Our Hybrid and Collaborative Summer season @ Slack’s Information Eng

An internship at Slack is an thrilling alternative to study new abilities, meet different engineers, and construct cool stuff. This was the fact for 3 interns on the Information Engineering staff this summer season. All through our time on this flex-work setting, we obtained to expertise each the broad attain of the digital setting and the advantages of in-person work. As knowledge engineering interns, we obtained to contribute to Slack’s mission by way of our challenge which tackles Information Lineage at Slack.

Onboarding

Whereas we’re all on the identical pillar, Information Engineering, we have been every on completely different groups inside the pillar, with separate mentors and managers. Thus, we had barely completely different experiences throughout onboarding. Nonetheless, the Information Lineage challenge that we tackled this summer season was collaborative and spanned all three groups that we have been on. As such, it was a collaborative challenge between us, our mentors, and our managers. To be able to ramp as much as this challenge, we needed to attend Onboarding at Slack conferences, which allowed us to satisfy new hires, present engineers, and different interns. Whereas many of the onboarding classes have been performed just about, the organizers created an setting of collaboration, the place we felt supported and empowered. We have been additionally inspired to hitch scrum conferences with our respective groups, the place we have been just about welcomed with open arms, even when we weren’t acquainted with all the brand new phrases and instruments talked about. We additionally joined a digital icebreaker session, the place we obtained to talk with members of our prolonged Information Engineering pillar. We discovered that whereas many people have been becoming a member of remotely from vastly completely different geographic areas, we might nonetheless discover commonalities and are available collectively as a staff. This made us interns really feel welcome and excited to be at Slack.

The challenge

Halfway by way of our second week, we started to familiarize ourselves with our challenge. The challenge itself focuses on knowledge lineage. For those who’re questioning what knowledge lineage is, we have been asking ourselves the identical factor just a few months in the past. Right here is an instance state of affairs to clarify the idea:

Think about you might be an engineer who makes use of dashboards when speaking with different Slack workers (e.g. to indicate how your staff has made an affect on a metric). You want to make use of dashboards as a result of they permit your staff to trace metrics precisely and visually. 

Someday, you notice that the dataset you have been pulling from has a bug in it. That’s as a result of the dataset that your dataset was derived from additionally has a bug in it. You don’t know easy methods to discover that upstream dataset with out knowledge lineage.

Basically, it’s a type of annotating knowledge to explain the place it’s coming from and the place it’s going. The info lineage system predated our time at Slack (Information Lineage at Slack), nevertheless, there have been some shortcomings of this present system that we addressed:

  • A SQL parser was used to seek out knowledge lineage data. The staff tasked with sustaining it had extra pressing priorities.
    • Shifting the possession from a single staff might permit extra groups to get probably the most protection with minimal effort and likewise makes it extra maintainable. 
  • The parser would get lineage solely from sure varieties of specialised queries.
    • Shifting to manually annotating lineage might improve protection.
  • There was no visible part of the info lineage system, aside from a notification from an inside device that notifies downstream customers of a desk by way of Slack.
    • This notification device additionally solely prolonged one degree downstream to a desk.

After studying related sources and assembly with the staff, we promptly started working! Fortunately for us, our staff had provided us with paperwork that may define the targets of the frontend and backend parts of our intern challenge. Beginning with our first dash, we have been tasked with familiarizing ourselves with these paperwork. Extra importantly, nevertheless, that is the dash the place the interns began working collectively.

Execution

The way in which we managed our challenge was by way of the agile improvement cycle, the place we’d arrange duties for ourselves for a two-week dash. In the course of the dash, the three of us every had the prospect to be scrum grasp. We have been guided by the mentors and managers, who helped us decide the time our duties would take to finish and easy methods to break up up our Jira tickets. By working with the bigger staff while practising management by way of being the scrum grasp, we might monitor our progress and milestones successfully. One other a part of the agile cycle was the retrospective conferences, the place the staff would vote on matters to speak about and have a good time the wins whereas recognizing the place there’s room for enchancment.

At first of the internship, we every met with our mentors individually greater than we labored collectively, and felt that we have been too remoted consequently. Subsequently, we began scheduling common work blocks along with the entire mentors. In every work block, we might work collectively on a selected process, leveraging this time to make progress. We additionally allotted time to replace one another on our progress and make sure that everybody was on the identical web page.

One other distinctive portion of our work as interns was presenting our challenge to different Slack of us throughout a number of levels of our internship. Information Engineering Lightning Talks are a month-to-month assembly the place anybody inside the DE group can current what they’re engaged on, and we had the privilege of presenting at each the start and the tip of our internships. Exhibiting how our challenge progressed all through time was fascinating and harbored some pleasure in us. We additionally obtained to current our challenge across the midpoint of our internships to the bigger CoreDev org for Slack, roughly 200 individuals. Via these, we have been capable of garner a greater collective understanding of our challenge whereas sharpening our public-speaking abilities. All in all, we gained higher collaboration, presentation, and technical abilities throughout our time on DE at Slack!

