This summer, Verkada Software Engineering hosted fifteen interns for a twelve-week internship program. Interns worked on projects with our Computer Vision, Search, Embedded, Streaming, and Events and Notifications teams. At the end of the summer, interns had the opportunity to present their capstone projects to the entire Verkada Engineering team. As we round out the last few weeks of our program, we spoke to three of our standout interns, Bhavna Sud, Ethan Lord, and Luka Govedič, to get a sense of how they spent their summer at Verkada!
What was the most interesting project you worked on this summer?
Bhavna: The most interesting project I worked on was undistorting fisheye images so that we could apply our people/vehicle detection model to them. I got to brainstorm and research different ideas for how to best undistort the image, try out all the different approaches, evaluate them, and finally choose an approach and integrate it with our codebase. At first, it seemed like an unsolvable problem because none of the undistortion approaches I tried were working well with our object detection model — but that’s what made it so rewarding when I finally was able to get it to work! It was a problem I was constantly thinking about. I also liked the fact that I was able to go from designing the undistortion algorithm to actually implementing it and integrating it with our codebase, so I got to experience the whole development process.
Ethan: I worked on a lot this summer, but my favorite project I worked on was deduplication of our vehicle detections. I had the chance to work with our CV models that run on cameras to get rid of unnecessary detections of vehicles that are not moving. Working on embedded systems that run CV is a really fun challenge, as you are trying to accomplish a lot with very limited resources. I also felt like my work on this project was extremely valued, as it helped to reduce costs internally and improved the experience for our users who don’t want to deal with lots of unnecessary notifications.
Luka: My biggest project was the spinning of a new backend service which was part of our Verkada OS project, and was a big quarterly project for a group of 5 or 6 people. It was one of the bigger milestones for the firmware team. What Verkada OS is, is transitioning our firmware from a monolith to a base image in apps so you can update apps just like you do on your phone. I worked on the online backend service that supports that so you can download what you need from it and upload packages there. It’s like an online app store for Verkada Apps and Verkada devices.
What was the relationship with your mentor like? What was your biggest takeaway from working with them?
Bhavna: My mentor, Kevin, was someone who was constantly available to me for help, and by the end of the internship, it felt like we had become friends as well. I was always so surprised at how quickly he responded to my Slack messages and how much effort he put into making sure I was successful. He also improved my code quality a lot because he left so many comments on my pull requests! My biggest takeaway from working with Kevin is that you should always follow proper development standards, even if the hacky approach is easier.
Ethan: My mentor was an invaluable resource during my internship. He was always available to answer my questions, no matter how basic or unrelated to my projects they were. He even specifically set up time to walk me through recent projects that he had worked on, so I could have a more complete understanding of the team. From that, my biggest takeaway from working with him is that I should always take the time to understand the full picture beyond just the details necessary for my own work, as it will always be a great way to learn and grow.
Luka: My mentor was Mickael. He’s great, very fun to be around, as well as extremely knowledgeable and technically skilled. He was always available, which was good because in the beginning we thought I was going to work more on firmware, but I ended up working more on backend. So I worked a lot with people who weren’t on my team, but he was always available to help me even though it was not his area. I learned a lot from his vast knowledge. He treated me very much as an equal member of the team where I contributed my thoughts and was involved in discussions where I was more of a participant versus just asking questions and learning.
How would you describe the culture at Verkada?
Bhavna: I often felt like Verkada wasn’t really an office — hanging out with the interns and full time employees felt more like hanging out with my friends at school than cordial interactions with coworkers. The people constantly riding around on segways and playing table tennis definitely added to that feeling! Verkada is a company where everybody believes in the company and wants to work hard, but also where people love to have fun.
Ethan: The culture at Verkada is extremely welcoming. Everyone is always willing to talk about what they’re working on to anyone who will listen. I found myself caring about projects that were completely unrelated to my work purely because of how passionate other engineers were. The leadership is also very accessible as we were provided with multiple occasions to chat with the CEO, and the CTO attended my final presentation.
Luka: Verkada, is able to maintain a startup vibe despite its size. Everyone’s work is extremely impactful and everything is super fast moving, so it feels like every single person keeps learning something new and contributing. There isn’t a lot of bureaucracy. If you want to do something, improve something, build something, you can do it and when people do that (take initiative) it helps the company a lot. In terms of personal culture, Verkada supports people a lot. With in office perks, we have a soccer team, reimbursing commuter costs, all the basic stuff, but everything is there for you.
What was the highlight of the internship for you?
Bhavna: The University Recruiting team hosted an event for us almost every week, so it’s hard to choose which was my favorite. But one that really stands out to me was the yacht charter. We got to go on a yacht in San Francisco, eat, drink, and sing karaoke super loudly. Everybody was dancing and singing along — it was awesome.
Ethan: The highlight of my internship was when all of the interns went to play Segway Polo together. It was a very fun sport that fits Verkada very well, as we also have segways in the office that we all loved to ride around on.
Luka: All the interns and mentors who participated were on the same page that Segway Polo and the yacht cruise were the two most fun intern events. In terms of work, I feel like I’ve had a lot of ups and downs where I felt like “ Oh no, this doesn’t work, I’m not going to figure it out.” Then a couple hours or a day later I realize “Oh my God, I did it!” Because everything is moving so quickly, there is so much happening, and you’re working on such impactful projects, it’s a high stress affair. That also means that the highs are high because you really are happy and think “Wow, I actually did this and figured it out in such a short time.” There’s a lot of positive pressure from everyone doing great things and everyone supporting each other.
What advice would you give to someone interested in interning at Verkada?
Bhavna: You might be surprised when you first join about the amount of work you’re expected to put in, so only join if you’re ready for that. But if you are, then it’s a super rewarding experience and you can learn more than you would at most other internships. Also, it doesn’t matter what team you get put on because every team is working on solving challenging problems. We had weekly Lunch and Learn presentations where we learned what the different teams are doing, and I honestly want to try all of them!
Ethan: Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Most engineers really care about what they are working on, and love to teach others about it. There is such a wealth of knowledge at Verkada, and you would miss out if you don’t take advantage of this.
Luka: I’d say, for someone who is just starting, don’t be afraid when you feel like many things hit you at once. It can be easy to feel like you’re not doing well because everyone else seems to be doing great. That’s because they assume that you’ll figure it out by yourself, which I think everyone does, but it’s hard sometimes to see that other people also moved slowly when they started. You ramp up quickly though, so you shouldn’t feel bad about where you start. Not because people aren’t skilled, everyone is skilled, but starting a new job is always stressful. You have to learn even if you know all the technology, you need to learn how people work. In particular at Verkada, you have to learn how things work and how they play together. There are a lot of projects, code services, documentation to read, and it’s something you need to take in regardless of skill level. The good thing is once you do, you’ll be contributing a lot to the team. When I first started, I felt like I was overwhelmed in the first few days, but looking back, I was able to contribute immediately.