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"Interns have an impact here!" | Team Spotlight: Joy

By Elysa Kohrs | Saturday, August 14, 2021
Just a few years ago, Joy Liu hadn’t programmed much at all. She began participating in hackathons last August while taking a gap year between high school and college. Through those hackathons, she met someone who was working at schoolhouse.world. She learned about Schoolhouse, sent an email to Drew and Akshay, and joined the Schoolhouse team as a Software Engineering Intern in February. Drew recently said, “We didn’t treat Joy like an intern. We didn’t need to. From day 1, she was just an extension of our full-time team." Throughout the past six months, Joy has pushed code to thousands of users and contributed to core parts of the platform. Whether you are a learner, tutor, or just discovered the site for the first time, you have interacted with parts of the site that Joy has built.

Joy's internship recently wrapped up, but before her last day, we caught up with Joy and asked her to reflect on the past six months, tell us a bit more about herself, and share some words of wisdom to the Schoolhouse community. Without further ado, I virtually introduce Joy Liu...let's hear from Joy herself.


How did you become interested in computer science and software engineering?

I’m located in Portland, Oregon, and even though Portland isn’t super tech-savvy and doesn’t have as many startups as California, we’re still considered the Silicon Forest, so growing up I had a lot of exposure to tech. I wasn’t "good at tech," but I knew a lot of people involved and was pretty interested in it. Then when I actually started learning to code, I also realized that coding was a way to channel and actualize my ideas, which I think is very valuable. Over time, I got better at it so it was a positive feedback loop.

Did you have a favorite project you worked on during your internship?

It’s not the biggest project or the project I spent the most time on, but my favorite project was working on the staging environment for Schoolhouse (basically a test version of the website). The project originally wasn’t even assigned to me. It was just a project lying around in the engineering to-do list because we knew that having a staging environment is important, and we needed it to test some upcoming new pages. A lot of people were interested in the project but I was able to take it and configure the staging environment. On one hand, I’m interested in cloud services so I got to learn a lot through that project. Another reason it’s my favorite is that it’s a good representation that as a Schoolhouse intern, you’re not just assigned to random miscellaneous tasks. You can really work on meaningful projects, and if you’re interested in something everyone on the team will help you to take that task.

What has been one challenge you’ve faced while working at Schoolhouse?

When I first joined Schoolhouse, my entry project was the rich-text editor. The idea was basically to make session descriptions by tutors turn from plain text to rich text with styling, bolding, bullet points, and more. That project was supposed to just take a week or a few days. We thought we’d just be able to import a third-party library and be done with it, but we didn’t consider sanitizing the data. That project taught me that before you dive into a problem, you really need to scope it out first and think about what are the main considerations and what is the minimum viable product you can deliver. Even though we don’t use the rich-text editor, it was a really good experience that taught me even more soft skills than hard skills. TL;DR: think before you code.

How have you grown during your time working at schoolhouse.world?

There are two areas I learned a lot about. The first is my hard skills. Looking back now, compared to six months ago, I learned a lot about how to create production quality code. The schoolhouse codebase is really maintainable, thanks to each of the engineers giving good feedback during code reviews. Before, I was involved in a lot of hackathons where what’s important is writing quick code, not good code. I also learned that writing good code doesn’t mean writing slower either.

Another area I’ve learned besides technical skills is that programming is really about interacting with people. When I entered Schoolhouse, I thought being an intern would involve miscellaneous tasks and be very engineering focused. Throughout this internship I ended up learning many skills related to data analysis and product design, along with speaking at meetings and talking to volunteers. I think it has to do with the Schoolhouse team being very supportive and that interns have an impact here.

What do you like to do outside of work?

Outside of work I like drawing digital art, which I’ve been doing since sixth grade and it’s a fun way of relaxing. I also go on walks sometimes. Schoolhouse sometimes had walks where everyone was on a call and walked which was fun.

What is next for you as your internship comes to an end?

Two weeks from now I will head to college for the first time, so I’m really excited for that. I think Schoolhouse is a really life-changing experience and college will be similar to that. In my first semester, I’m going to be taking CS classes so I’m hoping to apply what I’ve learned experience-wise to those classes.

Do you have any funny stories or notable moments from your time at Schoolhouse?

Something really wholesome that the product team does is that whenever we release a big feature or when it’s a team member’s birthday we get together and celebrate, and those are some of the most special moments I’ve had with the team. When it was Justin’s birthday, we hopped on a meeting and surprised him with some gluten-free cupcakes. Afterwards, we played a game which is basically telephone with drawing, and 4 out of the 9 of us drew gluten-free cupcakes.

What advice would you give to any future interns or people looking to get involved with schoolhouse.world?

The first thing I’d say is that if you want to join Schoolhouse in any form, whether you want to be a tutor, a learner, a volunteer, or a team member, definitely apply and reach out. The community is very welcoming and open to all different skill sets, and it’s truly fueled by so many people with diverse skill sets. I had a really great experience with Schoolhouse and I strongly urge anyone who’s interested to reach out and apply.


We thank Joy for all her contributions to the Schoolhouse codebase over the past six months, but more importantly we thank her for all her contributions to the Schoolhouse community. The product team will miss Joy's thoughtfulness and energy, but we wish her all the best at college and in her future endeavors, and hope that she stays connected to schoolhouse.world.

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