never stay in Portland for summer? It gets so nice.”

“Well,” I replied, “it’s like that in L.A., too, we just call it ‘normal.’”