My Best Internship Yet

On the Monday that I started interning, I remember being one of the first couple of people in the office, showing up at 9:30 in the morning. It was a very rare occurrence that would, unfortunately, never happen again. I had a lot of firsts that day. I was an intern for the first time (note the title) and shook a co-worker’s hand for the first time. I ate food from a San Francisco food truck for the first time. I drank soylent for the first time. I promised myself to never drink soylent again for the first time.

Despite being an intern, I had complete control over whatever work I wanted to do, since projects were free to chose from. Most of my time was spent helping develop the iOS SDK and demo app, but I also made contributions to the backend. I learned all those convenient terminal commands that I never bothered to learn in college classes. I learned about docker and microservice architecture and the pain of pulling images. I learned how to write clean, production-level Swift code that is well-tested and well-tested and really well-tested. I even learned, on multiple occasions, how to create retain cycles — which is not a good thing, since they crash the app fairly quickly.

For the most part, UnifyID gave me maximum creative freedom. There was pretty much just one annoying rule — never push changes directly to dmz, our staging branch — but I made sure to break that one a few times. The dmz branch is now push-protected. Special shoutout to Micah for failing to stop me at first.

Just another day in the office

UnifyID does some really cool stuff with machine learning like identifying who you are based on your gait. After being surrounded by smart machine learning engineers and data scientists, I got more into machine learning and worked on a small side project during my free time on weekends (and during a day or two in the office, see “lax and carefree environment”). Gonna have to shamelessly promote it real quick since it’s pretty cool, check it out here.

I’m now way more motivated to take data-oriented classes and pursue research opportunities, something I never seriously thought about before. If I hadn’t interned at UnifyID, where innovative machine learning algorithms are just one git pull away, I doubt I’d be as interested in machine learning as I am now.

I’ll have some awesome memories of my time coding in the office. Feeling like a boss as the CI tests pass with green check marks. Earning Yuliia’s approval as she cautiously merges my branch into her. Shout out to Yuliia for asking me to help out on iOS work during my first week and trusting me with a bunch of responsibilities throughout the summer.

I’ll remember the funny and good moments outside of work too. The late-night dinner conversations with Andres and Pascal. Isaac mixing up Divyansh and Vinay. Chunyu and I throwing some solid insults at Lef in Chinese. (Lef threw some insults back at us in Greek, but I’m sure they weren’t as creative).

I am incredibly grateful for this opportunity to work on cool stuff over the summer; and grateful for all the help the engineers and product managers have given me, and the tips and tricks they’ve taught me. I’m humbled and feel very lucky to have had the opportunity to work in such an intellectual and driven, yet fun-filled, environment.

I’m sad to be leaving, but I’ll make sure to advertise UnifyID loud and proud when I’m back at UCSD — by wearing the extra company t-shirts I’ve surreptitiously accumulated over the summer.

Ready…Set…Hack!

HackMIT: Hack to the Future

In the past couple of months, UnifyID has been busy attending university hackathons at MIT and UC Berkeley. What this means is hours and hours of non-stop hacking, but it also means unlimited snacks, mini midnight workouts, and lots of young, passionate coders working to create impactful projects.

John poses with a16z representative Nigel at HackMIT.
On September 16, John Whaley flew to Cambridge, Massachusetts to attend HackMIT: Hack to the Future where he had the opportunity to meet more than 1500 students from all different universities. Representing a16z, John participated in a fireside chat where he covered a variety of topics including what it’s like to work in a startup, choosing industry versus graduate school, and building a company on machine learning. He discussed the fundamentals of entrepreneurship, team-building, fundraising, and more, as students picked his brain about technical topics and career advice. Later, John was able to speak more in depth during his tech talk about UnifyID and identifying individuals based on gait. Students were deeply interested in the problem UnifyID is trying to solve as well as the impact and intellectual aspect of UnifyID’s approach to the issue.

Aside from his fireside chat and tech talk, John had the opportunity to mentor hackers in their own projects. His favorite part was meeting and interacting with all of the students, seeing their ambition, passion, and genuine interest in the projects that they were working on. He also enjoyed the intense energy in the arena, choosing to stay and mentor hackers until 3am.

