Molly’s Summer with Tala’s Engineering Team!
Molly Kim was a summer intern on Tala’s backend engineering team. A rising junior at Brown University studying Applied Math-Computer Science, Molly shared her thoughts with us on building a product for millions of customers for the first time and what she’s taking with her from the experience!
Q: Tell us about yourself! Where did you grow up? What are some of your passions & interests?
A: I grew up moving back and forth between Seoul, LA (South Bay area), and Hong Kong. Outside of computer science, I am interested in linguistics, architecture, travel, photography, hiking, doodling, and watching HGTV.
Q: What attracted you to Tala this summer?
A: I applied to Tala because the company’s goal sounding interesting: providing an alternative to traditional credit scores. Before my interviews, I received an email with a link to Shivani’s TED Talk, which underscored Tala’s belief in individuals and their potential. During my interview with Eric Lee, Tala’s head of engineering, the company’s purpose was once again highlighted. At this point, I began to feel how truly mission-driven the Tala was (and is!). The altruism inherent to Tala’s product separated it from the other fintech startups I was looking into.
Q: You were working with Tala’s backend engineering team this summer. Can you describe the project you worked on and your specific role?
A: I worked with the backend team to create an API to manage Tala’s app flows. The API allows non-engineers to better navigate and experiment with different loan application flows. Using Activiti, a platform used for business process execution, users can interact with a visual flow diagram, and our API behaves as an intermediary that transfers that logic in ServerAPI. My role in this projects comprised of several different tasks, such as implementing some of the decision forks, writing unit tests, and connecting the application with Amazon Web Services.
Q: The API you helped build just went live! What will you take with you from your internship experience?
A: I think my internship was invaluable because the skills it encompassed weren’t narrow or too specific to the project. I am taking away a lot of tools, technologies, and languages that will prove resourceful in my future endeavors: Kotlin, Go, Git, Android Studio, Amazon Web Services, Activiti, and REST architecture — just to name a few. Additionally, I learned how to approach production problems. I felt a greater sense of responsibility when faced with blockers during my internship than I did in my classes, where it is most often the case that the professor has a solution or working implementation. In contrast, many of the obstacles I ran into this summer didn’t have clear-cut answers — or sometimes they had multiple potential solutions, and it wasn’t clear which one was superior. I learned how to reach out to engineers at Tala and online with experience with different technologies — a critical skill that can’t be easily taught in the classroom.
Similarly, I enjoyed working on a product that would actually go into production. Seeing the API go live heightened the sense that I was working on a “real” product released to “real” customers. It was a novel feeling to think that the tasks I was assigned would impact thousands of people!
Q: How was it being back in LA for the summer? Any particularly fun memories?
A: I really, really loved being back in LA (technically Santa Monica, but still)! I hadn’t returned since I left for college. I took advantage of my geographical location by visiting my hometown frequently and by making trips to Las Vegas, San Francisco, Lake Tahoe, Portland, and Seattle. In Santa Monica, I especially liked running in Palisades Park in the mornings and watching the sunset from the Pier in the evenings. The summer was a personal affirmation: west coast, best coast!
Q: What are you hoping to do after school?
A: Honestly, I’m not exactly sure what I want to do after obtaining my undergraduate degree. Recently, I was thinking about undertaking deeper natural language processing research in grad school, seeing that my upperclass coursework so far has been AI-heavy. However, I’m also considering entering the industry for a year or two before resuming higher education. For now, I’m okay with this uncertainty, because two years ago, I didn’t know I would become a computer science major! Personally, the most valuable takeaway from my internship with the backend engineering team is the realization that I don’t have nearly enough exposure to various subfields of computer science. I intend to spend the remainder of my time in college exploring other fields (full stack engineering, cybersecurity, UI/UX, etc.), either through classes or independently, and keeping my options open!
Want to build with #TeamTala? We’re hiring!
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Come join our global team at Tala.co/Careers!