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Big Interns For Big Data

“[My wife] won’t let me talk about work anymore.” — Intern overheard talking at lunch

Quotes can be forged, but casual lunchtime conversation tends to be very candid. Indeed, it’s the indirect signals that mean to the most to me as I coordinate the intern program for the second year.

Another intern expressed delighted surprise at how well the interns are integrated into our teams. I take serious pride in this trait of the Vertica Summer Intern Program, as we ensure our interns each have at least one personal mentor and project that matters to us and to them. With eight interns this year, we have them doing everything from releasing features to customers and researching ways to improve performance to analyzing Vertica usage patterns and improving our testing framework. Our interns represented some geographic diversity, hailing from MIT, UVa, UMass Amherst, University of Houston, Brown and Purdue. The program has doubled and with good reason – in the last six months, two of our interns from 2011 have started full-time, as did a fellow co-intern of mine from back in 2009.

We encourage our interns to work their 40 hours and then enjoy Boston. Still, during the week-long Intern User-Defined-Function Contest, one of the eventual winners told me at 10 PM he wanted to skip school and come work at Vertica, while another pair of interns extended their internships. Though all will be returning to school in the fall, I’m thrilled that we can inspire the interns this deeply and grateful to all my coworkers who helped choose them from the candidate pool.

Vertica intern party

Annual intern party at Shilpa's, complete with (brand new) traditions of single-ski water skiing and watermelon carving. Photos taken by Ramachandra CN

But it’s not all work at Vertica. Along with individual lunches with Vertica’s top-brass, we managed hiking trips, poker nights (intern-organized!), creative four-player bocce matches, horse riding, and water skiing. Trust Vertica interns to even take the weekly Counter Strike game and turn it into a data-collection event, loading in-game kill locations into a Vertica database. I leave you with a level heatmap produced by our interns’ very own Vertica User-Defined-Function.

Heat Map

Here we see the deadliest locations of the Counter Strike map Italy. Though the concentration of carnage while attempting to rescue the hostages in the upper left is unsurprising, we can also understand how dangerous each of the access paths to the hostages are. For the same contest, the other interns created an AVRO parser, a JSON parser, and an automatic email-sending function for their contest entries. Heat map from Mark Fay and Matt Fay

We’ll be keeping in touch with this year’s crop of interns as they finish here and return to their respective academic programs. Many people have helped with the intern program this year, but I feel Adam Seering deserves special mention for all his work in making this summer a success. I also appreciate the support our coworkers have given the intern program from 1-on-1 help to attending the intern presentations in numbers.

Thank you Vertica 2012 interns for all your hard work this summer. You have no idea how much positive feedback I’ve heard about you all!

Our interns ending a successful summer by riding off into the sunset. Literally.

Our interns ending a successful summer by riding off into the sunset. Literally. Photo taken by Ramachandra CN.

Are You Ready for the Data Race?

A few hardy souls pressed against the tide of humanity heading home after work last Tuesday to gather at a nondescript loft in downtown Boston. We carefully looked left and right before dodging in past the bouncer to join a select crowd in their new favorite adrenaline-pumping sport… Tweet Racing.

In Tweet Racing, each participant carefully selects a twitter search term for the race, betting on the term they hope the Twitterverse will smile upon. Thrown into the cage and subjected to Vertica’s live twitter sentiment analysis code, the terms dueled for an hour. There are no rules in Tweet Racing – anything goes. We watched as the participants encouraged their Twitter followers to tweet for their terms or brutally tweet down others.

In the end, we even learned a few things. People don’t feel very strongly about kittens on a Tuesday evening.  However, “skrillex” is fairly popular, but it’s hard to beat “jolie” right after her Oscar Night poses.

 

But we weren’t there just to watch the races. New Blood Boston hosted the Vertica Engineering team for a discussion about ”Big Data” and how the Vertica Analytics Platform is a natural fit for many of the data problems facing start-ups today.

At the event, we showed how Vertica can blaze through anything from clickstream data with funnel analysis to graph problems like k-core and counting triangles – problems that may not initially appear to be database problems. We demonstrated what makes Tweet Racing possible in Vertica – the extensibility of the platform and its applicability to things outside the usual scope of the traditional SQL database.

But mostly, we were there to share our passion for Vertica and the engineering challenges that go into making it the industry’s most powerful, extensible analytics database.

Missed the New Blood Boston event? Check out our Vertica Community Edition to test drive Vertica and experience the thrills first hand!

On Both Sides of the Internship

Author: Lyric Doshi

Three cheers for Vertica Summer Interns 2011!
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As summer comes to an end, we bid goodbye to yet another amazing crop of summer interns. This years interns Hieu, Zhongliang, Ruchika and Zhijie were MS/PhD students from different schools along the east coast.  They worked on projects to extend the Vertica SDK, enhance Hadoop/Pig connectivity, and create internal developer productivity tools.  We plan to incorporate much of this work into a future major release of Vertica. In fact, there was so much excitement surrounding their work that in addition to the traditional presentation to engineering, they were asked to present to the entire company after having lunch with Vertica VP&GM Chris Lynch.

Once a picky an intern at other companies (and a very happy one at Vertica, why else would I have come back?), I had the opportunity this year to run our internship program, beginning with coordinating interviews for nearly 40 candidates down to a 4 solid interns. That was over 3 months ago. In the past few days, I took some time to speak with each intern to hear about their experience and I was happy to hear some of my own words to my mentors at Vertica from 2 years ago being reiterated.

Zhongliang gained experience working on a full Java project for first time and told me he felt his coding improved dramatically thanks to feedback from his mentor Matt.

Ruchika told me how her project made some of her friends jealous because she was never bored at work. She appreciated how everyone here dropped their work to help her out when she had questions. She singled out the unwavering patience of her mentor Ben in answering her questions. Having appreciated the same time and time again, I responded, “Been there, done that.”

Hieu highlighted how much fun he had in addition to his project, partaking in our Ping Pong tournament, joining the weekly pick-up basketball, learning the art of sword-play, destroying us in Starcraft, and attending cook-outs hosted by co-workers. He even laughed himself through an unforgettable first experience with water sports (hint: it involved an inner tube, some soccer shorts, and a motorboat) at our annual interns party.


Zhijie was very happy to work on a project that, while sufficiently separated that he did not worry about causing trouble, was in the release plan. Whenever he got frustrated with coding issues, he looked at customer feature requests page to see all the demands for what he was working on and found real inspiration that he was making a difference.

Repeatedly pressing each for complaints in the spirit of constructive criticism, major or minor, I finally forced something out of the Zhijie “The office was a little hot when the AC broke.” Surely a sign of a successful summer?

But it’s not just the interns that got something out of the internship program. Our program is run entirely by engineering and both I and the four dedicated intern mentors gained experience managing projects, goals and expectations. We’ve adapted our program over the years, trying both team and individual projects focussed on everything from tools and demos to server-side changes. This year, we even sat our interns in desks near their respective mentors this year for a proper full-timer experience and even higher mentor accessibility.

A big thank you to all of our interns for your hard work and commitment. We’ll miss having you around but wish you the best for the coming school year and hope to see you again soon!

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