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Go Inside PayPal with a Software Engineering Intern

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Go Inside PayPal with a Software Engineering Intern Drew Pomerleau From eBay auctions and Etsy purchases to GoFundMe donations and paying a friend back for last night’s concert, chances are you’re among PayPal’s 180+ million users. That’s a huge user base and it takes a huge, talented team to make it all happen. Drew Pomerleau, a software engineering intern out of their Boston office, is one of them.

This past semester Pomerleau did his co-op with the iOS dev group that creates PayPal’s merchant-facing apps, working on new features for business-side users. An auspicious entry on the Northeastern University junior’s resume, to say the least. And a demanding one, too – in a good way, he says.

“The level of quality and expectations PayPal has for software” is both admirable and a challenge, says Pomerleau. “PayPal holds a high bar for design, security, internationalization, and accessibility, which adds a level of complexity and keeps things interesting.”

The computer science major chatted with us about more of his work at PayPal and advice for fellow software engineering interns.

Q: PayPal is a dream internship for dev majors. How did you find your internship? What was the process like?
A: Northeastern, through the co-op process, has plenty of events, connections, and directories to find opportunities. For me, I applied to PayPal through the NU’s co-op directory website. Within a week or so, I had an interview, where I took a technical test, explained my answers, and answered some questions both tech and personal.

Q: How difficult was the interview?
A: I think the PayPal interview was about as difficult as the average technical interview. Almost all of them consist of several hours of coding tests or white-boarding coding problems. PayPal asked a lot of algorithm and design questions. Design questions about how you would create a piece of software if you had various requirements.

Q: For those who’ve never taken one, what can they expect from a technical test?
A: In my experiences, technical tests typically contain fundamental (essential computer science questions, e.g. data structures), algorithm (writing code to solve a problem such as writing a program to determine if a word is a palindrome), and design questions.

Q: What’s your day-to-day like?
A: I am in an Agile environment. When I arrive at work, I usually review other team members' PRs (other coding waiting for review before it is included in the final app), have a morning scrum [meeting] between my teammates, and the rest of my day is typically spent coding.

Q: What kind of projects did you work on?
A: I worked on UI features like the template chooser (the first thing to come up when you create an invoice), the ratings prompt (the alert that asks you to rate the app), and many other small things that involve nearly every part of the app.

Q: What’s the culture like?
A: Because it is such a large company and because I worked in a remote office, my office’s culture may be different from the rest of PayPal. My office and the people in it worked very autonomously. We had a culture of getting things done, working hard and extra hours when needed, but we still had lots of fun playing games, drinking, or hanging out with each other sometimes on Fridays.

Q: What do you love most about being at PayPal?
A: I enjoy knowing what I work on will be widely used, especially in a short period of time. PayPal has a large user base and most of our updates go out within a few weeks. This means that the features I work on reach people that quickly.

Q: And the biggest challenges?
A: While I do enjoy that I get to learn about many different aspects, and see how to integrate them correctly, it can be challenging to develop something and keep everything in mind.

Q: What personality traits do you think are most important for software engineering interns?
A: Organization and self-guidance are most important. Because you often work alone on software and need to keep track of different projects, I think it’s important to be able to keep yourself on pace and ensure all aspects of different, concurrent projects are done well

Q: What is the most important thing you are learning that you might not get out of a classroom?
A: Most schoolwork teaches you to code, but companies often have their own procedures, opinions, and ways of doing things. It’s nearly impossible to emulate the interactions of a large company where dozens of teams have to coordinate for complex projects. Being at PayPal helped me see how that coordination can work.

Q: What advice would you give to someone looking for an internship at PayPal?
A: Most general advice for large tech companies applies: have lots of side-projects, good grades, or some combination to standout early, and practice as much as possible for the technical interviews.

Check out more of Drew’s work on his website.

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