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I worked at NextJump [1] during the summer of 2011 in New York City. NextJump provides corporate perks portals for much of the Fortune 500. They also produce savings portals for several membership organizations such as AARP and Mastercard. I was a product development intern. I was hired as a coder, to build website front ends and back-ends in PHP, Microsoft SQL Server, and JavaScript. I also managed our 3-person intern team in the competition to build a mobile version of the product.

I liked this summer because it was the exact opposite of Deutsche Bahn. NextJump prides itself on being small and acting fast. I was also in a coding role, as opposed to last summer and last January at State Street. I still tried to be more than a coder and use my product development experience to provide input on the direction of the products I worked on. Since NextJump works so fast, the fine details of development have to be solved as you are implementing the product. Often someone comes to you with an issue that you need to solve and implement that day. I like that I often had that freedom to shape the product as I was building it. Also NextJump likes to look at metrics. I think some of that attention rubbed off on me.

The interns were also challenged to build a mobile web version of the main product. The 10 interns were split into 3 teams. The other teams members agreed that I should be product manager. This was another great experience to managed a team to produce a project. I also made the initial wireframe layout of the site, which the CEO and the Strategy Committee really liked. They also liked our visual design and search which another member of the team made. Ultimately a mobile site which blends elements of all 3 sites will be released.

I think NextJump works a bit too fast and has too much pressure to release daily. For example, something could be done in 3 days releasing the code every day, or it could be done in 2 days, releasing only after the second day. I think the later is overall more productive. I still think getting stuff out there and iterating quickly is good. However, a little more care could be put into quality. For example, go like 20% slower to think about what you are changing. I think this will pay dividends as more changes are made. Also care should be taken that users are not confused by too many changes. Facebook users always initially hate the redesign. If you think about some of the top sales websites, their UI has barely changed. Amazon has slowly optimized stuff, such as an AJAX results list, but the basic experience has barely changed. NextJump believes that it is still growing and still in the period of constant change.

The code base is also not very clean because NextJump does not say no to anyone - on both sides of the networks. While most companies refuse to make one-off changes, NextJump will make anything a client asks for. This naturally makes the code base a mess. In addition, NextJump is always changing things to test and optimize merchandizing.

I also really liked the office environment - it is one big floor of cubes. Everyone is very friendly with each other and knows what the other group is up to. This is in sharp contrast to the 2 other places I worked previously. I also really like the programs they have set up to make sure that everyone stays informed. They have a quick company-wide meeting every Monday. While this can work poorly, they keep it short so it works. I also like the every-other Friday reflections session. I think this is because I like thinking about other parts of the business, but I realize not everyone shares my enthusiasm. What they call "Project Awesome" is also very cool. It's essentially a company-wide Tumblr where everyone can post cool work-related things and other users comment on it.

Also, all of the departments worked very well and got their assigned jobs done. This was much better than Deutsche Bahn, as well as State Street. I think this is the environment I want to be in when I work full time. I've also realized that the more a company pay you, the more the company values you AND the more interesting, and I think fun, the job is. NextJump certainly paid more than my previous jobs; plus they also provided a lot of perks like free laundry. They also had a gym on site in the office, which I think contributes to the culture of the office. You can also come to work in a t-shirt.

I also think I am getting used to working and learning all of the soft skills to work in an office and interact with others. My team coding ability is still increasing; I still have a lot to learn on best practices for branching code and QA-ing stuff. I also think my project management ability is maturing, but I still need to remember to focus on the ultimate end goal of the project when prioritizing work. Overall I really enjoyed this summer. It wasn't as big an impact as last summer, but that was more of a once in a lifetime.


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