After 24 hours of hard work and non stop hacking at MIT, many groups of students presented their projects. Projects covered a wide range of topics from virtual reality games to homework-help mobile applications. Even though John had been to plenty of hackathons in the past, he was still amazed by the caliber and level of innovation that the students were able to reach in their projects. The first place prize ended up going to a group of students who created Pixelator, “a simple product that sharpens blurry images without a lot of code.”

Cal Hacks 4.0

A few weeks later, on October 6, Andres Castaneda crossed the Bay to attend Cal Hacks 4.0 at the UC Berkeley Stadium. With nearly 1500 students listening, he gave a presentation about UnifyID’s Android SDK and API, receiving a positive response from students who believed it was a revolutionary idea. Similar to John at MIT, Andres also had the opportunity to mentor up-and-coming hackers. For 36 hours, he helped students solve technical challenges as they competed for over $100,000 in prizes, including UnifyID’s contribution: a $300 Amazon giftcard and a Rick and Morty card game.

Based on the level of positive impact, innovation, and technical difficulty, the winning hack for UnifyID’s prize was Safescape, a mobile application that analyzes real-time news articles and alerts people in areas of “non-safe” events. It uses UnifyID’s Android SDK to validate individuals on the application. Inspired by the recent natural and terror crises occurring globally, Safescape also provides those in danger with potential escape routes, allows them to alert others around them, and contains a simple way to contact loved ones.

Andres’ favorite part about participating in Cal Hacks was “seeing people build a product from 0 to 1 in 36 hours.” He also found it hilarious that many students brought sleeping bags and threw them on the floor for intermittent opportunities to take naps.

Andres poses with mentees and previous UnifyID interns Aditya and Michael.

UnifyID is a strong supporter of hackathons because they provide great opportunities to connect with university students. Witnessing the high caliber of work accomplished at these events, UnifyID is inspired by young hackers who are truly passionate about making an impact in the world. These students represent a large diversity of talent from all different schools and backgrounds and are able to demonstrate what students are interested in nowadays. Additionally, hackathons allow UnifyID the chance to give back to the community. They are not only learning opportunities for up-and-coming hackers, but they also help UnifyID to understand how to cater to students’ interests and needs. After 2 hackathons in the span of one month, UnifyID is channeling its focus back to the day-to-day for now; however, we cannot wait for the next one!

A Unique Experience – Interning at UnifyID

I get mixed up with my friend Eric a lot. In the picture above, I’m on the left and Eric is on the right. We have similar builds, wear glasses, and although Eric will tell you he’s incomparably more handsome than me, even our close friends will accidentally call me, Eric and Eric, Isaac on campus at UCSD. I thought the peak of our similarities were when we both accepted full-stack internships at UnifyID in San Francisco this summer, but I realized I was mistaken. On Day 1, Eric and I had gone and picked out the exact same outfit for our internship debut. We had black t-shirts, tan chinos, blue shoes, and even opposite desks to really sell the mirror illusion. At a company built upon faith in each individual’s uniqueness, initially, I could not have felt more out of place. 

Despite our many similarities, Eric and I do have our differences, and they showed in how we dealt with our first-day jitters. I smiled politely and tried not to get in anyone’s way; Eric dropped the f-bomb before lunch. Having prior experience at a company where that sort of thing wouldn’t fly, I took it upon myself to pull him aside and tell him to rein it in. I thought that I had done him a favor until later that day when a full-time engineer casually slung a string of curses at his monitor with even more gusto than Eric had. It was then that I started to realize that working at UnifyID would be unlike anything I had experienced before.

Me, excelling.
Looking back, I shouldn’t have been surprised that UnifyID gives its employees the space to be themselves. Our mission is to identify people by what makes them unique–to squash those qualities would be sacrilege. As a result of this, the atmosphere is lighter and the conversations more genuine.

In the three months that I spent at UnifyID, I came to realize that it is this freedom that makes the team work as well as it does. I never felt like I had to put energy into trying to fill the role of the intern I thought I should be. Instead, I could just go in every day as myself. Once I realized this and started to embrace it, my productivity and sense of fulfillment soared. I went on to make significant contributions to our Android SDK, from redesigning our service architecture to developing a full suite of end to end tests. Now at the end of my internship, I find myself a far better engineer than I entered, lost trying to find where the time has gone, and sad to say goodbye to the friends I’ve made.

It’s difficult to describe a summer of my experiences at UnifyID in a few short paragraphs. But in a word? I would say, authentic.