Miscellaneous

One factor that was not written within the challenge necessities was taking the time to have enjoyable with the staff. Whereas we thought working collectively was enjoyable, our staff took it one other step additional. On high of our common conferences, our managers put collectively a recreation session the place we obtained to satisfy the members of our prolonged groups and reply questions from a immediate. It sounds fairly easy, however we obtained to go deep — particularly upon assembly for the primary time. At this level, we felt like we knew the individuals we have been working with on a deeper degree. It was nice to know that not solely would we be working with sensible and gifted individuals, but additionally individuals who we get together with as properly. Aside from our common conferences and digital get-togethers, we truly obtained to satisfy the staff once we went to staff lunch in Fisherman’s Wharf. We shared some dishes, chatted about how bizarre it’s not to be seeing one another by way of a Zoom display screen, and took some footage.

Other than the staff occasions, we additionally had occasions organized by  Futureforce, Salesforce’s college recruiting program. We went to Spark social, volunteered to work at McLaren’s park in San Francisco, interacted with leaders at Slack and Salesforce by way of Speaker Collection, and performed ping pong at Spin SF. This gave us the chance to bond with an enormous group of interns exterior of Slack. Making mates was simple this summer season, because of a few of these Salesforce occasions. After years of being caught inside, it was refreshing to make these mates so simply.

Ultimate ideas

Hannah’s ideas – I’ve by no means had an internship the place I labored with different interns carefully on the identical challenge, so I used to be curious to see if I would really like it or not. To my shock, I loved it a lot! Having others on my staff in the identical spot as me meant that we might advocate for one another and work collectively. Via a mix of experiences, from being the scrum result in working collectively on backend tickets, I obtained to be a pacesetter and study from others on the similar time. Outdoors of the challenge, I’ve met individuals who have made an unimaginable constructive affect on me, who I’ll keep in mind for the remainder of my profession.

Fenil’s ideas – This specific setting of a cross-functional staff the place we had mentors belonging to completely different groups labored out properly for me. It meant that I used to be by no means blocked, as a result of some mentor would all the time pop in to unstuck me. It additionally helped me to study quite a lot of issues, which is an important takeaway of mine from the internship. I obtained to accumulate data about frontend, backend, knowledge engineering, containerization and deployment, agile methodology, and model management! This was solely doable as a result of our challenge spanned all these completely different areas, and we had wonderful mentors — consultants within the subject who offered their unparalleled help and helped us develop.

Other than all of the work, I had an incredible time working and collaborating with the interns and our challenge. We had a lot enjoyable collectively. I additionally obtained to satisfy some wonderful Armenian early-stage startup founders who have been invited to the Salesforce tower to get to know extra concerning the firm.

All these experiences gave me super pleasure and I couldn’t have requested for any higher strategy to spend my summer season.


Derek’s ideas – Given that every one of my prior internships have been totally distant, having a hybrid one was an incredible expertise. I used to be capable of meet so many cool interns, engineers, managers, and execs, in addition to make significant connections with them! Additionally, with the ability to reside in San Francisco was an unimaginable time, and rather more fulfilling than being residence all summer season. (I might undoubtedly suggest taking walks across the metropolis and exploring as a lot as doable to future interns!) Lastly, with the ability to work on a collaborative challenge with Hannah and Fenil was rather more enjoyable than I used to be anticipating. Sometimes, group tasks trigger a variety of nervousness surrounding work load balances, however attending to work with different devoted interns has been wonderful. Having entry to one another’s mentors has allowed the challenge to progress rather more easily than I anticipated.

Reflection and takeaways

Some key takeaways:

  • Whereas distant work has its advantages, we actually appreciated the prospect to satisfy the staff in particular person and work collectively.
  • As cliche because it sounds, having a staff to rely on is so rewarding. We win collectively and lose collectively, however we all the time have every others’ backs.
  • Having enjoyable and connecting along with your staff is simply as necessary because the precise challenge itself. It adjustments all the expertise and day-to-day life.

Working at Slack and on the Information Engineering staff has afforded us a beautiful expertise of getting again into the workplace in particular person whereas additionally having the pliability of distant work. From assembly one another, our mentors and staff members, we’ve totally skilled the advantages of working collectively, whether or not it’s from residence or in the identical room. Having the hybrid choice has afforded us the power to develop professionally in any work setting we might encounter. We admire the chance to be a part of Information Engineering at Slack this summer season!

Particular thanks

Large because of our managers Suzanna Khatchatrian, Lakshmi Mohan, and Johnny Cao for overseeing our work and supporting us all the way in which. An additional particular because of our mentors Joey Thaidigsman, Tom Liao, Shreya Shetty, and Shrushti Patel for constantly serving to with the challenge and ensuring we additionally had enjoyable!

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