Saturday August 15th

My Summer of Two Fellowships

This summer, I participated in Two Fellowships

  • I was fortunate enough to be accepted both to Code2040 (which I was able to secure an internship for and officially become a fellow in November of last year).
  • I then got wind of another fellowship called the TechX and Social Impact Fellowship and knew I wanted to apply. Fortunately for me, I got into both!

Code 2040 Process

  • Last summer, while I was interning in San Francisco, I would come into the office to work as it was quiet then, and there was internet there (side note: I landed a beautiful space in Russian Hill last summer, but I couldn’t get the internet to be consistent until closer to the end of summer, and office access made it easier to just pop by work to get everything done. Oh yeah, and there was that time all the power went out in my area and people just opened their windows. Fun times in SF haha!)
  • Code 2040’s process is one application (which includes formatting your resume in JSON and writing an essay), a coding challenge which you have to get all test cases to pass to submit, then an interview, and then once you are selected, you are filtered into the smaller pool (usually around 300 people out of the initial 1600) and given access to the portal with companies. They interview you as a Finalist and if you are able to secure an offer before the end of April, you are officially a Fellow.
  • There was a small bug in the system and I was worried that even though I had passed all the test cases that I would not be able to submit my application in time, so I used two emails to see if the error was on my end. So I actually ended up being interviewed by two people, one of whom was a senior engineer at Quora and immediately hit it off with me, and we ended up meeting just before at Quora’s Open House. He has become very much a mentor for me.
  • But back to the interviewing from Finalist to Fellow: I had just interviewed with a company two days before when I received an offer from the company I (virtually) spent the summer with. Interestingly, it was supposed to be an hour long interview, but I was in the Computer Science building and apparently there was a dance show that was about to happen that would drown both myself and the interviewers out randomly that evening, and we had pretty much fallen in love with each other upon meeting.
  • In terms of advice, I would say that it varies; different companies in the portal are looking for different things. You are allowed to send a message to companies you are interested in, so that if they are interested in you, as well, they might determine it’s a mutual match, but this is not guaranteed. I definitely sent out four messages and heard back from one or two of those companies and didn’t hear back from others. Each company is looking to hire a certain number of interns, also. So you are not just looking to obtain an internship with a company you might like before the end of April, but you are also trying to get one of those spots, because once it is filled, the company is closed for hiring. There are only 80 Fellow spots total, so remembering that there are close to 300 of us, you want to get one of those 80 spots or you can’t advance to be a Fellow. And everyone in the group is stellar.
  • They definitely do not lower the bar, either. It is possible that a company reaches out to several Finalists, conducts their own set of technical interviews and non-technical interviews to hire one of us, but they don’t find a fit and just don’t place anyone. That’s rare, but it could happen and I definitely saw some companies take a lot longer to close / find an intern than others. Once you get to the Finalist stage, you’re essentially interviewing with each company, however they would like to pursue the process (whether that means 2 more rounds and on onsite, etc).
  • This year, because of Covid, they opened up the Fellowship after April to other persons who had secured non-Code 2040 companies, which was really great, because there was a lot of uncertainty by students everywhere (not just at Code 2040) as to whether they would be able to land internships. I will say that if you are able to get to the Finalist or Fellow stage of Code, you are highly competitive. All of the students I spoke with over the summer who were Finalists and Fellows were extremely qualified, top-notch, super talented and have an incredibly bright future. Some were not able to secure Fellowships with the portal companies, but they went off to work for FAANG and other such companies anyways, which worked out for all of us in the end because we were able to give referrals to each other at the end of our internships. Pretty great group!

Code 2040 Fellow

  • As a Code 2040 Fellow, you are paired with a mentor. In my case, they paired me with a PhD graduate who is a successful co-founder. Needless to say, I spent a lot of my summer asking him business questions and about managing a business and people and about IP. We also had a social where I got to meet other mentors and mentees and we played online games together, and I won a game of Geoguesser, even though my mentor had set the places up (he came in 2nd). He was super proud of me, though! :)
  • During the week, we would have readings, assignments (optional this year) and spoke about advocacy in tech, the history of tech and social impact in tech. We spoke about things like financial planning, gentrification, disaster capitalism, and other important issues. I got a lot out of these sessions. We also got to demo some new beta tech that was pretty awesome. I can’t go into too much detail on these sessions, because they were very personal, and they ensured it was a space where we could both be vulnerable and find a source of strength in each other. I enjoyed it a lot!
  • In terms of the internship, they gave me a really great, competitive offer, a project I enjoyed working on, and we had regular Check-ins with the Code 2040 point of contact within the company. They did a really great job at supporting us, and I enjoyed my time at my host company this summer.
  • I had a check-in with two managers (one of them was the main manager), and both were incredibly kind and helpful. I was also paired with two “buddies”; both of whom had been interns last summer and secured full-time offers the following summer. One was also a past Code 2040 Fellow, too!
  • I was able to give five presentations; one for another office, one for the organization and three for my team this summer. I definitely got used to timing, rehearsing and giving presentations about my work! The company also has a very strong ERG presence and is part of the Hidden Genius project, which I enjoyed learning about (it is also based out of Oakland). I also reconnected with a friend who runs PCB workshops in San Francisco; the same one who I used to take the Greyhound bus many years ago for 8 to 13 hours to take the classes of. Talk about full circle! Now I was interning at the same company, when many years ago I could only dream of spending the day there, learning and making. We met up and he told me when I was next in SF post-Covid, we could definitely take some time to chat. So that was really great.
  • My time during the Code 2040 Fellowship very much influenced my deciding to work on a project I’m working on, and I’m really thankful that especially this year, I participated in Code 2040.

