How I Spent My Summer
October 12, 2006
This last summer, I was an intern Program Manager at Microsoft, working down at their Silicon Valley Campus with the PowerPoint/OfficeArt team. It was a series of firsts – first time with my own apartment, having to fend entirely for myself in terms of cooking, first internship, and my first summer in California (I went home to Brazil last year). I didn’t know what to expect, but I was extremely excited – and the summer did not disappoint.
For a run-down of what I worked on, check out the PPT/OArt team blog – they were terrific all summer long and even dedicated a post to what I worked on.
More broadly, it turns out that the Program Manager role – which my friend Boaz recently described in a unique way – is one that fits me very well. While I enjoy the occasional programming class – and spent a few units each quarter last year working on an AJAX front-end to the ButterflyNet digital ink HCI project – my strengths and passions are closer to other areas: coordinating teams, developing a consistent vision across different features, and seeking empathy with the end-user. I got to do all of those at Microsoft, and worked on a few features that are already in the Beta 2 Technical Refresh.
Summer internships, I discovered, are a somewhat surreal experience both at the beginning and the end – you arrive, eager to learn, and are instantly thrown into a world where decisions really matter (for more than a letter grade), your projects will wind up in the hands of masses of users, all while working with people who will listen to and act on any good ideas you might have. And then, only three months later, it’s back to dorm life, back to school. The transition back was a bit difficult – motivating myself was much easier when working on end-user projects, rather than a weekly problem set. Fortunately, I’m in a great dorm this year, and a few weeks was all it took to get into my classes again.
A few things which seemed daunting, pre-summer, turned out to not be so bad: biking to work was relaxing, and I got to bike through a portion of the Stevens Creek trail every morning – there’s nothing like breathing fresh air right before arriving at work. Living on my own was made easier by being in constant touch through the phone, and frequent visits back to campus. Cooking for myself was made possibly by learning how to cook pasta properly, how to use the frying pan, and even how to prepare chicken.
All in all, a great summer – learning, working, and meeting some terrific people.