Email Genius Academy Intern Spotlight: Chris Butler


Name: Chris Butlerme

Return Path position: Software Engineering intern on the Revenue Generation Team in Broomfield, CO

Education: Computer Science major at Colorado School of Mines (Golden, CO). Expected graduation: Spring 2016

Walk me through your typical day at Return Path.
I work on the Revenue Generation team, which means that my team writes web tools for the sales team. We help sales track and manage data to then use to start new conversations with potential clients. A typical day at Return Path involves me working on a new feature or a bug-fix for these tools. As an intern, I tend to work on simpler and smaller-scoped projects, but I still contribute and am very much a member of the team.

My team keeps track of features and bugs with an approach called Scrum, which uses “cards” to separate tasks and keep things organized. On any given day, there are a few cards which I need to address. I’ll come in, pick the card I want to work on, and then cycle between writing code and asking for help, either from Google or my teammates. Sometimes I start with the card I know the most about (or more often, the card I’m least unfamiliar with) and work through them one at a time until the end of the “iteration.” At the end of an iteration, the entire team sits down and goes over what did and didn’t get done, and starts planning out which cards need to get done in the next couple of weeks.

There are, of course, routine meetings which break up the usual cycle, but they’re never bad. The meetings are all within the team, so everyone’s aware of how much we hate meetings and they tend to be short and focused. It’s quite hard to drag a meeting on and on when there are only four people involved!

What is your favorite aspect about being an intern at Return Path?
Interning at Return Path has been a surreal and wonderful experience. At Return Path, I feel more independent than I have at school or at previous jobs, and yet I am in a very organized and structured environment. I am independent because I am allowed to experiment in my current position and learn new skills; however, I never feel overwhelmed because I have consistent meetings with my manager. My manager makes sure I am working on the right projects and gives me feedback on my progress. My team has been incredibly supportive and patient with me, offering help to get me caught up with their system and to consistently keep me involved without a second thought. Both of the other engineers routinely spend half of their day to walk me through things I’m less comfortable with, like database queries, JavaScript best practices, basics of jQuery, setting up my development machine with Docker, and the structure of the code base. I know if I ever have an issue, I can just ask and I’ll receive thoughtful and thorough advice from people who know what they’re talking about.

What type of advice would you give to future interns looking to work at Return Path?
Return Path is a “People First” company. That means they care about the atmosphere in the workplace. Don’t worry if you don’t know jQuery or PHP—I didn’t when I started. My advice to you, if you want to intern here: connect! Go meet Return Path at your career fair or a local Meetup—a couple of us were at the Boulder Python meetup in July. After you get through the basics of software development, your ability to learn and get along with people matters more than how much time you’ve spent memorizing algorithms or language corner cases.

What is one item on your bucket list?
More important to me than a single thing to do is to simply never stop doing: learning, growing, and changing how I see the world. I’m an entirely a different person as I enter my last year of undergrad than I was when I left high school. If I can keep improving myself at half that pace, I think I’ll die happy.

Check out our other interns here.

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