Ashwathi, Yahoo Mail Engineer
Tell us about your path to Yahoo. What is your current role?
I started as a Summer Intern and was assigned to work with the Yahoo Mail Front-end Engineering team. It was a great experience while I interned for 12 weeks. I was later offered a full time position, and I joined Yahoo again with the Mail team but as a Back-end Engineer with Mail Search.
As an intern, my project was to work on Yahoo’s new Mail product called Minty. I primarily focused on the internal beta release of Minty and part of the public release. Things were constantly changing and a lot of bugs needed to be fixed. Many of the fixes I was involved in were aligned toward working on emoticons, the design of the Mail UI page, and the feedback page. Every task I did, I could see that it was making an impact.
The internship was my first corporate experience and it was amazing to see the work that I did being used and impacting millions of users.
After I completed my internship, I completed my Masters at UCLA. My masters focused mostly on backend information retrieval so when I was asked my preference for a job, I told them that I preferred to work with the Mail Back-end team. I really enjoyed the team I worked on as an intern, the feedback they gave, and their work ethic. I currently work on Mail Search. I work on the search experience and making search more relevant and faster to the user within Yahoo Mail.
What was your first project with your current group? How has your role evolved since then? What do you see yourself doing next?
I recently started my full-time so I am currently work on Mail Search. In the future, I plan on trying to understand the different components of search. I see myself mastering the product. I really hope to apply what I acquired in graduate school.
In what ways have you been able to innovate at Yahoo?
As an intern, I was able to innovate by creating the Minty feedback link and how users could access it. There were also a lot of UI issues I worked on. There were a lot of challenges that came up. The system was constantly changing. Issues arose that could not be fixed immediately. When this happened, the team would sit together and try to figure out the problems. We would find bugs, file them, and then try to reduce them. There was so much team work.
What do you love about Yahoo?
The best part about Yahoo is how Yahoo mixes work with fun. It makes you want to work harder and play harder. As an intern, there was a treasure hunt, a foosball tournament, a softball game, and so many other different events. An event that really stands out for me was women in engineering. There are so many things happening on campus that it keeps up the enthusiasm at work.
For someone considering Yahoo as a place to work, what would you want them to know about Yahoo?
I want them to know that first, Yahoo is a great place to work. For the period that I’ve been at Yahoo, it’s been a wonderful place to work. Even as an intern, I was given importance. I wasn’t given tasks that were less important than what the full time employees were doing. It didn’t require less expertise. It made me feel equally as important as any other team member. The engineers were always helpful when I needed some guidance in figuring out a solution to a problem or understanding some part of the code. I really love the work ethics and culture within Yahoo. Yahoo also encourages internal learning. Its really helpful if you need to pick up a new programming language for your project. Manager are always open to that and allow you to attend development courses. There’s so much to learn. And if you can’t make it to the class, there are resources on our intranet.
In your opinion, what makes Yahoo a unique place to work?
Everything stated before. Also at Yahoo, I find it not so intimidating to talk to your manager and colleagues. They are very smart people and experts. It’s great to be a new college grad or intern and not feel intimidated. You’re immediately made to feel a part of your team. When I came to my current team, I was assigned a mentor who helped me understand the tasks assigned to me.
Another thing that makes Yahoo unique, especially with the Mail team, is that they follow the Agile way of software development. It is a method of working on smaller tasks in small time frames of a few weeks, while keeping the end product in mind. We have weekly meetings and tasks assigned to each of us. You always know what tasks to work on and when they need to be completed. Yahoo also has All Hands meetings periodically for each of the larger teams, where one can raise bigger issues. I believe it’s important to keep up with the pace of the internet era. I believe an effective way of achieving this is by implementing Agile. Every team should follow this way of organizing tasks. All of these things really give me pride in the work that I do.
Are there other things about Yahoo that make you proud to be an employee?
Everything! Even wearing purple I’m proud to be a Yahoo because of our work culture, the fun, the purple craze, and not to forget the amazing coffee we are pampered with.
Tell us about your experience with the University Relations Team and going through the new college grad hiring process.
The UR team was great. The intern team was awesome. There’s so much energy and they really made us [interns] enthusiastic about everything we did. My most memorable experience with them was during an Interns vs. Managers softball game event, for which they even had a practice session. The energy level was just great.
The new college grad team was great too. When I converted to a full time employee, they constantly kept in touch with me. After my internship, the Mail Front-end team didn’t have an opening so they couldn’t hire me on that team. As a result, converting was a long process. In spite of this, the new college grad team was in constant touch with me. They were interested in finding out what other team would interest me, and tried to find a position that would be the best match for the skills I have. They matched me with the Mail Search team and my manager, and it worked out really well. After I got my offer and joining date, I had one small hiccup. My work visa did not come through on time. So my start date got backed up and I was scared that I wouldn’t be able to start working until July. But Yahoo was very accommodating and very understanding of my position, and helped me join in May itself.
What advice might you have for new college grads that are interested in Yahoo or will soon be starting as a new Yahoo?
For someone looking to start, they need to make their presence felt during the career fairs. The career fair is when you can converse with developers and the University Recruiting team. When they see what you know, the energy you have, your experiences, and your interests, they’ll become interested and be able to translate this information. In those conversations, you can leave behind an impression on the team. I think this is how I got recommended. I remember that the developer I spoke with the first time, remembered and recognized me the next time he visited my university. The career fair is where you can make your first mark with a company.
As an intern, I felt it was important to build interpersonal relationships with your manager and team members. Make sure you emphasize your experience and that you want to come back. You have to work hard and do your tasks really well. That’s what leaves that impression. For people who have an offer, they just have to look forward to the experience. I want them to know that they have a lot in store and that they should just look forward to it.
Anything else you’d like to share?
Yahoo gives flexibility to its employees. I feel that I can make a difference with the work I do and whatever I work on is going to be valuable. Yahoo’s values are directly aligned with my own.
Also, I loved Yahoo so much that I waited for their offer. Although I interviewed with other companies in between the time I was an intern and received my offer, Yahoo was my number one choice