My Notarize Internship Experience: Jasmine Rose, Software Engineer
If you asked me a year ago what makes a good programmer, I would have said someone who went to MIT and can write out Dijkstra’s algorithm from scratch. (Note that at the time of writing this article, I had to look up how to pronounce this algorithm).
But during my software engineering internship at Notarize, I’ve learned that your technical knowledge is just as important as your ability to make connections with your co-workers and to bring your unique experiences to contribute to company culture. This relationship with your co-workers makes for better communication during collaborative work, especially when I was learning about and working with some technologies for the first time.
Learning to Love Code
I’m not someone who started coding from the womb or whose parents were engineers. I began focusing on a career in engineering while completing a local bootcamp. I was drawn to the problem-solving aspects of technology, and knew that technology jobs were among the careers of the future.
Rates of unemployment for African-Americans are higher than other ethnic groups in this country, and many African-Americans face unemployment in part because of jobs that are being automated. I didn’t want to be left behind, and hoped to close the wealth gap for my family. I also wanted to contribute to the new technologies that created equity for forgotten Americans.
With that in mind, I applied and was accepted to the Resilient Coders bootcamp, a program that trains people of color for high-growth careers as software engineers and helps connect them with jobs. I was introduced to web development through labs and project experience, taught how to learn effectively, and learned how to network as a non-traditional person to the technology field – as someone who didn’t earn a STEM degree in college.
Another workforce development program in Boston, Hack.Diversity, allowed me to learn from leaders in Boston’s innovation economy while gaining technical office hours, project experience, and hundreds of hours of technical education through platforms like Pluralsight.
Hack.Diversity helped match me to company partners and managers willing to take a chance on my potential and ability to learn with my first software internship – and now my second at Notarize. My dedication to up-skilling, communication skills, and professionalism are what made the difference there.
Finding My Voice at Notarize
I was super nervous at the start of my Notarize internship – even the thought of speaking about my progress on my projects during team standup meetings would give me anxiety. I wondered how I would convince senior engineers to hire someone who only started coding a few years prior and who was very much still a beginner.
But my manager told me the internship was about my learning, and her goal was that I come away as both a better engineer and a better working professional.
With that in mind, I knew that staying in good communication and developing a great working relationship with my teammates would help me succeed. I held regular meetings with people on varying teams – from Product and Sales, to Support and Customer Success – as well as other Engineering teams to develop workplace bonds and better my understanding of Notarize’s product. This strategy afforded me better working relationships across teams and made my engineering projects run smoother.
While at Notarize, I’ve worked with languages such as Ruby on Rails, GraphQL, Apollo, and React, and strengthened my understanding of object oriented programming. My strong working relationships allowed me to gain working knowledge of these different technologies. During my long-term project, I built a support tool that our Customer Support team is using that pulled together people from the Quality Assurance team, front-end and back-end Engineering teams, and Customer Support to determine technical requirements and gain feedback. I got to present the tool during “Demo Day” – and somehow didn’t faint at my computer!
Embracing a Remote-First Company Culture
In terms of company culture, Notarize is a great place to work especially because of its core value of “Stamping Together.” Every day, I got to contribute to the codebase and learn while gaining stronger bonds with my co-workers.
Some of the best experiences I’ve had at Notarize include:
- Talking about pop culture with other Engineers, especially during a segment during our Product and Engineering all-hands called the “Jasmine and Kevin Show” (not all Engineers are socially unaware!).
- Planning diversity initiatives with the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion team.
- Getting promised a million dollars if another co-worker won the lottery (maybe I should have gotten that in writing?)
- Playing Among Us and rightfully being accused of being an imposter because I jumped out of a vent in front of nearby crew members.
- Receiving advice on pitching a business from Notarize’s CEO, Pat Kinsel.
- Chatting with a Product Designer about how to make the features of an app I hope to one day develop more accessible.
There are great perks too, even while working remotely, such as:
- $30 a month toward a Grubhub order.
- A monthly pandemic day off.
- Reimbursement towards courses for my learning.
- Lunch and Learns on everything from the mortgage industry to accessibility in web technologies.
- And much, much more.
This culture at Notarize – creating a strong, diverse team and welcoming workplace – empowered me to contribute in various ways to the company during the past several weeks. For example, I got the opportunity to attend the “Get Money Get Paid” Conference hosted by the Ladies Get Paid founders with my manager, where we attended workshops such as How To Be Anti-Racist and How To Own Your Review.
I came away from the conference inspired to bring the talking points from the the Anti-Racist to a “Lunch and Learn” talk where I hosted a discussion with others in the company about ways Notarize can continue to promote an inclusive workplace.
Coming out of that conference, I felt less alone in my journey as a woman of color in the tech and corporate space. I was able to use my five pages worth of Google Doc notes on How To Own Your Review to make the case for an internship extension. I’m connected with a network of women and non-binary folks who can advise me on salary negotiation and send Clubhouse invites. Women contain multitudes.
Of course, none of this would have a wider impact if I wasn’t able to build as I climbed. It was important to me that I find a way to give back as much as I’ve been given throughout this experience.
Given that Notarize is committed to these same values, it didn’t take long for an opportunity to come my way. Around the same time, I worked with Cecilia Falcao to record a fundraising message for Notarize’s annual Rewired Conference, during which we raised funds for Resilient Coders.
As I near the end of my internship at Notarize, I can’t believe how fast the past six months have gone by. I’ve gotten to work on a product that is helping bring ease to people during some of the most important moments of their lives, especially during a global pandemic. I’ve met the kindest people who never talked down to me and were always willing to help explain a confusing concept.
Thank you to everyone at Notarize who has supported me throughout my internship experience and a special thank you to Jasmeet, my internship manager, and the API engineering team, Jeremie, David, Sam, Ben and Jon!