My internship at Apple

Alastair Paragas

Name: Alastair Paragas

Hometown: Manila, Philippines and Homestead, Florida

Where did you intern? I worked at Apple headquarters in Cupertino, CA, as a software engineer intern in the Internet Software and Services Department.

What projects did you work on? In general, Apple tends to be highly secretive about the work that its employees do, to keep the element of delight and surprise. I can’t talk much about what I worked on in specifics, but my work focused on data crunching as well as the general area of “Big Data” and engineering pipelines to transport and query against massive datasets within the company. I worked on all “software stacks,” ranging from the design of the user interface, building out a highly responsive and real-time, front-end application to the software architecture that ran on a cluster as well as various server-side applications that connected to various data sources and utilized various other data transport/storage solutions.

What is your major? Computer Sciences with minors in mathematics and mathematical sciences

How did your internship connect back to your coursework? During internship, I was able to apply the theory I learned in class into pure application. Computer Science, in itself, is a very application-oriented field, ranging from implementations of programming languages with compilers/interpreters to the design of networks. Also, as I typically have multiple side projects and hackathons I would attend and build projects about, things that in hindsight, may have seemed useless to me, finally revealed themselves when building complex pieces of software that ran on huge clusters of servers.

What was the coolest thing about your internship? Getting to work with a highly concentrated set of intelligent people, some of whom have had been employed at other well-known tech companies. Being mentored on my project was an important moment considering the value I picked up from my co-workers. Surprisingly, I was also given a real responsibility to build a project that was actually going to be utilized and developed upon even after my internship ended. I also got to attend WWDC 2016 – Apple’s premier developer conference!

What did you like most about your experience? The talented interns and co-workers who I was surrounded with. Having extremely bright mentors and co-workers helped me pick up on anything I wished to learn much quicker – whether it be through a simple lunch discussion on a programming language or a software architecture.

What did you learn about yourself? I learned I was a workaholic. I enjoyed staying overtime to get a specific component done. I also always feared how I would react given some financial flexibility that the job provided me, but I found comfort in realizing that I managed to stay humble with my expenses. For example, my roommates always joked about how I ate the same plate of eggs and refried beans for dinner, which I found convenient, efficient and highly affordable. Following Henry David Thoreau’s rhetoric on keeping it simple, I found it enjoyable to live a simple life and I found myself barely utilizing the money that I earned, if any.

How did the position increase your professional confidence? It gave me insight into the corporate world. I was given a tremendous set of real-world responsibilities to which I was able to respond with both effort and quality.

How did you expand your professional network? On one of the few weekends I considered socializing, I finally met a group of people who I had interacted with online (codenamed CdT). It was enlightening how our online and offline personalities contrasted, as they were some talented and bright people who held several internships around the valley in companies like Facebook, Twilio and Google. Having opportunities to meet such people in person added a tremendous sense of connection.

How did it help you prove yourself in the “real-world?” Working for a company like Apple gave me the opportunity to develop projects to an extent I would have never been able to before simply due to the complexity and lack of resources.

How did you get your internship? I originally obtained my internship as a joke. Two of my friends – Mark Fajet and Lester Ramos – submitted my resume at Apple’s booth during HackFSU, a hackathon at Florida State University. I managed to win the “Best Hardware Hack” during the event with a hack that I scrounged together in the last few hours of the hackathon, which I’m guessing helped get me the  internship for real.

What advice do you have for those beginning the internship process? Assume the worst possible scenario, but also gain confidence by considering the value that you are bringing to a company – if you do get an internship with them. Assuming that I would not get into Apple gave me the calm directive that allowed me to tackle several steps of the interview process (ranging from technical to non-technical) with calm, something I would have not been able to do otherwise.