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.

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.