63 Days of Summer at UnifyID

60 hours after I wrapped up my second year at UC Berkeley, I walked into the UnifyID office for my first day as a software engineering intern. I was not sure what to expect, but I definitely did not think that before I left that day, I would have already contributed to the codebase! The decision to work at UnifyID was an easy one. This team was working on technology that I believed was the future of security, using implicit authentication to determine what makes you unique, ultimately eliminating passwords.

Pushing an MR to master, Day 1 done!

Throughout the summer, I worked on various projects ranging from Android development to devOps to server backend work. One project I particularly enjoyed working on was the continuous integration for our Android project. It was interesting to understand how the code that was written was built, tested, and deployed through the pipeline, and how it all tied together with Docker and Amazon Web Services. I had never worked in any of these areas before arriving at UnifyID, but with guidance from my mentor, CEO John Whaley, and the incredible support of the other engineers, I was able to directly contribute to the product. I learned something new every day and noticed my growth as a software engineer as the summer progressed.

As a female engineer, I have always noticed the underrepresentation of women in engineering. I constantly wonder what I can do to lessen this gap? From this experience, I have learned that as long as you are passionate about your work and genuinely care about what you are doing, not much can stand in your way. To all my aspiring engineering peers: be inquisitive, be supportive, and a caring community will form.

Impromptu team outing at a SoMa neighborhood cafe!

The team really makes the office feel like a comfortable and enjoyable space to be in. The whole team is so passionate about their work and willing to take time out of their day to share and explain their projects to me. Everyone comes from such different backgrounds and each person is so interesting to talk to and learn from.

As the summer comes to an end, I would like to thank the team at UnifyID for this wonderful learning experience. Nowhere else would I have been able to discuss ideas, designs, and implementations with such qualified people while working on a groundbreaking solution to such a prolific problem.

Recapping our Summer 2017 Internship Program

This summer we ran our largest internship program yet at UnifyID. We hosted an immensely talented group of 16 interns who joined us for 3 months, and there was never a dull day! While bringing in interns for the summer does create an energetic cadence, fresh viewpoints challenge us to grow as a company too. 12 weeks can feel like both a sprint and marathon, but in start-up days, even the hour can be precious.

Almost all our interns mentioned a desire to contribute to the technology of the future when asked why they chose to work at UnifyID, and we think this is a testament to the quality of our internship program—interns are able to contribute their talents in a meaningful way, whether on our machine learning, software engineering, or product teams.

Our machine learning interns focused on research, under the guidance of Vinay Prabhu. Much of their work has been on figuring out how to integrate new factors into our algorithms or develop datasets of human activity for future use. Three of our paper submissions were accepted to ICML workshops to be held in Sydney this year. This brings the total number of peer reviewed research papers accepted or published by UnifyID in the last few weeks to seven! What is especially exciting is the fact that these were the first peer-reviewed papers for our undergraduate interns in what we hope will be long and fruitful research careers.

Our software engineering interns have been integral in supporting our product sprints, which have been centered around deploying initial versions of our technology to our partners quickly. As one of our interns, Joy, said: “From mobile development to server work to DevOps, I learned an insane amount from this incredible team.”

Our product interns were involved across teams and worked on projects varying from product backlog grooming and retrospectives to beta community management to content marketing to analyst relations to technical recruiting to team building efforts. Having worked across multiple facets of the business, they were able to wear many hats and learn a great deal about product development and operations.

Aside from work, there’s no shortage of events to attend in the Bay Area, from informal ones like Corgi Con or After Dark Thursday Nights at the Exploratorium, to events focused on professional development like Internpalooza or a Q&A with Ben Horowitz of a16z, who provided his advice on how to succeed in the tech world. Our interns were also able to take part in shaping our team culture: designing custom t-shirts, going on team picnics, and participating in interoffice competitions and hackathons.

A serendipitous meet up at Norcal Corgi Con!

Though we are sad to see them go, we know that they all have a bright future ahead of them and are so grateful for the time they were able to spend at our company this summer. Thank you to the Summer 2017 class of UnifyID interns!

