Last semester, we interviewed QUEST student Ishaan Parikh (Q28) before he left for the KPCB Design Engineering Fellows program this summer. It’s a very selective program that offers its participants a valuable opportunity to engage with the culture of Silicon Valley. Learn more about his experience below!
What exactly were you doing over the summer?
There were 2 aspects to my summer internship in Silicon Valley. First, was being a software engineer at Indiegogo. I was doing full stack web development for them, working primarily on their back end with some front-end work added in as well.
The other side of my summer was the KPCB experience that I shared with the 79 other fellows. We attended talks led by people like John Doerr (a partner at KPCB) and Mary Meeker (a partner at KPCB) along with other CEOs from the KPCB portfolio companies. Outside of the professional sphere, I was also able to develop close relationships with the people in my cohort. We went paint balling, hiking, sailing, and were able to have fun as a community!
In what ways, do you think you were able to step out of your comfort zone?
In the context of the internship, I had not worked with any of the languages or frameworks to the extent that I did this summer. It was also challenging being thrown into the deep end on my project. My manager switched teams during my summer which left me as the only engineer with experience on the project. This gave me the opportunity to take a leading role and teach the other engineers what I had been doing.
Outside of that, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, I was constantly meeting people, both professional and personally. There were multiple chances to attend talks and take advantage of being in the Valley.
What was something new that you realized after your experience this summer?
Something that struck me this summer was the difference in team dynamics when comparing a work environment to a school. At school, people often end up dividing the work evenly by doing a little bit of everything. There might be implicit roles, but the lines are blurred a bit due to everybody’s ability to contribute to one part or another. This summer, I was in an environment where everyone on the team had assigned roles, and it was important to take control of your own work stream. At times, I had to stop from overextending myself and trying to fill the role of a PM or designer.
How did you feel about the diversity within Silicon Valley in reference to racial, gender, and ideological aspects of the culture?
Silicon Valley is definitely lacking in diversity, but having said that, a lot of companies are introducing diversity initiatives in hopes of turning things around.
Regarding my experience at Indiegogo, I felt that the company was very diverse. One of the founders was a woman, and they had multiple diversity and inclusion groups. My mentor over at the company was a woman who was an insanely talented engineer and taught me a lot over the summer.
The KPCB program was also 50/50 men/women which was really cool since it allowed me to meet a lot of people and learn from them. I noticed that I enjoy myself a lot more when I am surrounded by diverse groups of people and able to learn from them.
Where do you see Silicon Valley moving in the next 5 years in terms of the types of ideas and problems people might be trying to solve?
I want to preface my answer by saying that I don’t feel I know enough to accurately make any judgement on the future of the Valley, but I have seen a trend towards companies that are less flashy, but more impactful.
I met a lot of interesting companies in the KPCB portfolio and one meeting that stuck out to me was Nuna Health. They’re a data company that stores data for Medicare and Medicaid which isn’t flashy work like the things you’d see at Facebook, but it’s just as important.
I hope that in the coming years, we see more companies that are using tech to do something good. I think current grads should be looking out for companies that will provide them with opportunities to make an impact and bring about change in their communities.
After your experience over the summer, what do you believe your next step is going to be?
I love coding! I love the way your mind has to operate when working through questions, and I also love being able to make something that people are going to use. For now, I plan to continue coding while I still can. In the future, I could see myself moving up to more high level stuff, but for right now, I just want to keep coding.