Interning at Bluesky presented a unique challenge and learning opportunity that I could not be more grateful to have. Throughout the summer, I learned many key lessons that I will keep with me for the rest of my career.
Within the first week of my internship, I realized how much I needed to learn. I was working at a company whose core business revolves around databases, and I had no idea how to interact with one. This became apparent to me when I got my first assignment: a SQL parser. Compared to a standard parser, my parser was supposed to be able to identify bad patterns in SQL queries that can be easily detected/corrected. I had to be able to identify good queries from bad ones and explain why. Examples of bad patterns include duplicate logic and self-joins, among others. Correcting these bad patterns and improving query quality could save businesses tens of thousands in costs in addition to enhancing performance. However, what I realized is that I was working every day with experienced professionals who have spent countless hours working with SQL. There were certain questions Google or documentation couldn’t answer such as “What is the threshold to determine if similar logic is duplicated?” Therefore, I started relying more on my coworkers for help. By leveraging their expertise and consistently iterating upon feedback, I was able to make progress and finally ship a tool I was proud of. And I learned my first of three major lessons: ask for help.
I spent the last two months of my summer working on my final project, Bluesky Estimate. At Snowflake Summit 2023, Snowflake opened public access to its native app framework. Since a native app runs within a user’s Snowflake instance, it presented an opportunity for Bluesky to showcase features while prioritizing security. This would drastically alter the customer acquisition process, so leaders from sales, engineering, and product were involved throughout the development process. However, I was not the sole priority; everyone else had critical work to do. I had to learn how to convince industry veterans to dedicate their time to a 19 year old intern. To get what I wanted out of everyone, I had to take the time to understand their skillset, goals, motives, and roadblocks. In other works, asking an engineer for 10 minutes is very different than asking sales for 10 minutes of their time. With this new approach, I was able to drive action on the design, messaging, and content of the native app. More importantly, I learned how to work within a team across different areas of business. As a result, more got accomplished in one week than the previous two, and we were ready to submit our app to the Snowflake marketplace with three weeks left in my internship.
This three-week buffer proved critical. I had previously never authored code that went into production. So for the first time in my life, I learned what it truly meant to test code. After creating various unique user accounts, we tested every possible user behavior we could think of to ensure the app’s resilience and find potential bugs. And, of course, there were some bugs and edge conditions found that we fixed. However, after officially submitting the app to Snowflake for review, we were denied because the app consistently crashed. Since we thought I had tested every behavior, I was lost for days trying to recreate the error. Of course, I had not tested every possible user case. Snowflake was using custom accounts that don’t have billing. Our app, Bluesky Estimate, estimates potential areas for cost saving by looking at past cost and billing information. It was now so obvious we expected every account that would use our app to be billed; however, this was not true. After patching the bug, the native app was approved and is now publicly available on the Snowflake marketplace. My main takeaway was that writing code for production is nothing like writing code for grades. When I am not working in a contrived environment, I have to expect the unexpected, and the software I write should be able to handle that as well.
Reflecting on my experience, this internship provided me with a great foundation to learn how to work in the industry, setting myself up for success in the future. I am thankful to Bluesky and the entire team for welcoming me and encouraging my growth.