My Summer at Square Fare

Haitian Zhou, SEAS Masters in Systems Engineering, 2024

By the time August 10th rolled around, I had reached the culmination of my efforts at Square Fare, effectively wrapping up my assignments and successfully concluding my internship journey. As I reflect upon the various undertakings that characterized my tenure within this professional setting, I can discern a multitude of areas where progress has been made. These advancements aren’t confined solely to the enhancement of my technical aptitude; they also extend to the refinement of my communication and collaborative proficiencies, as exemplified by my participation in the resolution of real-world business challenges as part of a cohesive team.

The latter phase of my internship experience was predominantly centered around a significant undertaking: the development of a Python-based algorithm aimed at automatically generating personalized menus for each subscriber, factoring in their unique nutritional requirements, dietary preferences, and allergies. This multifaceted initiative encompassed several intricate components. These included the identification of subscribers and their corresponding nutritional profiles, the computation of ingredient quantities based on individual dietary needs, the provision of substitutes for allergenic ingredients, and the distribution of tailored menus to subscribers via email. My responsibilities entailed harnessing Google Sheets, MailChimp profiles, and a database API designed by my fellow team members to gather the nutrition profiles of subscribers and compile a comprehensive database of ingredient alternatives. Much like the initial project, the technical arsenal deployed for this endeavor spanned data manipulation, API development, algorithmic design, documentation creation, and database establishment.

However, the most profound takeaway from this internship experience extends beyond the realm of technical prowess. Although the company lacked a dedicated full-time technical team, I gleaned a pivotal lesson in crafting solutions that cater to market demand. Our CEO effectively played the role of a product manager, consistently presenting technological challenges that necessitated innovative resolutions. This iterative process commenced with identifying operational inefficiencies or shortcomings. Subsequently, our team would brainstorm a viable solution, outlining the implementation strategy and estimating the time required. Close collaboration with the CEO ensued, validating the proposed solution’s alignment with her vision and its feasibility within our technical framework. To ensure cohesion, pseudocode was generated to provide a structural framework for our coding efforts, followed by task allocation and the actual coding process. Regular progress updates were reported during daily meetings. This comprehensive approach enlightened me to the fact that a successful software engineer transcends the boundaries of coding proficiency, encompassing the realm of adept problem-solving, an inherent business acumen, and the ability to effectively communicate ideas to fulfill the demands of product managers.

As I transition back to an academic environment to further hone my software development skills, I acknowledge that certain intangible skills I’ve acquired during my internship are seldom taught within classroom settings. The experiential nature of this internship has filled this void, imparting a rudimentary understanding of the attributes required to excel in a prospective software engineering career. Armed with the robust foundation of knowledge amassed through my academic pursuits and the invaluable experiential insights garnered from my internship, I approach the future with a heightened sense of confidence. I am poised to embark on a job search this year, fully equipped to contribute meaningfully and achieve success in my chosen career path.

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