Building software skills in Britain

Hello! My name is Tailai Wang, a fifth-year Computer Science and Business Administration student. I’ll be sharing my story about my past internship in London, England as a Forward Deployed Software Engineer at Palantir Technologies!


How many work terms have you done and where?Tailai Wang hiking.

Prior to working at Palantir, I completed 3 work terms:

Work term one: I worked as a business technology analyst in Production Engineering at Questrade. I found this job in the continuous round of WaterlooWorks after having my first job offer rescinded due to pandemic complications. It turned out to be a blessing! I learned a lot about DevOps, CI/CD and other things essential to software development that usually go unseen. Outside of my main work, I also picked up a lot of finance industry knowledge over my 4 months at Questrade. I had a great time talking about trading with my coworkers, who were very eager to share their insights on their world.

Work term two: I then accepted the role of software developer at Sonova Innovation Lab. This was the job that was previously cancelled during my 1B term. Sonova Lab is one of the many corporate innovation labs at Communitech in Kitchener. As the world’s biggest manufacturer of hearing aids, Sonova uses their lab to develop new technologies to help support their medical devices. I was still working remote at the time, but I got the chance to visit the Communitech campus for a couple visits throughout the term. At the lab, I worked primarily in iOS to prototype ‘Find My’ for hearing aids. The hearing aids give off a Bluetooth signal that can be detected by your phone, enabling you to keep track of where you left them.

Work term three: For my third term, I worked as a software engineer at Tile. This was my first time working for a company that focused exclusively on Technology! Tile (now acquired by Life360) makes the Bluetooth tags you keep on your belongings to make them easier to find. I worked on their iOS platform there and drew a lot from my experience of building ‘Find My’ at Sonova. I learned a lot about different big data concepts and finding algorithms in the process, but I also started getting tired of working on apps. I figured that I wanted to start exploring more infrastructure/data related problems and began working on building skills with those tools.


Tailai Wang standing in War Memorial Gardens.What’s it like working at Palantir? How did you find the job?

Palantir is a technology company that sells platforms and tools for organizations to enable their big data capabilities.

They serve small and large organizations (tiny startups, global conglomerates, huge governments) and work end-to-end on data cleaning, scaling, analysis, and tooling.

The company has a unique role known as Forward Deployed Software Engineering (FDSE). FDSEs are technologists who are assigned to a specific Palantir client – in my case, a large automotive company.

I was responsible for working on new features our clients needed in Palantir Foundry, a commercial data operating system. Most of my work was centered around Apache Spark, the distributed data processing engine. I would spend my days scoping new features with our clients, designing my systems, and implementing them in our codebase.

Tailai Wang standing with a friend in front of Nelson's Column. I applied for this role specifically because I figured my BBA experience could understand the strategic issues our engineering clients faced. I wanted to see the intersection of the corporate and technology worlds, so my interviewers found my background to be a good fit for this role. Since my prior work terms were all during the pandemic, this was also my very first time being able to work in-person with my team.

We traveled to visit our clients in Germany, spending time with their engineers to demo and showcase our work. I was truly impressed by how international the work was – I’m a Canadian kid in the UK, working with French coworkers and German clients!

When I wasn’t working, I got to explore London and the rest of the UK & Europe. My first time really travelling alone was a wonderful growing experience and I’m so glad for all the memories I made with new folks. Some of my highlights include a weekend hiking in Wales, living at my classmate’s flat in Paris for a week, and making a spontaneous trip to Amsterdam.


Do you have any advice for other co-op students?

“Bet on yourself. Have faith in your own abilities and don’t shy away from whatever is thrown at you.”

Tailai Wang, a fifth-year computer science and business administration student

Tailai Wang and a friend overlooking rustic scenery.I remember feeling very apprehensive about working so far from home, but the growth I got from a new experience was 100% worth it.

Adopt a mindset of growth from your experiences. Think about how each co-op has shaped you in your career. How has it created interest (or disinterest) in certain fields and technologies? How can you relate your previous experiences to new ones? Even though my early co-ops felt all over the place, it all started to make sense when I relate them to my journey in tech.

 

Explore as much as you can. Even with my (narrow-ish) field of software engineering, there are so many different paths and experiences. Take advantage of your unique Waterloo experience to see as many of them as possible.


What’s next for you?

After wrapping up my internship in London, I moved back home for a few weeks before starting my fifth and final co-op in Chicago. I’m currently working at IMC, a proprietary trading firm that focuses on technology-driven market making. It’s almost a full circle moment for me – I saw many of the trading/finance topics I now deal with back in first year at Questrade!

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