Kristen Shi 05/03/2018

Shopify Interns Share Their Tips for Success

At Shopify, we pride ourselves on our people. Shopifolk come from all kinds of backgrounds and experiences — our interns are no exception. So, we gathered some of our current and past interns to chat with them about their careers so far. They share insights about work, education, and tips for interviewing and succeeding at Shopify.

Natalie Dunbar (Backend Developer Intern, Marketing Technology)

Office: Toronto

Education: University of Toronto
Natalie Dunbar (Backend Developer Intern, Marketing Technology)
Get to know Natalie:
  • Studied as a philosophy major for three years, then switched to Computer Science
  • Former camp counselor and sailing instructor
  • Best tip when stuck on a problem? Pair programming.

What does your day-to-day look like?
Once I get to work I immediately open GitHub and Slack. Our team does a daily stand-up through Slack to review our tasks from yesterday and today. My morning is usually responding to PR comments, Slack messages, and working on my assigned tasks. After lunch, I work on projects and usually try to merge my work from earlier in the afternoon to monitor it in production. Finally, before I leave I try to update my PRs so that our team in San Francisco can view them before the end of their day.

What do you feel was the hardest part of your interview?
I've done many technical interviews before, and the “Life Story” step in the Shopify interview process is unique from other companies. I was unsure what to expect. Looking back, I realize it’s not something to worry about because it's an incredibly comfortable conversation with your recruiter that gave them the knowledge to place me on a team that was the best possible fit.

Dream career if you weren’t working in tech?
Philosophy professor (specializing in either logic, philosophy of language, or continental philosophy).

Best piece of advice you’ve ever gotten?
Always be open with your mentor/lead. They want to make your internship experience great so always help them do this for you. This means both requesting and giving feedback frequently.

What are your tips for future Shopify applicants?
Be yourself! And if you are applying for a role that requires a personal project, show one that is targeted at what you’re interested in working on. I made a completely new project over the few days before my internship, which is in no way necessary, and my interviewer (and now lead) was able to determine my technical fit from that.

Gurpreet Gill (Developer Intern, Products)

Office: Ottawa

Education: University of Waterloo
Gurpreet Gill (Developer Intern, Products)
Get to know Gurpreet:
  • No experience of technical stack used at Shopify when hired
  • Can move ears on command
  • Best tip when stuck on a problem? Take a break.

What does your day-to-day look like?
I’m usually in the office by 8:30, and I try not to miss breakfast. I typically avoid coding in the morning. Instead, I review and address feedback on my PRs; read emails; and catch up on work. My team and I head to lunch, then I start coding in the afternoon. I like taking a coffee break in the afternoon at Cody’s Cafe (yes, Ottawa has its own cafe) and make myself a latte with terrible latte art. I also like to play ping-pong as a break!

Dream career if you weren’t in tech?
A chef, or police officer.

Best piece of advice you’ve ever gotten?
Asking for help is okay - it doesn’t make you look weaker, and it’s never too late to reach out for it.

What are your tips for future Shopify applicants?
I believe Shopify is a unique company. Having “people skills” is as important as having technical skills here. So just be yourself during interviews. Don’t pretend to be someone you are not. Be passionate about what you do. Ask questions, don’t be afraid to crack jokes, and be ready to meet some dope people.

Joyce Lee (Solutions Engineering Intern, Shopify Plus)

Office: Waterloo

Education: University of Western Ontario
Joyce Lee (Solutions Engineering Intern, Shopify Plus)
Get to know Joyce:
  • Started interning at Shopify in September 2017
  • Spent 8 months at Shopify in a sales-focused role, but will spend next 4 in a technical one
  • Once tried to sell composting worms online, but inventory sourcing and fulfilment ended up being really complicated.

What’s your day to day like?
Grab a bottle of cold-pressed juice, then go to a full day of meetings selling Shopify Plus to prospective merchants. On days with fewer meetings, I’m building proofs-of-concept for merchants, and working on small projects to level up the revenue organization.

The hardest part of your interview?
I had a slightly different technical interview than other engineers. I was given a business problem and asked to propose a technical solution for it. Then explain it twice to two different audiences: a CEO and a developer.

Any tips for future Shopify applicants?
Complete every part of the application. For interns, it’s typically quite long so start early, but the application actually helps you know Shopify better, which is a great experience. Shopify is worth the long application process, trust me.

How do you succeed within Shopify?
Ask dumb questions, and ask them quickly. The more you ask, the less dumb they’ll get.

Yash Mathur (Developer Intern, Shopify Exchange)

Office: Toronto

Education: University of Waterloo
Yash Mathur (Developer Intern, Shopify Exchange)
Get to know Yash:
  • Has done two work terms with Shopify
  • Demoed an Android app when interviewing for a front-end developer role at Shopify (Spoiler alert: it all worked out!)
  • Favourite language is C++ but has learned to love Ruby for its simplicity (and because Shopify has great Ruby on Rails developers to learn from!)

