Instabase Voices: My Wintership at Instabase
Advait Maybhate was a Software Engineering Intern at Instabase NYC in 2021. He’s currently studying Computer Science at the University of Waterloo. In his free time, he loves to run, read, ski, and bake sweet treats.
The day I unpacked my electric unicycle, I was drafting this blog post and trying to think of an introduction. Much like riding the unicycle, my internship at Instabase has been filled with excitement, learning, and fun! Who knew that a quick chat at a virtual booth in the Greylock Techfair would lead to one of my most memorable internship experiences? Like waiting for the new unicycle to arrive, the days leading up to my internship were filled with nervous anticipation. Reflecting back on the past few months, I can say, without a doubt, it’s been an amazing journey. Let me take you along for the ride…
Tons of Impact 💥
There are lots of really interesting challenges to tackle at Instabase given the relentlessly ambitious company mission to build a horizontal application platform for the world’s largest institutions to transform their businesses! The work done by Instabase interns is critical to the company and incredibly valuable. Instabase trusts its employees immensely and significant responsibility is given, no matter if you’re an intern or a full-time employee.
As part of the Technical Infrastructure team, I built a testing framework that runs within our orchestration system’s automated deployment process. It realizes a company-level objective to increase confidence and reliability in our on-prem rollouts. Each of our customers has unique permutations of configurations (e.g. using different types of databases, filesystems, authentication, etc.). Given the diversity of these deployments, we needed a system to validate any new installation or upgrade. While internally we may use tools such as Jenkins, we needed to build a generic, containerized solution to run across our Kubernetes environments. There didn’t exist an off-the-shelf solution, leading to a fun engineering challenge to tackle.
There was immense freedom to carve my own path for the project. As a first step, my mentor, Kunal, asked me to come up with a design. Notably, there was no “cookie-cutter” approach to follow here…no golden templates. It was a completely new, greenfield project. I was entrusted to figure out the requirements of the framework and make key design decisions. Over the next few weeks, I drafted my design for the framework and thought through the details given the context of our stack and requirements of on-prem deployments. When I encountered areas of the stack I didn’t know much about, I found that engineers from other teams, such as our Core Services team, who owned our database libraries, were always willing to sit down with me and offer helpful advice. All I needed to do was ask!
Lots of Learning 📚
This was one of my first times working deeply on the infrastructure side of the equation, and it was awesome to be able to learn more about Kubernetes, Docker, and Go (super impressed with goroutines for concurrency!). The independence and autonomy I was given to execute my project was amazing. It allowed me to explore the unknown for myself, while being able to rely on great mentorship along the way. This experience wasn’t just unique to me – my fellow intern Maja, had a similar journey:
“I was a remote intern, but, at every turn, Instabase both challenged and supported me. I was able to own a feature from infrastructure to frontend code, and my manager (Kerry) and mentor (Mohit) were always happy to hop on a call to ideate or just chat. They exposed me to most services within the platform, and I was always delighted to dig into the design documentation they threw my way. I had full ownership of my project, and I truly felt like a full-time employee, not just an intern.”
Of course, when working at a startup, everyone wears a ton of hats. I also dabbled in our React codebase to create a frontend interface to manage the test framework jobs and visualize the results. This was my first time working with Redux to manage state!
Instabase is currently in an exhilarating stage of hypergrowth. The tribe has more than doubled in size over the last 6 months (by the way, Instabase is hiring a ton – check out our postings here)! What this means in practice is that there’s a ton of change: new projects, new customers, and new Instabasers. Working in such an environment has allowed me to witness our leadership’s ability to take quick decisions and focus on priorities, a critical skill for any startup. As an intern, it’s been awesome to see the different sides of what it takes to build a successful business. At Instabase, you aren’t just siloed into your functional bucket. In the NYC office, I got to interact with many colleagues on the go-to-market (GTM) side that are tackling sales challenges, which were extremely interesting to learn about.
Loads of Fun! 🎉
After touching down in New York for my first week at Instabase, I found out that there was an Engineering off-site scheduled in Menlo Park the following week. After such a long period amidst COVID-19 and only seeing virtual faces through Zoom for work/school, it was amazing meeting the entire Engineering team in-person. During the off-site, we went kayaking in Half Moon Bay. This was my first time kayaking, and while my arms got a workout, it was exhilarating and a ton of fun (shout-out to YJ’s dog, Dumpling, for braving the waters with us)! Throughout the week, I got a chance to chat with engineers working across the stack at Instabase, focusing on projects such as integrating deep learning into document understanding and building out a robust file system client. Dinner conversations ranged from debates on the best Canadian sitcoms to how to build distributed RAM. Getting to see everyone’s crazy ping-pong and poker skills was definitely a highlight.
The Instabase Engineering team goes kayaking! 🛶
Near the end of the internship, we had another engineering trip to Menlo Park where we had our company hackathon: IBHack 4! The purpose of the hackathon was to work on anything that would improve Instabase in some way. My team worked on a project on context-aware documentation, fondly termed “InstaDocs”, bringing our documentation inside of the platform, popping up when needed. This was an amazing opportunity to touch broader parts of the codebase and work with a group of new people to build something awesome!
The people that make up Instabase are truly what makes it special. Each and every Instabaser is furiously dedicated to what they do. The culture of innovation within Instabase makes it possible for anyone to bring up big, ambitious ideas, have face time with the right leaders, and not be shot down. At the same time, the transparency within the company lends itself to a culture of constant feedback, dedication to self-improvement, and growth. Instabasers have been some of the most talented people I’ve met, from whom I’ve been able to learn a ton. In particular, I’d like to thank Kunal, Jonathan, Kai and Shaunak for being amazing mentors, in addition to the rest of the Technical Infrastructure team and all of Instabase for an amazing internship!