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The Journey of a Spotnana Engineering Intern

December 09, 2022
By Gus Torrey
Categories Life at Spotnana

Melanie Zhou, one of Spotnana’s recent Software Engineering interns, has returned to pursue a Computer Science degree at Stanford University focused on human-computer interaction. We’re grateful that she took a moment to reflect on her time at Spotnana where she learned from experienced entrepreneurs, engaged with talented mentors, and focused on her professional development.

This past summer, Melanie applied her passion for computer science to building out Spotnana’s online booking tool with our Front-End Development team. During her internship, Melanie was moved by the vision of Spotnana Co-Founders Sarosh Waghmar and Shikhar Agarwal to modernize the archaic infrastructure of the travel industry in order to bring freedom, simplicity, and trust to travelers everywhere. Now, Melanie wants to join the doers and dreamers on the entrepreneurial path.

“I want to be an entrepreneur like Sarosh and Shikhar,” said Melanie. “It was great to be able to see how they manage so many different things, their different thought processes, and the frameworks that they use.”

Throughout her internship, Melanie valued each opportunity to speak with Sarosh and Shikhar and develop a deeper understanding of their vision for Spotnana. Engineering team offsites allowed the team to dive into deep conversations over the course of a meal.

“I remember I went to an offsite team dinner that Sarosh had in the Bay Area, and he said that the legacy he wants to leave behind is a company that thrives for generations after he’s gone,” said Melanie.

This ambitious vision has shaped how she wants to approach entrepreneurship and innovation herself.

“Decades from now, when the CEO and CTO are no longer there, the company should be able to sustain itself,” said Melanie. “That changed my mindset on what it means to be an entrepreneur.”

Engaging with seasoned, ambitious mentors

Melanie’s day-to-day experience in Spotnana’s Palo Alto office included frequent opportunities to interact with travel industry veterans and individuals who were instrumental in developing technology for Google, Microsoft, Oracle, and ThoughtSpot.

Summer 2022 Engineering intern Melanie Zhou

“What I really appreciated about my Spotnana internship was the access to many different thought leaders within the organization,” said Melanie. “When I was at the Palo Alto office, I had the chance to interact daily with several VPs of Engineering, as well as Spotnana’s Chief Technology Officer.”

While at Spotnana, Melanie appreciated that her conversations avoided the simple Q&A between senior and junior employees. All parties enjoyed equal opportunities to share knowledge in different areas of expertise.

“They were interested in learning more about my experiences as a student, what I think are the most up and coming tech trends, and my thoughts on products that they should be looking into,” said Melanie.

Of the many conversations Melanie had with her travel and engineering mentors over the summer, she especially valued the opportunity to discuss the large-scale vision for Spotnana’s growth during lively team activities outside of work.

“During our conversations, what stood out to me was the experience of understanding the growth priorities of Spotnana,” said Melanie. “Over board games and pizza, we looked at the big picture of the overall health of the company, where Spotnana is going in the next three to five years, and the priorities of our VPs of Engineering.”

Company values fueling professional development

Over the course of her internship, Melanie found the six core Spotnana values to be active drivers of company life and culture. One of these values, Respect Above All, was the foundation of her Software Engineering team’s culture.

“I saw one of the Spotnana values, Respect Above All, especially drive my team, as I felt strongly that they valued my presence, experience, and contributions throughout my internship,” said Melanie. “I was able to directly contribute to Spotnana’s brand awareness for many college undergraduates and provide advice on recruiting.”

A core component of respect is an appreciation for cultural expression. At Spotnana, we often find this to be rooted in the celebration of global cuisines and culinary traditions.

“I think I had the best food experience of my life while interning at Spotnana,” said Melanie. “Sarosh and Shikhar are committed to building a food culture from top to bottom with office celebrations of diverse cultures and their cuisines. For my birthday, we all went out to a restaurant in Palo Alto, which made me feel respected and valued.”

By the end of her internship, Melanie felt that she learned many valuable skills and insights to propel both her career in tech and her journey as an entrepreneur who champions respect and ownership.

“A core Spotnana value, Act Like an Owner, was actually the biggest takeaway from my internship,” said Melanie. “I felt like an owner all throughout this entire experience, from helping out with designs, to coding projects out, and putting them through testing and quality assurance. My internship taught me wonderful work and life skills that will empower me to become an effective Software Engineer, Product Manager, and owner of a startup one day.”

“It will carry me through the rest of my career.”