Intern Series: Mentorship Opportunities Galore - Meet Elena Chen
August 25, 2021 | Updated: August 31, 2022
Elena Chen is a rising senior at the University of California, Berkeley who is working as a Software Engineering Intern in our New York City office. After learning about MongoDB from her friends, she decided to spend her summer here so she could complete socially impactful work while benefiting from a renowned professional development program. Through the summer, she’s found incredible support from her mentor, enjoyed community in Underrepresented Genders in Tech (UGT), and unwound with an awesome group of peers. Keep reading to hear about what’s made Elena’s time at MongoDB so special.
Alex Wilson: Hey Elena! Thanks for taking the time to tell us about your time here at MongoDB. First, can you tell me a little bit about how you got here?
Elena Chen: Well, some of my friends interned at MongoDB before and they all told me that they had such a great time here! But one of the biggest reasons I decided to intern at MongoDB was that I had the best recruiting experience here. I felt supported, respected, and valued by the Campus team and the interviewers throughout the entire process. I thought that must be what it is like to work at MongoDB and I wasn't wrong! Moreover, I always wanted to work for a company that is contributing positively to society. Knowing that I will be making software that helps developers around the world build valuable applications and services, I decided to intern at MongoDB. Lastly, I chose MongoDB because it has one of the most well-organized internship programs in the industry. Besides providing mentorships and the resources for interns to succeed on their technical projects, the program also consists of intern social events, speaker series, and engineering roundtables. I wanted to immerse myself in all of these events so that I could make the most out of my internship and have a fun and memorable summer!
AW: Amazing! Has your work ended up being this positive? And what’s the best project you’ve worked on?
EC: My favorite project would be my main project for this summer! I am building Evergreen's new Waterfall page, also known as the Project Health page. It is the page where MongoDB engineers can view status summaries on the tasks run for their projects. The new design of the page is going to enhance MongoDB engineers' user experience on Evergreen.
I love my project because it will be used by MongoDB engineers and have a meaningful impact even after my internship ends. Additionally, working on this project has been an enjoyable and rewarding experience. Every day I look forward to building the next part of the page, and seeing everything coming together has been one of the greatest feelings and senses of accomplishment I have ever experienced. I feel competent in tackling the next major component and yet challenged to think hard and learn new things. While polishing my React and Redux skills and writing industry-standard code, I have learned to write GraphQL queries, schemas, and resolver functions. I have also learned to create front-end testing using Cypress and Storybook, two technologies I would have never used in a classroom setting.
AW: Of course, the 1:1 mentorship is such a huge part of MongoDB’s internship experience. How’s that been for you?
EC: Besides answering my questions and helping me resolve technical issues, my mentor has been my biggest support and cheerleader since the beginning. Every day he blocks out an hour on his calendar as "office hour" to answer my questions and code along my side. Every week, he asks me how he can better support me and make my internship a great experience. He celebrates my accomplishment every time I complete a task, and he guides me through the challenge every time I am blocked.
One thing my mentor has helped me with is boosting my confidence. Having never worked at a big company before, I was afraid at the beginning that I did not have the experience or skill to do well at my job. Nevertheless, my mentor reassured me and gave me a positive outlook on the project. He always tells me that he believes I will be able to finish my project by the end of my internship, and his faith in me has been one of the biggest drivers that motivates me to work hard every day.
AW: I heard you’re also part of MongoDB’s affinity group Underrepresented Genders in Tech (UGT)—have you also found support there?
EC: When I joined UGT I was paired with a UGT mentor. To me, my mentor has been a great source of support, help, and fun this summer. We met every two weeks where she checked in on me to make sure my internship was going great and I could ask her any questions. Sometimes we ate together over Zoom, others we talked passionately about Euro 2020 soccer games. From my mentor, I was able to learn a lot more about MongoDB and things outside my own team, and I received a lot of help with my final intern presentation. Just knowing that I have my UGT mentor to go to if I ever get stuck has been a great comfort to me.
UGT has also allowed me to learn about career development through its career panels. I really valued these opportunities because it was about something I could not have learned in school. One thing I loved about the event was that I was able to hear from mentors not just from my own field, software engineering, but also from product design and managerial roles. Because everyone came from different backgrounds and had different experiences, I was able to relate to each mentor on different points and apply their advice to my own life and career. Some of the mentors were once interns, and some were in positions where the mentees would want to be in three years, so it was amazing to talk to them and learn about how we could get to our next goal. What I have learned from the two panels has been eye-opening to me and will set me up for a successful career.
I am so happy that I joined UGT this summer because it has provided me with a community of mentors whom I could reach out to for help and advice. I actually just coffee-chatted a UGT mentor this morning. I was amazed by her experience and wisdom at the UGT career panel, so I reached out to her, and she was glad to set up a short talk with me. In my opinion, what I learned in my thirty minutes with Samy would have taken me at least a year to figure out on my own. She gave me a fresh perspective on going to graduate school and working in the industry, and I left the meeting with all my questions answered and a sense of clarity.
AW: Before we go, can you tell some of our prospective interns about what you’ve learned about the company this summer?
EC: One thing I have learned through my interviews and the internship is that everyone at MongoDB genuinely wants me to succeed! During the recruiting process, my recruiter sent me a lot of resources to help me prepare for the interviews and learn more about the company. I still remember I thought I did so poorly on my first interview that I emailed the recruiter afterward to apologize for my performance. But she quickly reassured me, and it turned out that I was just the worst critic of myself. During the interviews, I felt as if I was coding alongside the interviewers like coworkers. They pushed me to find the best solution to the problem and guided me when I was having trouble finding the bug. I really enjoyed meeting the recruiter and the interviewers during the process, and I could not wait to work with these people one day. After starting my internship at MongoDB this summer, I realized I made the right decision. My project mentor, my teammates, my campus program manager, and everyone else I have met here have been nothing but supportive and helpful.
Since day one I feel I have been provided the resources and support to succeed in my role. My project mentor and campus program manager also meet with me often to make sure that I am on the right track with the project and discuss how they can better support me. My teammates also help answer my questions daily and make me feel welcome in all of the team events so that I could have a successful and fun internship.
Whether you are just starting the recruiting process or about to embark on your journey at MongoDB, know that you will be supported by a group of people who want to see and help you succeed in your role and in life!
Interested in interning at MongoDB? Our 2021/2022 Software Engineering Summer Internship for the US is now live and accepting applications for students