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György Demarcsek

fellow of Bridge Budapest, Ustream, San Francisco, 2014

Benefits of deep water


The Fellowship
So here I am - in sunny California, in the heart of maybe the most fascinating city of the Silicon Valley, San Francisco. Via the fellowship program of Bridge Budapest, I got probably the greatest opportunity of my life, so far - a one month internship at Ustream, one of the most successful young IT startups launched from Hungary.


The Challenge
As a Computer Engineering student, I was really looking forward to know my tasks - I thought, here it is, the ultimate opportunity I was always waiting for; I could improve my skills, broaden my horizons, learn new technologies and get some professional experience. As it turned out, I was completely right about that. On the first day, I met my mentors and had an exhausting but pretty useful crash course on the architecture of Ustream’s network and applications, along with the description of my tasks for the internship. By the end of that day, 7. PM, I came back to the hotel with infinite excitement, because I knew I would be doing something significant that may be used by hundreds or thousands of users one day. And I also felt some fear, because I was supposed to do it from the ground up - the software I started to work on only existed as an idea by then. As they say, I got “free hands”. But I guess deep water is that really teaches you how to swim…



The Office
The Ustream office has all the ingredients to be a productive, inspirational workplace - couches and massage chairs, a kitchen loaded with snacks and beverages, a ping-pong table, and a beautiful view to downtown San Francisco. But of course, all of this is worth nothing without all the nice, friendly, hard-working people making Ustream better and better every day. Speaking of nice people, I have to point out, that my mentors, Andras and Arpad were very both extremely kind, helpful and thoughtful with me, I could always count on them during my stay. I think working environment influences productivity and work moral very much, for instance, Ustream’s spacious but minimalist interior design and the office’s slightly vibrant atmosphere very well worked for me. The office is quite well-located too: here are plenty nice places to eat in just a few blocks, e. g. at the elderly Mexican lady who’s always yelling something in Spanish at arriving customers and gives tortilla chips for free. Besides culinary and mental experiences, I had a chance to expereince the workplace culture and traditions at Ustream: letting dogs be around in the office, ringing a huge bell when the sales team makes a nice deal, the thursday reports and lunch together, the fact that meetings always start and finish on time and do not take more than one hour, the Halloween decoration are all parts of the company’s culture. But let’s wrap it up: nice people, workplace culture, tacos, diet coke, coffe machine, beer, dogs, rolling chairs, big displays - the ideal place for an extremely enthusiastic, nerdy programmer like me.



The Lesson
During the course of the internship I got famailiar with 5 new technologies and software solutions I haven’t used before; I wrote code in 3 different programming languages; and solved at least 10 problems every day. I learned that it is worth investing time to learn about the latest technologies that facilitate development processes and software deployment. I learned that one may make mistakes that are almost inevitable but at least have a benefit of teaching you a valuable lesson, while some mistakes could and should be avoided by good planning and careful design. And finally, the most important lesson I learned is as follows. Finding out how to solve emerging, complex problems and come around every day hitches along the way, doing everything from scratch, by yourself, driven by the passion to build better software is quite hard and demanding, but probably the best way to learn and advance. And this is what my mentors encouraged me to do, to find and fight my own ways to good solutions, even if sometimes I do not choose the best way, because each time I try a wrong direction, I learn something new. And I’m really happy they did it this way, and I think, deep water worked for me good.