Silicon Valley Wrap-Up Part 2

Continued from http://blog.pimmelpammel.de/silicon-valley-wrap-up-part-1/

Darwin about to steal my food
Darwin about to steal my food

Let’s come back to Yelp. Another thing I’m thinking about since the end of my internship, was how satisfied I should be with my own performance. It is really hard for me to say. The reason is, that I can’t compare myself to the other interns. I’ve been by far the oldest of the interns. And not only that, I even was the oldest person AND most experienced person in the whole team (including the full times). Usually an internship in the us is for students to get some work experience and to make an internship after graduation is very uncommon. The students are allowed to make non-project related stuff just to learn something new. I did something similar, but on another level. I talked a lot to people in Product Management, Production, Sales, HR and was networking a lot, as I always try to understand (and improve) information flow in the company. Frankly, there wasn’t much on technological side to learn for me.

On the other side, my teammates obviously were hoping to learn stuff from my, as I already had a lot of work experience. I tried to contribute as much as I could, for example in improving the agile methodologies. Though in summary, it was just an awkward situation for both parties. I came there to gather experience in the grand Silicon Valley and a mayor web company, I was just an intern spending just a couple of months there. On the other side my teammates wanted to be led by me because of my experience and needed guidance to do the next steps to grow as a team. I contributed as much as was able in this short time frame, but wasn’t able to show even half of my potential. So one of my findings is definitly to make at least six month. Six month are enough to become a full part of the team and not just a visitor.

Hackathon Selfie Station
Hackathon Selfie Station

So, what can I say about this mystifying Silicon Valley that attracts so many tech companies? I think that Berkeley and Stanford are so close, plays a big role. Those universities yield out a lot of talented jung people who have dreams and have all the skills to let their dreams come true. Another part is for sure the strong tech community in the area. Every week there are plenty of meetups about trending technologies, startups, sales, funding and even philosophical topics. And even more amazing: They are usually held by the best people in those topics. For example: I attended a talk with 20 other people about mobile web performance optimization held by Steve Souders, the keynote speaker of the Velocity Conference (the leading conference in this field). After that I had some smalltalk with founders, PhDs and Lead Developers who work at Google. Do I think that describes the magic that only the Silicon Valley can provide? No, not really, but is a part of that.

Looking back, what do I think about my time there? I’m still not sure. Did I learn a lot, that I can apply right away? Probably not! Did I understand what makes the Silicon Valley so special? Probably only parts of the whole truth! Would I go to the Silicon Valley if I would like to found a startup? I would definitely consider that! Would I go back there, to work for one of those companies? YES!
I think I’ve developed myself a lot during the time there. I think I’ve been getting a bit more mature and changed my mind in so many ways, that it will take me years to completely understand the whole value of this trip. I came back with more confidence, as I found out, that the people there are also just using water to cook their noodles and already learned some good recipes. I don’t have to hide when the big names of the biz show up…

Silicon Valley Wrap-Up Part 1

Start your Hangover with yelp
Start your Hangover with yelp

Okay, so my time in “the Valley” is over. It was a great experience! I’m happy to come back to Germay, but I’m evenly sad that the time in the US is already over. Anyway, it is time for a wrap-up. To do so, one should always start with how it began. So for me it began several years ago, when I decided to become a software developer. I was always curious why all the big software companies are located in this mysterious area around San Francisco called Silicon Valley. I always asked myself: Why? What is so special there? I did some research, talked to people who’ve been there, but nobody gave me a satisfying answer. So I decided to go there and find out by my self.

Me with my favorite Mojito Coffee
Me with my favorite Mojito Coffee

The time was right when I was about to graduate. As I’m working full time and studying at the same time, I never had the chance to take a semester abroad. So I finished my final exams at university and talked to my employer if I could take about half a year of (unpaid) vacation to make an internship in one of the mayor companies in the Silicon Valley. They agreed, I’m still very thankful for giving me the chance! The next step was to find a company which would take me as an intern. I sent out a lot of applications and some companies showed interest. At the end I chose Yelp as they were taking care of all the visa stuff and they offered a really compelling position.

Oakland Bridge
Oakland Bridge

Looking back, what really kept sticking in my head from my time at Yelp, was that they solve problems in a very different way then how I was used to (I wrote about that). Another thing I was surprised about, was that they were-from a technological point of view-not as bleeding edge as I expected. In the Silicon Valley, so I thought, every company is pushing for new technologies and making experiments to optimize even the last pieces of their processes. I experienced a quite different situation. The development environment is mainly a big monolthic application with frameworks that, well, could be replaced with something more recent, to say it in the american polite way. The same counts for the processes. Scrum is used, but could be handled more strict. And another good example how lean they are working is the question if we will get user feedback about the new functionality. It was answered with the words “Usability tests are too expensive”.

People build the Yelp Office at the company Hackathon
People build the Yelp Office at the company Hackathon

I know, that sounds like I had a terrible time there, but that is not true either. It just pulled my feet back to the ground, that also Silicon Valley companies, that claim to be one of the biggest websites in the whole world wide web, are just struggling with the same problems as any other company also does. And they’re doing some stuff impressingly well which, obviously, makes them so successfull. But those things are just hard to grasp and form words that describe that. It is more like a state of mind… Let me try to explain: I never would came to the idea to have almost 2000 salespeople. Or to hire people in the mayor cities of the market, to make parties to motivate users to contribute and refer to friends. But damn, this concept rocks! Maybe this is the salt which makes the soup so special. Maybe more companies in Germany should think outside the box like that, then we might be more successfull.

To be continued here.