PEY is a 16 month internship program at the University of Toronto that Flipp has worked with for 3 years and counting.
I discovered the Flipp app when I moved out on my own for the first time after freshman year. I didn’t realize that the company was located in Canada.
When I realized Flipp’s office was a half hour subway away from my residence in Toronto, I eagerly scoured the PEY application portal and the Flipp Careers Page in hopes of finding a role at the company to apply for.
I found an opportunity, and I wrote about how Flipp had helped me save money while navigating the grown-up world of buying my own groceries. I was hungry to learn about and work with web technologies. But most importantly, I wanted to contribute to something that I had personally found useful, and I wanted meaningful work.
During the initial interview, I quickly warmed up to Flipp’s emphasis on people and culture. My interviewers and I chatted for a good half hour about my interests, the people and community at Flipp, the team events and the camaraderie before even starting a technical question. They must have liked what they had heard from me because when I hit a snag on my first technical question, it looked like they were struggling to keep themselves from helping too much! Thankfully, I eventually solved that one and the other questions went more smoothly…
And so, I joined Flipp for a 16 month “Professional Experience Year” (PEY) after my third year of computer/electrical engineering, with a handful of well-intentioned but only semi-working projects under my belt.
I worked as a junior software engineer at Flipp working mostly on front end, on a team that does bespoke implementations of our retailer hosted flyer platform. Next time you’re on a retailer’s site and you’re curious, hit that “flyers” button and check out the product I worked on. If the retailer works with Flipp, chances are I directly worked on what you’re looking at.
Later, when I asked my coach about my struggle with the first technical question, he told me that while it was good to be able to know the answer immediately, it was also important to have the right attitude and approach to tackling problems.
And that has been Flipp culture as I know it - an emphasis on being Humble, Hungry and Highly intelligent (our 3H’s) while remembering to Always Reinvent, Be Team First and Coach Others (our ABC’s). Those are the pillars that have supported this growing community.
When I talk to students at career fairs, I emphasize that beyond technical skill and experience, it’s vital to have these traits and the right attitude to be successful. The team understood that as students, there would be things we don’t know. However, having the right attitude made all the difference in helping us grow.
What I Actually Worked On
The growth I’ve experienced at Flipp and the impact I can make has been a big part of what made my work experience so positive.
When I first started working at Flipp, I had no idea how to set up my environment and what exactly I was almost blindly copying and pasting into my terminal. I had also never used a Mac in my life, and Flipp had provided me with a Macbook for the 16 months. It seemed like it would be a struggle just to get started. I also had no experience with databases, never touched Rails, and any Ruby I knew was from a last-minute cram from Codecademy. However, my team and my coach never lost patience with me when I kept asking questions, and they didn’t question my silence when I was busy looking up things for myself.
Since then, I’ve worked on over 275 tickets. In terms of commits, there are 285 to one repository, and 45 to another. That’s the addition of over 75,000 lines of code, and the removal of another 10,000. Looking at the Github contributions breakdown, these numbers only capture what has been added to master, and not the few, “Hey we have some spare time, let’s add these features,” tickets that got deprioritized when our team focused on other work.
In addition to writing my own code, I’ve had the opportunity to proofread other people’s code through code reviews. I have been able to improve my work based on other people’s feedback and seeing how other people code. I’ve also had the opportunity to control the entire process for some features we’ve been tasked to deliver, from the investigation effort, presenting and documenting the results, and working on aspects of the project itself. With this, I’ve contributed to over 15 articles of documentation. In the majority of them, I documented new features and processes, some “how-to” tutorials, and some reviews and updates to the existing documentation.
Speaking in terms of projects, I’ve customized a ton of themes, fixed a few errors, upgraded some processes and features, created custom apps for Black Friday, written a ton of specs, and made a few API endpoints. Not bad for someone who couldn’t even figure out touchpad gestures on a Mac in her first week!
The Flipp Team Culture
It wasn’t all work either- I’ve tried to attend as many Flipp events as possible to meet other teammates. There’s something for everyone. Flipp employees organize sports every week, with volleyball occupying a special place in my heart (and my calendar). There’s cheese club once a month. There’s a company-wide event every month, and overnight trips twice a year. I’ve had zero qualms singing karaoke in front of 300+ people, running through downtown wearing funny hats completing challenges with people I don’t usually work with, tearing up the dance floor, and just enjoying time with everyone there.
I initially thought it was a bit corny when I asked people what it was like to work at Flipp, and they responded with “Well, it’s a bit like going to work with your best friends.” In my 16 months here, I can attest that’s pretty accurate.
In that time, a lot has changed at Flipp as well. Most notably, we went from nearly 300 people when I started to over 400. The number of visible channels on Slack has more than doubled from 500 something to nearly 1200. We’ve gone from occupying two floors in our building, to 2.5, to 3.5 with more floors being worked on. Our direction has evolved, and the purpose within the larger team has been changing to reflect changing consumer behaviour and retailer expectation. Shopping lists and coupons have seen breakthroughs in the past year, and there are a ton of projects and features slated for the rest of the year and beyond.
Back to School
After 16 months at Flipp, I am returning to school having contributed to features that came to life and are being used by millions every day. Not many can say that about their first internship experience. Even though I won’t be around to observe all the behind-the-scenes that goes into every feature anymore, I am so proud to have been a part of this team.
If you are interested in working at a company where your time can really make an impact, and where you can make some great friends while you’re at it, explore a PEY experience at Flipp.