Build@Mercari Interns Share Their Experiences and Thoughts! #MercariDays #BuildAtMercari

Hello everyone! I’m Hirona, project manager of Build@Mercari.

On September 30th, we finished all the programs for this year’s Build@Mercari. Build@Mercari is a hybrid training program targeting engineers that is provided by Mercari’s engineering organization. This program provides training and internships for people who haven’t had that opportunity for different reasons (especially for minorities in the STEM and IT fields, like women, the LGBT+ community, or other people who feel that they are part of an underrepresented group).

In May, we started the training program Build@Mercari for future engineers, focusing on minority groups that are underrepresented.

If you want to know more about Build@Mercari, read the Mercan articles below!

In this Mercan article, interns will take turns talking about what the internship was like.

<Member Introductions>
@yuki: a sophomore at university majoring in information technology. Joined a listing team as an iOS engineer.
@mei: a university student majoring in science. Worked on backend development for Mercari’s shipping methods as an intern.
@u-pon: a liberal arts graduate and a student at school called 42. Joined a listing team as an Android engineer.
@yurie: a senior at a school of international liberal studies majoring in international economics and management. Joined a team working on Mercari’s new business as a backend engineer.
@feifei: a junior at an art university majoring in design. Joined the internship as a technical product manager.
@yuri: a junior at university majoring in information technology. Joined the internship as a technical product manager.

Now, each member will share their thoughts on and what they learned from Build@Mercari.

Overview of the Program (@yuki)

In Build@Mercari’s skill training, we first learned how to use Git and how to set up environments, which allowed me to smoothly move on to implementation even though I had never implemented anything before. Working on implementation and developing something tangible was a completely different experience from learning at university and self-study.

Meeting people with different backgrounds through Build@Mercari, such as people studying liberal arts, working adults, and graduate students, was also an inspiring experience. My schedule was tight because I had to take classes at university and do my assignments while participating in the program, but I think the fact that I was busy helped me make the most of the time I had. There were times when I got frustrated with myself because lectures were too difficult to understand, but I think this gave me an opportunity to figure out what I need to work on and pointed me in the right direction in my studies.

I’ll always remember doing assignments with other participants over video chat and making it through the program with the support of instructors and other participants. Working on both frontend and backend tasks helped me figure out my aptitude. After submitting the last assignment of the skill training, I felt a sense of achievement so strong that I cried in front of my screen.

At first, I thought programming was too difficult for me, but participating in the skill training gave me confidence that I can develop a product myself. Meeting role models and people who share the same concerns as me was also a good experience! I didn’t know what to learn six months ago but there are a lot of things I want to do now!

Build@Mercari From the Perspective of a Student Majoring in Information Technology (@mei)

As a student learning information technology at university, I learned a lot of things not only from Build@Mercari’s well-designed lectures and code review, but also through the process of asking other participants questions and working together to solve problems

Even though all the entire program was held online, I found communication on Slack and GitHub fun and exciting. Even participants without an academic background in information technology did a great job on their homework assignments and we were able to identify our strong suits. Unfortunately we couldn’t meet in person, but I think we were able to build a great community where we worked together to move forward.

Personally, I don’t have many friends who share the same goals as me at my university, which sometimes makes me wonder if I’m going in the right direction. However, meeting people working hard and growing every day regardless of their background encouraged me to be more confident and continue to work hard.

Build@Mercari From the Perspective of a Student with a Non-Technical Background (@u-pon)

Let me share what I thought about Build@Mercari from the perspective of a student with an educational background in liberal arts.

To get straight to the point, don’t hesitate to apply even if your major is not information technology. We covered Git, frontend, and backend during the skill training and everything we learned was practical, and I think you can learn a lot from the lectures and information on the internet without preliminary knowledge/experience.

Of course some of the content covered in the training was something you would learn at university if you were majoring in information technology, but this kind of knowledge might not necessarily be applied directly in your daily work, so you should just think of it as a bonus opportunity to familiarize yourself with this knowledge.

What is amazing about Build@Mercari is that participants learn from each other, and if there is someone who is knowledgeable about something, you can always talk to them. Ask a question if you get stuck on any assignment and other participants and instructors will help you. You can ask questions outside of what is covered in the assignments, so in that sense, you can learn anything you want! Also, I don’t think what you are majoring in matters because in the internship, you will be assigned to a team where you can gain practical experience.

