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Insights from the Babbel engineering team

My 12 weeks in Babbel’s Backend Service Team

Omosola

Omosola and Team

As my internship comes to a close (only two days left!), it seems like a great time to reflect on the past twelve weeks of my life here with Babbel.

I have to say that twelve weeks ago, I had literally no idea what to expect (and yes, I understand that’s the popular incorrect American use of “literally” :) I didn’t know all that much about the company. I just knew that I was ridiculously excited to return to Berlin for the summer.


Berlin On My Mind (Why Berlin?)

Two years ago, I had my first experience with the city. I spent six months in Berlin, the first three months studying abroad through my university (Stanford) and the second three months completing an internship. I basically became obsessed with the city and decided I had to return. I can talk for days and days about why I like the city, but I’ll keep that for another time.

About six months ago, I started looking for internships in Berlin. I perused berlinstartupjobs.com to find some promising positions. After extensively, and exhaustively (oh man was it exhausting :) searching the site, I narrowed down all of the the companies listed and applied to the ones which seemed the most interesting.

Let me count the ways (Why Babbel?)

Babbel made it to the short list for several reasons:

  • I really, really enjoy learning languages. I’ve studied Spanish, German, and Yoruba, and want to become highly conversational in at least two more in the next decade.
  • My love of languages seeped into my academic studies in the form of Linguistics and Natural Language Processing. It was cool that I found a company where I could actually use the NLP material I was learning for my Masters.
  • Finally, Babbel is a consumer web application, and through my various internships, I’ve found that I really like working on that type of product.

So, I went ahead and applied to Babbel (as well as other Berlin-based companies). After a few weeks of debating back and forth with myself about which company (and in which country) I wanted to work, I ended up choosing Babbel because, during the interview process, they were the friendliest and very willing to let me explore pretty much any team/feature I wanted to. Which was perfect for me, because I kind of like doing a little bit of everything and I have a lot of interests. Another thing that was really great was their willingness to let me join the Backend Service Team. As far as software development goes, that’s probably the area I had the least experience with. The last time I worked in a specifically backend team was 3 years ago with Microsoft. I explicitly asked to be on the team because I love constantly learning and challenging myself and wanted to strengthen this area.

A Day in The Life (What’s a typical day like?)

I usually get to the office around 10am and leave around 6pm. I really like that my team has a nice work life balance. I definitely would make sure I keep a good balance, but it’s nice that it’s encouraged by my team and Babbel in general.

On most days, I work on refactoring, testing, servicing requested features from other teams, and fixing application exceptions. This doesn’t seem like the sexy stuff to work on, but it’s a necessary part for any growing company and it gives me a more realistic impression of full time work. I like getting to work on the real tasks which the application requires on a daily basis. What’s so great about it is that every task requires a different piece of knowledge and it’s really helped me ramp up and learn about the codebase much faster than if I were just given a 3 month long intern project.

I explicitly asked to be treated just like any other team member and my boss and coworkers have done exactly that.

Life Can’t Always be Fun and Games… But Sometimes it Is (What’s some cool Babbel stuff I’ve done?)

Here’s just a few of the fun Babbel-related things I’ve done this summer:

Tempelhofer Feld after work party, Product/Engineering Team Full-day Offsite with Kayaking and Team Games, American themed Beer O’Clock party, Bi-weekly brown-bag sessions

Daily team coffee breaks, a straight hour of goofing around during lunch breaks, Weekly yoga sessions, etc, etc

:O (What’s surprised me the most?)

There have been many things that surprised me, though mainly because I had no idea what to expect when I came in. The first thing that surprised me was how welcoming everyone was. From previous experience working in German companies, I was expecting that people wouldn’t be as immediately friendly or open as they were. That it would take my coworkers some time to warm up to me, but that wasn’t the case at all. I got an onboarding coach in my first days at the company, who gave me an office tour and introduced me to all of the teams and people at the company. I had lunches immediately with the VP and other fun people who just reached out to me because I was new. Plus, my Backend colleagues folded me into the team really easily.

Another thing that surprised me was how well I clicked with almost everyone in the office. We have these bi-weekly things called “Blind Lunch”, it’s like a blind date but less awkward I guess (still never tried out one of those :). Haha. Basically you get matched with someone else in the company, go out for lunch with them and just talk about whatever. I’ve gone on four or five Blind Lunches so far and everyone has been amazing. Not just good, but amazing. I’ve spent hours laughing with people who were complete strangers at the beginning. There are so many hilarious, goofy, and interesting people who work at Babbel. It’s also cool that there are so many international people. That means that I can learn a lot about different cultures on a regular basis.

Back to the Future (What’s up next?)

So, what’s next in my life? I’m glad you asked :) I’m graduating from my Masters in December, then kicking it with my family back home for the holidays and then a few weeks afterwards, hopefully completing a month-long intensive German language course (which I’m insanely excited about), and then finally embarking into the world of full-time software development life.

Omosola and Team

About

Omosola Odetunde is a software development intern in Babbel’s Backend Service Team. Though she’s originally from Texas, she’s spent the past 5 years in the San Francisco Bay Area for college. She’s currently completing a Masters in Computer Science from Stanford with a primary focus in Artificial Intelligence and a secondary focus in Software Theory. In 2013, she finished her Bachelors in Computer Science also from Stanford. Her academic areas of interests include Application Security, Natural Language Processing, Application Development, Linguistics, and Design. Outside of CS, she has a lot of interests, including gymnastics, foreign languages, and eating an unhealthy amount of gummies. We definitely hope that Omosola will come back and join Babbel full time after finishing her Masters.

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