System.out.println(“Hello San Francisco”);

Thursday, June 8, 2017

“I’m not a businessman, I’m a business, man.” -Jay-Z

I’m not sure if comparing Jay-Z’s lyrics to a startup is the best idea (better him than Justin Bieber, like this TechCrunch blogger insists). But one thing is for sure, tech startups are big business, and everyone from students to VCs are on the lookout for the next big thing.

And where better to find the next big thing than in the Bay Area —the heart and home of the tech movement. This summer, the Duke Technology Scholars program (DTech) has selected thirty-four students who have secured internships in the Bay Area to experience a summer in the heart of the movement. And I’m lucky enough to be one of them.

Beginning my first official internship as a Software Engineer had me excited enough. Add on the fact that it’s in San Francisco, and it’s an opportunity too good to pass up.

Fast forward a bit, and its already been three weeks in the bustling city of San Francisco. This is the first time I got to experience real (as opposed to fake?) tech startup culture. I’m working at a startup called Vida Health which specializes in using technology to prevent, manage, and remove health conditions through collaborative care.

Working at Vida —a health company— means that it's time to trade in that Freshman 15 in favor of the Vida -15 (not such a bad thing if I’m aiming for that summer bod). Vida’s workplace encourages this; we have team runs on Tuesdays, yoga on Thursdays, and the occasional team hike. We get deliciously wholesome food for lunch and do team planks everyday at 3PM (summer goal: conquer that 3 minute plank). Overall, the environment fosters the mission of the company itself —something I’m definitely a fan of.

What’s more is that I’m learning more on the job than I thought I would. I worked on the graph database the first two weeks, learning bits of languages/frameworks/applications I didn’t even know existed like Cypher queries, Flask, Django and Python Mock. This week, I’m working on front-end components in Redux and React. Lots of new technical jargon to add those buzzwords to the resume (and improve my skills of course)! Jokes aside, it’s been a great learning opportunity so far, as cheesy as it sounds.

And I can’t forget to mention the amazing people I’m living with. Seven other DTech scholars and I share a house in SF. It’s great to be living with people who love keeping busy just as much as I do. Most weekday evenings, you’ll find us sitting silently at the kitchen table, each of us focused intently on our laptops streaming Netflix. Occasionally when someone just arrives from work, we’ll pause our shows to talk to them about their day and later slip the headphones back on. If I’m being honest, I watch more Netflix here than I do at home or school.

As exciting as our weekday evenings sound, our weekends are much more packed. San Francisco has so much to offer and we’ve barely scratched the surface (still haven’t had my first In-N-Out burger)! So far, we’ve biked the Golden Gate Bridge, hiked Muir Woods, toured Chinatown, climbed Twin Peaks, went to the farmers market, (almost) climbed Coit Tower, and had multiple group brunches (lots of foodies in our group).

And it’s only been two weeks!

These first few weeks have already made me push my limits in both the weekend adventures I’ve gone on and the new technical material I’ve learned. From hiking new trails to learning new languages and frameworks, in the end, this summer just boils down to adaptability —learning how to learn. And hopefully this summer will help me do just that.

Ashka Stephen
Class of 2019
Major: Computer Science
Minors: Statistics and Finance
Internship: Vida Health