  • Mohannad Abu Nassar, senior, MIT, Electrical Engineering and Computer Science
  • Divyansh Agarwal, junior, UC Berkeley, Computer Science and Statistics
  • Michael Chien, sophomore, UC Berkeley, Environmental Economics and Policy
  • Pascal Gendron, 4th year, Université de Sherbrooke, Electrical Engineering
  • Peter Griggs, junior, MIT, Computer Science
  • Aditya Kotak, sophomore, UC Berkeley, Computer Science and Economics
  • Francesca Ledesma, junior, UC Berkeley, Industrial Engineering and Operations Research
  • Nikhil Mehta, senior, Purdue, Computer Science
  • Edgar Minasyan, senior, MIT, Computer Science and Math
  • Vasilis Oikonomou, junior, UC Berkeley, Computer Science and Statistics
  • Joy Tang, junior, UC Berkeley, Computer Science
  • Issac Wang, junior, UC San Diego, Computer Science
  • Eric Zhang, junior, UC San Diego, Computer Engineering
Bay Area feels

Our Pledge to Inclusion and Diversity: 1 Year Later

Lack of diversity in tech has been a long-standing problem, but in recent months it’s become increasingly apparent that inclusion is more than an aspirational need. Diversity is the DNA that creates robust, flourishing environments primed for tough conversations and progressive thinking at UnifyID.

Last June, UnifyID was one of 33 companies that signed the White House Tech Inclusion Pledge on the eve of President Obama’s Global Entrepreneurship Innovation Summit 2016 to ensure that our employees reflect the diverse nature of the American workforce.

Although UnifyID is a small startup, we still want to lead in all areas of our business—and diversity is no exception. As an inaugural signatory of this agreement, the first of its kind, we proudly reaffirm our commitment to being an industry leader in promoting inclusion for all.

Our team on a normal day in the office.

The pledge was three-part, with the central aim of increasing representation of underrepresented groups:

“Implement and publish company-specific goals to recruit, retain, and advance diverse technology talent, and operationalize concrete measures to create and sustain an inclusive culture.”

This was a task we have invested significant time and effort into accomplishing, particularly in our recruitment operations. Many job seekers and experts alike have criticized the inconsistent process around the technical interview, noting its irrelevance to the workplace and its unnecessary biases against women. Taking into account these guidelines from Code2040, a collaborating organization of the Tech Inclusion Pledge, we’ve created a low stress, context-relevant, and fun language-agnostic technical challenge to improve the non-biased screening in our recruiting process.

“Annually publish data and progress metrics on the diversity of our technology workforce across functional areas and seniority levels.”

It is important to us that we are transparent about our gender, racial, and ethnic data because diversity and inclusion is a core part of our company mission to be authentic, be yourself. As such, this report is our first attempt at this, and we hope to make future updates more frequently.

On our team, 70 percent are people of color and 24 percent are women. Immigrants make up a significant part of the American workforce, and we are also proud to call UnifyID the workplace of immigrants who collectively represent 17 nationalities (including our interns). Paulo, one of our machine learning engineers, has quipped, “the office sometimes feels like a Model UN conference!” While our size makes us unable to release more detailed breakouts (we respect employee privacy), we will continue to release diversity data in a timely and transparent fashion.

“Invest in partnerships to build a diverse pipeline of technology talent to increase our ability to recognize, develop and support talent from all backgrounds.”

Here in the Bay Area, we are surrounded by terrific organizations that support underrepresented groups in tech, and we’ve been fortunate to be involved in these events. Some of these events include the Out for Undergrad (O4U) annual Tech Conference, which allowed us to connect with many high-achieving LGBTQ+ undergraduates from across the country, as well as the Y Combinator-hosted Female Founders Conference, or even SF Pride last month!

Our head of Product, Grace Chang, at last year’s Out for Undergrad (O4U) Tech Conference!

Diversity strengthens us as a company and as a country, so this remains one of our foremost priorities as we continue to grow (we’re hiring) and we hope to see improvement in our workplace and in the industry as a whole. We are thrilled that today, the number of companies that have signed the pledge has risen to 80.

We encourage more companies to sign this Tech Inclusion Pledge here.

UnifyID Anoints 16 Distinguished Scientists for the AI Fellowship

Fast Growing Startup Uses Machine Learning to Solve Passwordless Authentication

Today, UnifyID, a service that can authenticate you based on unique factors like the way you walk, type, and sit, announced the final 16 fellows selected for its inaugural Artificial Intelligence Fellowship for the Fall of 2016. Each of the fellows have shown exemplary leadership and curiosity in making a meaningful difference in our society and clearly has an aptitude for making sweeping changes in this rapidly growing area of AI.

