Technology is rapidly evolving, forcing industries to foster a posture of learning. One way we do this at The Washington Post is invite a group of interns to join us each summer. As they learn from us, we often walk away having learned more from them, the next generation of innovative minds.

This past summer, we welcomed seven interns to help build media technology at The Washington Post. Towards the end of the experience, we host a hackathon for them. Here’s Sarah’s (a 2018 Engineering summer intern) take on this year’s hackathon:

"Every year in our DC office, The Washington Post Engineering hosts a hackathon, and invites its engineering interns to participate. For those who don't know what a hackathon is, these events typically last a day or two, and serve as time for engineers to collaborate on a single project of their choice. In this case, software engineering interns from across The Washington Post gather to brainstorm, build, and present ideas for the Post across a two week period that culminates in a full day of teamwork. This year's annual hackathon happened on Friday, August 3rd.

Hackathons are a great opportunity for developers who sometimes work remotely to collaborate in person. This year, engineering interns collaborated in The Washington Post DC office, over Slack, and in remote meetings during the weeks leading up to the hackathon. On the day of, interns who sometimes worked in separate office locations took advantage of face time to help their teams efficiently deliver a minimum viable product.

Engineering interns Dor Friedman, Danny Kim, Alex Grace, Yiming Liao, Risheek Rajolu, Sarah Otis, David Haynes, and Erik Melone split into three teams of two or three each in July. Though each team would present a different project, everyone agreed to focus on a single theme: audience engagement. How could engineering interns help enhance the online experience for readers? How could they leverage technology to draw more attention to fantastic journalism? They immediately got to work.

In The Post's spirit of rapid productivity and in-house innovation, interns turned to the agile Scrum methodology and to subject matter experts throughout the organization. Scrum methodology was not a requirement; however, interns had learned the value of accountability in their everyday work on other Scrum teams. Each team of interns created tickets for themselves, met on a daily basis, and stayed focused during a daily ten-minute meeting in order to encourage less talk and more action. By August 3rd, the interns completed a two-week sprint while also working full-time on their own summer projects and tickets. During the sprint, the interns fully defined their problems, met with multiple product and design teams, got feedback from editorial staff, chose Key Performance Indicators, and—most importantly—built out the minimum viable product to A/B test on current Post products. The sprint helped interns realistically assess progress and adapt well to changes.

The big day officially began at 8:30 a.m. in The Washington Post Live Center. Interns enjoyed almost eight hours of uninterrupted work before presenting their final demos at 4 p.m. on stage. One team presented Annotations, a way of inserting in-line comments into articles. Another team demoed Article Reactions, an option to support articles with custom Washington Post emoji. A third team presented What You've Missed, a way to catch up on old but important articles after a hiatus from reading your favorite newspaper (and you know which paper that is).

This all-day event highlights The Washington Post’s community spirit. Dozens of employees reached out to contribute their feedback and suggestions throughout the development process. Some interns arrived early on the final day to settle in and start developing and, throughout the day, coordinators fueled the interns with food. Other developers, some of whom normally work remotely and some of whom work in-office, made special trips to the Live Center to work side-by-side with interns and cheer them along. Talk of the event spread throughout the organization’s Slack channels. Those who could not make it would tune into the livestream. By the end of the hackathon, the interns were ready and excited to share what they had created with product teams, journalists, other engineers, and editorial staff from The Washington Post. The intern teams hope to have inspired additional ideas through their work that can help move the organization forward.”

If you're interested in joining The Washington Post Engineering team next summer as an intern, apply here. Every year, interns give it a two-thumbs up. Past interns have this to say about the experience:

"Working on the Arc Mobile iOS team this summer has been one of the most challenging, yet rewarding experiences thus far. From day one, the amount of information I have had to process and then put to use has been incredible. From learning about version control in Github to the funky ins and outs of Xcode, I have learned so much about what it truly means to be a developer, compared to just some college student hacking together a personal project from his/her dorm or apartment.

One aspect about the Post that has been critical to my growth this summer has been how willing people are to answer questions. I can safely say that every single member of my team has helped me a tremendous amount. Just after a week or so, I was completely comfortable asking them any question, and without their help I would not have nearly the same wealth of knowledge as I do leaving the Post."

—Erik Melone, iOS development intern

"This was my second summer at the Post working on the InfoSec team. As primarily a software developer I occupy a rather interesting role on the team by developing projects and building out solutions that support our security operations by automating a lot of the 'boring work' and gathering insight from large datasets. One example of this was a monitoring application that I built out against the Outlook section of the Microsoft Graph API to detect misconfigurations in a security rollout that we performed early in the summer. Another big initiative that I assisted with was our rollout of Splunk Enterprise Security as our primary SIEM solution. This was my first experience administering a large scale deployment in a cloud environment and it was a ton of fun learning the ins and outs of the platform. Overall my time interning at the Post has been a highly rewarding experience and I highly recommend the opportunity to any that are interested."  

—David Haynes, InfoSec intern