There are engineers with educational background in liberal arts who play an active role in my team, and Mercari doesn’t have a culture of judging members based on their educational backgrounds and major in the first place. I’m really thankful that this program was open to anyone regardless of their major. Participating in the program gave me an opportunity to meet people like me with non-technical backgrounds who are aiming to become engineers and taught me a lot of things.

How the Internship Changed My Mindset as an Engineer (@yurie)

Being able to work on both frontend and backend web development tasks such as data structures gave me confidence that I can develop something from scratch.

During the internship, I got to work on the development and operation of Mercari’s large-scale microservices, which made me think not only about developing services but also about maintaining them. Up until now, I thought software engineering was all about developing something from scratch, but I realized scaling something up from 100 to 1000 and maintaining it is also an important aspect of software engineering. I also developed libraries used for Mercari’s microservices and I became more focused on how my code is used by other engineers and if my code is compatible in the long term.

I recommend you apply for the program if you are interested in computer science regardless of your background and skills. There was a time when I lost my confidence and didn’t know if I would be able to become an engineer after finding out there are people my age who are far more skilled and better than me not only in Japan but in other countries too. Sometimes you compare yourself to others and lose confidence, which is understandable, but it’s important to know that competition doesn’t decide your limits.

What We Thought About the Build@Mercari Program (@feifei, @yuri)

Now, let me share the connections I made with the people I met through the Build@Mercari program and the mindset to take on new challenges.

First, about the participants. There were people with very diverse backgrounds. When I applied for the Build@Mercari program, I thought most of the participants would be undergraduate/graduate students majoring in information technology. But it turned out my assumption was wrong once the program started and I talked to other participants. Of course there were a certain number of students majoring in information technology, but there were also people likea working adult learning programming by themselves, a student with educational background in liberal arts who didn’t really have programming experience, and a student at art university who loves design.Each person had different goals for Build@Mercari, such as“I want to acquire technical skills”, “I want to learn something because I’m still figuring out my career path”, and “I want to join Mercari!”Meeting people with different backgrounds and life goals gave me a fresh perspective.

In Build@Mercari, you get assignments every week. Assignments were easy in the initial stage of the program, but they became more difficult as the program proceeded, and the last assignment took me a great amount of time and effort to complete. There was a lecture on something I knew nothing about where the instructor explained basics and difficult topics in a little less than three hours, and at the end of the lecture they were like “This is the assignment based on today’s lecture. You have one week to work on it.” When I was told to implement unit tests I was surprised because I had almost zero knowledge of backend.

However,what was amazing about the participants of Build@Mercari was that even though the assignments were really difficult, we were able to get them done because we helped each other.Because the participants of Build@Mercari were able to communicate with each other on Slack whenever we wanted, we held study sessions where we studied together, had discussions, and asked each other questions, and even though some would talk about how it took them 60 hours to finish week’s assignment, most of us finished our assignments before the deadlines. I think knowing other people were also working hard helped me get through the program. We helped each other, but because we knew interns would be selected based in part on the performance in the program, we also saw each other as rivals.

After the presentations on the last day of Build@Mercari

After the program, I felt a sense of unity thatwe went through something togetherand I felt sad to say goodbye at the last get-together. It was tough, but I was able to grow much more than I expected and meet such great people.

Next, I want to talk about the relationship with Mercari’s employees. Build@Mercari program provided me with plenty of opportunities to talk not only to other participants but also to Mercari’s employees. I’m grateful for the opportunity to ask engineers questions about career development, etc. There are many engineers with diverse backgrounds in Mercari, so it was interesting to talk to them about their backgrounds, the reason why they decided to become engineers, and experiences in their previous companies. The most memorable thing is that all the employees were really friendly. They talked to me on an equal footing, and I really enjoyed both serious conversation and casual chat. There are both Japanese and English speakers at Mercari, which sometimes creates language barriers, but I felt that everyone was trying to cooperate with each other to eliminate them, which made me think Mercari has a comfortable working environment. I’m grateful that I was able to meet these great people through Build@Mercari. Now the program is over, but let’s keep in touch!

Summary (@feifei, @yuri)

Lastly, I want to tell you that it’s important to take on challenges even if you don’t have programming experience. I still think I’m not as good as other participants, but participating in the Build@Mercari program helped me stop putting myself down.

Do not think that you cannot do programming just because you are not good at science, or you don’t have experience, or you are not young.

It’s never too late to start learning programming. You might struggle at first, but the more you learn it the more fun it gets. A bug is not a failure but rather an opportunity to grow! There is no harm in giving it a shot. Stop worrying and take the first step.

I hope this article will encourage as many people as possible to start learning programming!

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