Winter '20 @ Shopify

Winter '20 @ Shopify

Quick thought on our world's current situation

Hello hello, I hope you are social distancing responsibly and washing your hands often. It's safe to say that almost nobody expected the current COVID-19 situation to first appear in the first place and now to be progressing in such a negative manner. This is definitely going down in the history books for sure... As of the written date (early April 2020) of this sentence, the situation in Canada and globally is getting exponentially worse every day (Update I've procrastinated on this for like 2 months so now in early June 2020 cases have been stabilized, though not really improving much). It feels like the situation is changing every moment. Everyday you open your cellphone all you see are updates around COVID-19, either it's the ever-climbing infected cases and fatalities or is about some newer and stricter measures enforced by the government. Anyways, before I get too off-tracked, I just hope this pandemic will end permanently soon and everyone's life can get back to normal.

The FUN I had @ Shopify

Now that I've address the pink elephant in the house, lets get into talking about how my work-term at Shopify has been going.

TL;DR: It has been GREAT!

Although this isn't my first internship, but it is my first time working in a large tech company. Unlike my previous co-op at A Thinking Ape, an 80 employee company, here at Shopify we have well over 5000 employees. And I have to say, it is a whole new experience (well... except the snack bars πŸ˜‹). From the sheer size of the office to the amount of new people that I get to work with every day, you'd be surprised at the amount of differences two tech companies have.

Here are some major things that I thought were notable

  • Free, unlimited, quality, and healthy breakfast and lunch. Like honestly, I'm spoiled by it, now every day I want my breakfast to consist of at least two warm dishes, scrabbled eggs, some protein, a special gourmet dish, fruits (oh and it has to contain: strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, sweet melon, pineapple), and some desserts. Oh I'm not done, I also I want my 5 course lunch plus a special dish with choice of 3 different soups with like 10 different vegetables for salad and 3 different types of desserts. So yea, you get the point, the food is top notch.
First meal at Shopify
  • Super super cool office, I mean I'm sure you have a mental image of a cool office would be like. The defaults: ping pong tables, gaming area with like all the gaming consoles, snack bars every where... Well we have all that plus a stunning view of the city of Toronto (I was at the 620 King Street West office), plus a dedicated music room (and oh if you didn't know I'm a big music nerd, I was legit once in that room by myself for 4 hours straight just playing with all the equipment... πŸ˜…), plus a private movie room, plus a book bar (that you can borrow or even take books from). And I can go on and on, but I gotta say, the office is very nicely designed, and it's made so that it makes you feel at home and welcomed.
Can't really show the interior, but this is a cool view from the office.
  • Intern Summit!!! Basically a 4 days and 3 nights long intern getaway just for us to get to know each other and have fun. We went to this super fancy Fairmount hotel and it is the most cozy place I have ever been to ever. I got a chance to play curling for the first time, cross-country skied for the first time, and skated for the first time. Obviously there were also a lot of board games and drinks πŸ™‚.
Capture the Flag Competition Top Three teams (I am there!)

I can honestly go on and on, but I think you get the point. It is a company that you wanna work at at least once πŸ‘

What makes Shopify great is the people.

While it's true that all the perks that we have are great, and no joke I'm heavily spoiled by it. But, what makes it really enjoyable are just how great the people were. Like you can have the greatest perks but if you are with bunch of people that are hard to talk to, hard to relate to, and hard to get help from, you'll get tired of the perks very quick. And no, I'm not getting paid to write this and say these, it's my honest opinion. I've made many great friends during my internship there and friendship is no amount of salaries can pay to get you.

Me with the Shopifolks (I swear I closed my eyes on purpose to get the anime character look)

I guess there really is a method to Shopify's interview madness. Whereas other company usually do coding challenge first and emphasize heavily (as in only) on technical skills, Shopify weighs culture fit and personality (aka vibe) equally. During the process candidates are first faced with a 'Life Story' interview where you speak to a recruiter for about 30 minutes and let them get a feel of either you fit Shopify's culture (as in being a chill and friendly person) or not. And even if the candidate is highly technically skilled, they will be dismissed if they fail the life story (as in the candidate seems too hard to work with, not chill, hard to approach).

Abrupt office closure due to COVID-19

I remember on Wednesday, March 11 at lunch with the boiz. We were talking about how this is going to be the third last lunch we'll have together (because it was set that starting next Monday Shopify offices will close globally). But little did we know that was the last time we get to see each other in office, or for that matter, the entire co-op term. Once I got home, we all received an email at about 11 PM that a family member of an employee that works in the same office that we were in, tested positive for COVID-19. Like I had the concept that the virus was spreading, but this time it really made me feel like it hit close to home. So it was decided that no one is to return to the office for any matter until a deep cleaning is done. It really was this email that truly materialized the impact and extent of this virus into my mind.

Working Remotely

I never would have thought I would be working remotely for my co-op term. Because to me, co-op is for exploration and learning to live independently. Even until this day, I still miss the office atmosphere very much. However, I must applaud how smoothly Shopify transitioned all 5000+ of its employees to work remotely so well. They really kicked it off with a $1000 allowance for all employees to beef up their office setup, which was very out of my expectation also applicable for interns. My setup below (got the chair and the monitor using the allowance)

Besides the sweet sweet $1k, I was also very impressed with how fast we have transformed all of our regular programmings (daily stand-ups, company-wide town halls, etc.) all so smoothly online. Although, it's not all rainbows and sunshine. I do find it a lot harder to collaborate remotely, I miss being able to turn around and just start discussing with my colleagues. I miss the perfect working environment at the office: next level ergonomic chairs, standing desks, unlimited snacks, next level fruit, next level food, etc.... The most importantly, I feel like a big part of doing internship is to get to know the company culture, get to know the people in person, and be in a place that you haven't been... And obviously these are the things that are simply not possible due to the pandemic. Anyways, I think Shopify definitely made the remote experience the best possible. I really can't think of how it can be made better haha. They really thought of everything, I was originally worried that I have to go in person to return my laptop but turns out they mailed me a box and I can just mail it back. Which I thought was pretty neat and thoughtful.

What's next?

Honestly who knows, the world's changing so rapidly every day and I don't think anyone knows. I've been quarantined inside for like 3 months now and I have to say I'm getting a bit tired of it. Although it is likely that I'll be home until 2021. Time really flies though, maybe it's because I'm not seeing new things and experiencing new things every day which consequently made it hard for me to differentiate one day from another. Really feels like we're wasting our time away, but it is for the better.

I'm currently on my 2B software engineering school term, no joke it's probably the hardest term so far. Now I understand why there's the saying "2B or not to be" that's the question. Except in addition to the normal SE course load, the smart ass me decides to take CO 250 (Intro to Optimizations). So yea needless to say, I'm bombarded with assignments every week and all I do basically is proving things. Really makes me miss the privilege of being able to go to a library and just grind. Now, I'm stuck in my room for legit 21 hours a day.

There's a high chance that I'll be returning to Shopify for my 2B work term (to a really cool team). Although, if this whole pandemic thing didn't happen I'll definitely be trying to apply to many other jobs just so I can diversify my experiences. But given the current condition, I know I should be 100% grateful that I'm so very lucky and privileged to be able to return to such a great company. The job market is really grim... WaterlooWorks usually have about 3000+ jobs, this term its only 1000. And no international co-ops (because border is closed...).


I hope things will get better, at least close to the normal that we all took granted for. In the meantime, I will try my best for this very challenging school term and connect with my friends as much as possible. Thanks for reading this, sorry if it isn't very bright, but that's the situation right now, I hope we can all get through this! Stay strong πŸ’ͺ.