Doctoral candidate Kinyetta Nance discusses her summer internship at Facebook in California.
What is your research focus at the iSchool?
My research explores the intersection of technology, culture, and design.
Where did you work this summer, and what was your role?
I worked at Facebook headquarters in Menlo Park, California, as a UX research intern on the Accessibility and Core Experience teams.
How did you find out about the position?
As someone who is always browsing for opportunities, I knew internships in tech for PhD students are abundant. I worked at Adobe last year in the same role, so I wanted to try a different company. Companies tend to list their opportunities as early as September for the following summer, so I started applying in the fall semester for multiple internship opportunities. I searched Linkedin, Indeed, and also found which companies were coming to the Engineering Career Fair.
What new skills did you acquire during your time with the company?
The biggest skill I learned was how to "Move Fast!," which is one of Facebook's core values. I learned how to do multiple things extremely well at the same time. The pace in industry is a lot faster than in academia, so it took some adjusting, but after a few weeks, I settled into the position and onboarded to do the work I needed to accomplish for the summer. Being a member of a cross-functional team allowed me to interact with engineers, product managers, and researchers as well as data scientists. I learned how to communicate well with different stakeholders. This communication opened the door to delivering key findings each team member valued and felt could be used to push products forward.
What did you like best about working at the company?
Free food! Pay, amenities, and the meaningful work! Granted you're often working too hard to enjoy some of the amenities, so you have to be intentional about using them! Additionally, there are billions of people using Facebook. As a researcher, I had access to a huge corpus of log data. Gaining a few SQL skills allowed me the ability to query that data to gain key insights for my project. It was quite overwhelming at first to run experiments with participants in the millions! It's daunting stuff, but very exciting at the same time. Very few social media companies have that reach. Another awesome reality of working at Facebook is that there are brilliant people all around. I had to execute quasi-experimental surveys over the summer, and being able to poll senior researchers to talk about how to properly set up the experiments and best practices was awesome. There was an in-house expert for many things!
What would you advise current students who are interested in an internship opportunity?
I would say create a great resume, with keywords targeted for the job or jobs you are interested in. Also, create a website to showcase your projects and skills. This is crucial. This step helped me land last year's job with Adobe. Provide lots of visuals, and videos where necessary; recruiters often have very little time to skim your material. Utilize the Engineering Career Fairs to gain face time with your favorite employers. You can practice talking to recruiters from companies you're interested in and you can learn more about what they are looking for in the interns they hire. I talked to many recruiters as well as previous interns during my search.
Also, start applying now. Don't wait until it's too late. I started applying in the early to middle part of the fall semester for internships the following summer. Typically UX applications for Google are released the first week of January, so I always marked my calendar so that I could be one of the first people to submit an application! I also received an offer from Google, but that job was in Seattle, and I wanted to be in California. Applying early gives you more opportunities.
Be prepared to work hard! Facebook and many of the tech companies pay extremely well and some provide housing. They do require you to spend long hours as needed to plan, execute, and deliver your projects. Be prepared for an unsteady work-life balance for part to almost all of your internship so that it does not surprise you when you arrive!
What are your plans after you complete your degree?
My internship at Facebook was successful, and they have offered me a full-time job upon graduating with my PhD in the spring. I plan to start my postdoctoral journey in industry with Facebook next year as a full time UX researcher on their Accessibility team.