Internship experiences from Poorna Kumar of Stanford
September 29, 2016 – By Poorna Kumar
This summer, I worked as an intern at The Hive, in one of its portfolio companies, Neva.ai, which is building an AI system to augment and assist companies in the enterprise customer service space. That sounds fancy, but before I joined, I had little idea of what exactly to expect. I’d met Kamesh Raghavan and Mohan Reddy, and they’d both been resourceful and extremely nice to me. During my internship, I worked on topic modeling, which is a way of identifying “topics” in a collection of documents. There were many things I learnt during my internship — from the value of living close to your workplace (ah, the lovely two-mile bike ride to work!) to the best way to document code — but if I had to pick my top three learnings, they would be:
Any start-up experience is defined by the people in one’s team:
I joined a very small team in Neva, and as my internship progressed, the team grew. We all worked in the same office, and saw a lot of each other — so, as you can imagine, it was really important that we had a positive team dynamic. To work with people so intimately is both a challenge and an opportunity, and I am grateful that I had a set of knowledgeable and spirited colleagues, from whom I learnt a lot.
I enjoy NLP:
Before working at Neva, my experience in NLP was limited to a single class that I’d taken at Stanford. In Neva, I worked on problems related to NLP, and also learnt about what my colleagues were working on. Understanding natural language is one of those fast-dwindling areas where humans still fare better than computers — we can, as humans, often see why a computer is getting confused by data, and it is a fun challenge to come up with ideas to make an NLP system better.
The openness of a start-up is nice:
With our daily stand-ups, bi-weekly demos, multiple channels of communication, and common working space, we all had a broad idea of what everyone was working on. To a generalist like me, that’s pretty neat.
Working at Neva gave me a good idea of what it’s like to be working at a start-up, and I’m thankful for the experience. I’m also very grateful to everyone at The Hive, who, whether over prolonged conversations or through passing interactions, made my experience what it was.