Working at A Startup as A Software Engineer 

Charlie Meng, SEAS Master of Computer and Information Technology, 2025

This summer I interned at UseTapper, LLC, which is a new company working to develop a brand new mobile app for contractor business. This experience is remarkable, and it wasn’t just because of the tech stuff (although that was awesome); it was the whole vibe of working in a small startup. 

Getting My Hands Dirty 

Right from the start, I was diving into things like improving the speed of the payment service app, Tapper, by exploring the code base and messing with the development database, which helped me get familiar with the existing system. Imagine tinkering with some code and then finding out you made everything run 26% faster! That was the kind of thrill I got to experience. 

Shifting Data Around 

Right before we released our first version of the app, I had to migrate data from stage environment to the production environment, across different regions. It sounds boring, but it’s like moving a house with everything still inside – you don’t want to break anything! Me and another engineer had to carefully read through the related documentations form AWS to figure out a way, which was tedious, but making that happen without users noticing was pretty cool. 

Making Tools for Fellows 

Another highlight was making tools that helped my fellow developers. I created some utilities during my daily work that helped us test the app, manipulate testing data, and make sure everything was secure. It felt great to make everyone’s job a bit easier. 

Startup Life 

Now, the startup life is something special. Working in a small company meant I wasn’t just another face in the crowd. I literally work with everyone in the company – including the CEO and CTO, which made me familiar with most aspects (except for the financial and legal parts) of our company and product. We’d have chats about the company, the product, and sometimes even life in general. In a big corporation, you might never even see the boss, let alone talk to them. 

Knowing everything about the company and the product made me feel a real connection to my work. Every single thing I did mattered. And being able to turn around and ask the CEO how they started, just like that, was something you don’t find everywhere. 

My unpaid internship at UseTapper was about more than just learning how to be a better software engineer. It was about being part of a team, working on something real, and feeling like I had a voice in what was happening. 

Thanks to GAPSA Summer Internship Funding, I had the chance to dive into this unpaid experience without worrying too much about the money side of things. That support made a huge difference for me. Looking back, I can honestly say I’ve learned so much and made memories that’ll stick with me for a long time. Whether it was the tech challenges, the teamwork, or just the fun of being part of a growing startup, I’m really glad I was there. 

This is part of a series of posts by recipients of the 2023 GAPSA Summer Internship Funding Program that is coordinated by Penn Career Services. We’ve asked funding recipients to reflect on their summer experiences and talk about the industries in which they spent their summer. You can read the entire series here.

By Career Services
Career Services