Of the company’s recent launch and success at TechCrunch Disrupt, claiming SF Battlefield Runner-Up (2nd in 1000 applicants worldwide), UnifyID CEO John Whaley said, “We were indeed overwhelmed by the amazing response to our first edition of the AI Fellowship and the sheer quality of applicants we received. We also take immense pride in the fact that more than 40% of our chosen cohort will be women, which further reinforces our commitment as one of the original 33 signees of the U.S. White House Tech Inclusion Pledge.”

The final 16 fellows hail from Israel, Paris, Kyoto, Bangalore, and cities across the U.S. with Ph.D., M.S., M.B.A., and B.S. degrees from MIT, Stanford, Berkeley, Harvard, Columbia, NYU-CIMS, UCLA, Wharton, among other top institutions.

  • Aidan Clark triple major in Math, Classical Languages and CS at UC Berkeley
  • Anna Venancio-Marques Data Scientist in Residence, PhD École normale supérieure
  • Arik Sosman Software Engineer at BitGo, 2x Apple WWDC scholar, CeBIT speaker
  • Baiyu Chen Convolutional Neural Network Researcher, Masters in CS at UC Berkeley

  • Fuxiao Xin Lead Machine Learning Scientist at GE Global Research, PhD Bioinformatics

  • Kathy Sohrabi VP Engineering, IoT and sensors, MBA at Wharton, PhD EE at UCLA
  • Kazu Komoto Chief Robotics Engineer, CNET Writer, Masters in ME at Kyoto University

  • Laura Florescu Co-authored Asymptopia, Mathematical Reviewer, PhD CS at NYU

  • Lorraine Lin Managing Director, MFE Berkeley, PhD Oxford, Masters Design Harvard
  • Morgan Lai AI Scientist, MIT Media Lab, Co-founder/CTO, M.Eng. CS at MIT
  • Pushpa Raghani Post Doc Researcher at Stanford and IBM, PhD Physics at JNCASR

  • Raul Puri Machine Learning Development at Berkeley, BS EE/CS/Bioeng at Berkeley
  • Sara Hooker Data Scientist, Founder non-profit, educational access in rural Africa
  • Siraj Raval Data Scientist, the Bill Nye of Computer Science on YouTube

  • Wentao Wang Senior New Tech Integration Engineer at Tesla, PhD ME at MIT

  • Will Grathwohl Computer Vision Specialist, Founder/Chief Scientist, BS CSAIL at MIT

 

This highly selective, cross-disciplinary program covers the following areas:

  • Deep Learning
  • Signal Processing
  • Optimization Theory
  • Sensor Technology
  • Mobile Development
  • Statistical Machine Learning
  • Security and Identity
  • Human Behavior

Our UnifyID AI Fellows will get to choose from one of 16 well-defined projects in the broad area of applied artificial intelligence in the context of solving the problem of seamless personal authentication. The Fellows will be led by our esteemed Fellowship Advisors, renown experts in machine learning and PhDs from CMU, Stanford, and University of Vienna, Austria.

Please welcome our incoming class! ✨

 

Read the original UnifyID AI Fellowship Announcement:

https://unify.id/2016/10/10/announcing-the-unifyid-ai-fellowship/

 

Initial Release:

http://www.prweb.com/releases/2016/unifyid/prweb13804371.htm#!

Exclusive: UnifyID’s Private Beta Party

So what does it mean to launch out of stealth at TechCrunch Disrupt Battlefield? Overnight, you go from an unknown to having thousands of fervent supporters of your technology and questions spanning from how the technology works to how I can get my hands on the product (apply for private beta) to if we’re hiring (we are) to if the founders are brothers (they’re close but not related).

We’re fortunate to have the chance to share our vision of making passwords obsolete with implicit authentication and demand has been brisk. We hear you loud and clear–individuals, organizations, and companies both locally and abroad struggle with remembering those pesky passwords and few believe their current rituals are secure.

When we invited a select few to our headquarters in SoMa San Francisco for our Private Beta Party, we were so pleased that the enthusiasm had only picked up since Disrupt. This elite group of initial beta testers will pave the way for everyone to successfully authenticate online or offline and with the simplicity of being yourself.

Thanks to these amazing trailblazers!

Join the revolution today and apply for our private beta. Apologies for the wait, but we are just as amped as you are to getting the product in your hands. Thank you for joining us along this journey.

 

Photo credits: Karina Furhman