What does your day-to-day look like?
I come in to the office around 10am. I prefer that because I like to spend my mornings running or swimming, and the rest of my team usually comes in around then too. I start off the day by grabbing breakfast and going through emails and messages. Our team does a daily stand-up where we review what we’ll be working on that day. Then, I like to grab lunch with my team or the other interns. Each day is a mix of coding and meetings to discuss projects or pair-programming. During my breaks, I love playing FIFA or ping pong with others.

Dream career if you weren’t in tech?
Astronaut.

Any tips for future Shopify applicants?
Shopify looks for people who are passionate and willing to expand their skill set. Make sure you bring that point across each phase of the interview.

How do you succeed within Shopify?
Take initiative. Shopify has a startup culture - people won’t tell you what to do, so you have to look for ways to contribute and be valuable. Also, talk to people outside your team. It’s important to understand how your team fits within the rest of the company.

Jenna Blumenthal (Developer, Channels Apps)

Office: Toronto
Education: McGill University
Jenna Blumenthal (Developer, Channels Apps)
Get to know Jenna:
  • Former Shopify intern
  • Started as an intern in January 2017, and was hired full-time in May 2017
  • Studied Physics and Physiology in undergrad, later completing a master’s degree in Industrial Engineering

What’s your day-to-day look like?
Most of the day is spent working on net-new code that will contribute to whatever feature or project we are building. The rest is spent on reviewing other team member’s code, investigating bugs that come in through support and pairing with others (devs or not) on issues.

Any tips for future Shopify applicants?
Play up your non-traditional background. Whoever you meet with, explain why your experiences have shaped the person you are and the way you work. Shopify thrives on people with diverse skills and opinions.

How do you succeed within Shopify?
One of the core tenets you hear a lot at Shopify is, “strong opinions, weakly held.” Don’t think that because you’re just an intern, or new, that you don’t have a valuable opinion. Sometimes fresh eyes see the root of a problem the fastest. Be confident, but also be willing to drive consensus even if it doesn’t turn out your way.

Jack McCracken (Developer Intern, Application Security)

Office: Ottawa
Education: Carleton University
Jack McCracken (Developer Intern, Application Security)
Get to know Jack:
Has a red-belt-black-stripe in Taekwondo. Almost a black belt!
Sells snacks and drinks to students at Carleton using Shopify’s POS system
Has worked at Shopify consistently since May 2015 and as of April 2018 is now full time...that’s six internships!

The hardest part of your interview?
The hardest part of my interview was admitting what I didn’t know. When I got to my second interview, I was so nervous that I completely blanked! After a while of trying to graciously “fake it till I made it, ”I worked up the courage to tell the person I was interviewing with that I totally had no idea. That was hard, but I still believe it got me the job to this day.

Dream career if you weren’t in tech?
If I wasn’t working in tech, I like to think I’d be an author. I love writing stories and explaining complex things to people.

Best piece of advice you’ve ever gotten?
If you ask a question that saves you an hour of hard work and takes the person you’re asking 5 minutes to explain, you just saved your company 55 minutes in development time.

How do you succeed at Shopify?
Succeeding at Shopify is slightly different than your average tech company. It’s very self-driven, so you need to ask questions. It’s hard to succeed (actually pretty much impossible) in a large organization without any context, and it’s much easier to learn by talking to your team lead, a mentor, or some random person you found on Slack than to laboriously read through code or wiki pages.

Ariel Scott-Dicker (iOS Developer, Mobile Foundations)

Office: Ottawa 

Education: Flatiron School
Ariel Scott-Dicker (iOS Developer, Mobile Foundations)
Get to know Ariel:
  • Was doing a degree in Cultural Anthropology, with a minor in Music. He didn’t finish the university degree but did a software development bootcamp and developer internship, before coming to Shopify
  • Never wrote in Swift before coming to Shopify. Now, it’s his favourite programming language!

What’s your day-to-day like?
We release new versions and updates to our iOS app every three weeks. This makes our day-to-day consist of working our way through various tasks that we’ve designated for the current three week period. Sometimes for me, that’s one large task or several smaller ones.

The hardest part of your interview?
I didn’t progress past Life Story the first time. I think it was because I didn’t relate the course of my life thus far to how I could be successful at Shopify. Other than that, the hardest part (which I thought was really fun) was solving conceptual problems verbally, not through coding terms.

Any tips for future Shopify applicants?
During your interview, be yourself, stay calm and confident, and breathe. Make sure whatever you mention speaks for itself, and that it demonstrates how you can succeed at and contribute to Shopify.

Dream career if not in tech?
Working in a big cat sanctuary or experimental agriculture.

How do you succeed at Shopify?
For me, a huge tip for succeeding at Shopify is being selfish with your education and development. This means, asking questions, using the smart people around you as resources, and taking the time to understand something practically or theoretically.

A huge thanks to our Winter 2018 interns for all they have contributed this term. We’re so proud of the work you’ve done and can’t wait to see what’s next for all of you! Think you can see yourself as one of our interns? We’re currently hiring for the Fall 2018 term. Find the application at shopify.com/careers/interns and make sure you apply before the deadline on May 11, 2018 at 9:00 AM EST.

Want to learn more about Shopify's Engineering intern program? Check out these posts: