Email Genius Academy Intern Spotlight: Garrison Davis

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Return Path position: Software engineering intern on the Data Pipeline team in Broomfield, CO

Education: Computer Science major, Colorado School of Mines (Golden, CO). Graduated: Spring 2015

Walk me through your typical day at Return Path.
Since day two, I am pretty sure every day has begun with a few moments of me smiling stupidly at my computer screen, in anticipation of the things I’m going to learn, the decisions I’m going to help make, and the people that I’m going to be working with.

Doing engineering on the Data Pipeline team is a different type of engineering compared to other teams, especially in the breadth of the work we do. Like most engineering teams, the Data Pipeline team is involved in production support (supporting software and hardware services already in production), feature work (adding additional features to our software and hardware services, primarily to fulfill some business need), and tackling tech debt (debt that occurs when you stop improving a system, but recognize that there is additional work that needs to be done to polish it up). However unlike most engineering teams and their members who typically have a specific area of focus, each individual member of the Data Pipeline team is working on all of the different areas every day.

In addition to experiencing traditional engineering problem solving, my team has done a fantastic job helping me learn and really understand the various software and hardware technologies we rely upon. I could rattle off more than two dozen technologies and systems that I have now been exposed to! They also are helping me refine the intangible, yet vital, analytical skills that are the cornerstone of making informed engineering decisions.

In summary, each day, I work with my team to improve our engineering processes, while becoming a better engineer myself!

What is your favorite aspect about being an intern at Return Path?
Every day I have been at Return Path, I have felt empowered. I have felt empowered to speak up and offer my opinion in meetings where we discuss software and hardware designs that we will be working on and supporting the next few months, or longer. I have felt empowered to implement those critical decisions personally. I have felt empowered to critically question my team, the engineering management, and even the C-level executives if I don’t understand why we are doing things the way we are, all while being respected at every level. I have felt empowered because know that I am an important part of a team that has worked together to solve many difficult problems in the short time I’ve been here.

What type of advice would you give to future interns looking to work at Return Path?
I have two pieces for advice for future interns looking to work at Return Path. The first piece of advice has definitely been applicable every day here (and probably every day at any job!), but learn how to ask questions that do not disrupt other people’s productivity. Something along the lines of “What’s the minimum you can show me to help me figure out how to do this myself?” followed by furious note-taking and careful questioning if you need more assistance. When you are confused or curious, asking questions is a fantastic place to start, and something I learned on the first day.

The second is most applicable if you feel hesitant when making big decisions like I was around applying for the internship and setting up my interview. There are a lot of reasons to experience trepidation when it comes to big decisions like that. The biggest one for me was lack of confidence in my ability to “engineer” things. I had no real, battle-tested engineering experience going into my interview, no previous internship or relevant work experience. But I thought a lot about what it would be like if I didn’t apply because I was afraid. And, maybe to spite my insecurities, I applied anyway and I haven’t looked back since!

What is one item on your bucket list?
I would love to experience a world premiere in Carnegie Hall!

Check out our other interns: MichelleDerekShayle, and Christine.

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