Tech X Social Impact Fellowship aka Harvard Franklin Fellowship Process

  • On to my next Fellowship! I applied via a form, and was narrowed down to a second round with another application and information to fill out (essay-type). I thought that there was no way I would get a spot (they only choose about 12 to 15 of us), but I was notified that I made it to the third round, which was a group interview. We were assigned some articles to read and during our group interview, participated in a discussion about it. I read the articles from cover to cover and even did further research, thinking that even if I didn’t get in, I would give it my best shot.
  • I received a phone call from one of the organizers congratulating me and telling me that I had gotten a spot. I was super super excited! I had a lot of fun during this Fellowship! Everyone is incredibly spontaneous, has a wealth of information, and a lot of knowledge. It’s a group of very mission-driven individuals who are really impacting the Tech and Social Impact space, and I have no doubt that every single one of the persons chosen will go on to have an incredibly successful career. I feel incredibly lucky to have been chosen.

Tech X Social Impact Fellowship aka Harvard Franklin Fellowship

  • Fortunately, I was informed that I was one of the 12 or 15 out of 128 initial applicants to be selected! The actual Fellowship was also very memorable! They did a really great job of helping the group bond and you really do become friends fairly quickly.
  • Note: everyone in that group is exceptional. Once again, I was in a group where it was super intimidating because everyone is so ambitious, driven and basically a superstar. Many persons in the group have run a startup, or are running a startup, and have incredible leadership skills. Every week, a speaker is brought in who is running a company, and we have discussions with them. The companies they run are varied, and it truly is a world-expanding experience. It gave me a lot to chew on. All of the speakers are chosen not only because they are super passionate and high achievers, but also because they are doing something disruptive and interesting in the Tech and Social Impact space. The speakers all had very different backgrouds, which was fascinating. They all had incredibly innovative solutions to problems.
  • On top of that, we had weekly activities, such as virtual yoga, Skribbl and persons gave lightning talks.
  • Again, I was in a group with exceptional individuals who were vulnerable about their lives, their accomplishments and their future goals. These individuals are incredibly resilient, and I feel super grateful to have been a part of this cohort.
  • You are asked to write an article (I’m a slacker and I am working on mine) based on a speaker; unfortunately the speaker another fellow and myself presented on asked to be off the record, so I am still chewing on which speaker I should write on, but I have a bit of an idea.
  • This Fellowship was also incredibly important to me because I realized that in my school, we focus a lot on obtaining jobs, but that isn’t necessarily the case in other schools. In particular, this group is very focused on building something they are passionate about, being a part of something they are passionate about. And that sort of attitude drives you to think about things a lot differently than if you were perhaps just focused on obtaining a job after college.
  • We are also encouraged to meet with two Fellows a week, which I’ve been keeping up on (though it’s sometimes rough because of my schedule; however, you quickly realize that with this group, everyone is incredibly busy, because they are very motivated and basically superstars so some have engagements with press, running a company, speaking, etc). I am reminded of one conversation I had where one individual told me that they knew that seeing and getting used to the comforts of a big company too early might be a hindrance on chasing the risk of doing your own thing. I relate to that a lot, as I feel this way about grad school. If I had not gone go grad school, I may have chased a more comfortable tech job, but I don’t feel that at the moment, that that’s a priority for me. Since I have lived in the US, I have experienced frequent instability and ups and downs, so I don’t expect comfort. And that, as it turns out, is a great skill to have as both a leader and someone who is trying to do their own thing. You learn to be uncomfortable and take risks and learn from failure.

    In conclusion

  • I’m really thankful I took the time to participate in both fellowships. I grew incredibly and it really opened my mind to seeing the world in differnt ways and in challenging my world view.
  • I also took part in the Lighthouse3 Externship, which was an AI Ethics Mentorship programme, which was also quite wonderful! I’m still very much friends with my mentor, and although it was just supposed to be for four weeks, time just flew by and our conversations were so easy and fluid.
  • I also took a class via SFPC which also challenged me, as it was an interdisciplinary opportunity to join a reading and critical group where we had deep conversations about various topics tied to Technology and people. So that was also incredibly valuable and I made many new friends in that group, too!
  • I also am jointly mentoring a student with a non-traditional background who is incredibly talented and I think not just going to be an awesome engineer, but one with fantastic leadership ability. You should seriously hire her!
  • I also worked on two research projects over summer with my advisor, which thinking back is INSANE. What was I even thinking!? One of them resulted in an acceptance to a poster session I’ll be presenting this week as first author! (Hooray!)
  • I also took a few online classes this summer; one on British Imperalism and another on Data Laws and AI (which focused on GDPR, etc).
  • I also volunteered in at least three major conferences (actually: ICLR, ICML, ICFP, ACL, EC2020), including co-organizing a social and a fireside chat.
  • I reviewed applications for a lot of things, including proposals and backlog for an organization that is near and dear to my heart.
  • Oh, and I did some podcasts, interviews, spoke and moderated at some conferences / events.
  • Finally, I’m taking part in a project that is longer-term and involves a group of people from the West Coast. I just started recently, but it’s been a blast. It’s an impactful project that I was able to segue directly into from completing the Code 2040 Fellowship, and that excited at least one of the organizers when I mentioned it. Oh, and for all the Fellowships and programmes I mentioned, once you’re involved, you are a part of that organization for life, and it’s wonderful!
  • So if you’re thinking of applying to any of the programmes I mentioned, I would highly recommend all! And once you’ve completed them, especially if it influenced you in some meaningful way, don’t forget to give back! :)

Three days before school starts back

  • I am definitely going to take off! It’s been a lot, but it’s also been incredibly worthwhile! What a summer!

That’s it for now

Written on August 15, 2020