Happier after working at Hap​pier​.com

source: happier.com

source: hap​pier​.com

It was an honor to have the oppor­tu­nity to inter­view stand-​​out stu­dent, Andrew Barba. A 3rd year com­puter sci­ence major set to grad­uate in 2016, he recently fin­ished his co-​​op at Hap​pier​.com, an extremely suc­cessful tech start-​​up in the Boston area.  He gave me great insight into what a co-​​op at Hap​pier​.com is like, how to nav­i­gate the inter­view process, and what it is like to work for a start-​​up.  All of you entre­pre­neurs out there or people inter­ested in start-​​ups, listen up!

Ashley LoBue (AL): Can you tell me a little bit about Hap​pier​.com?

Andrew Barba (AB):  Nataly Kogan, one of the founders, had worked for well-​​known com­pa­nies like Microsoft and was extremely suc­cessful. She thought that she would be happy when she hit a cer­tain level of suc­cess and made a lot of money, but Nataly found that it wasn’t the case.  So, she and her co-​​founder, Colin Pla­m­ondon, got the idea to create some­thing that can make people hap­pier in other ways—they did some research and found that if you write down three happy thoughts a day, then you were sci­en­tif­i­cally proven to be hap­pier. Hap​pier​.com started out as an iPhone app but then got extended to the web since it was cost effective.

(AL): What did you do day-​​to-​​day as a co-​​op for Happier?

(AB): I actu­ally got to work on the iPhone app for three months, and then they said “here, build a web­site”, so I was really excited about the amount of respon­si­bility I had. Yoav, the CTO of Hap­pier, was my mentor, and I did it all as far as coding—all of the other stuff was on him.  It was a lot of fun! Yoav actu­ally designed the system we work with, which is called Agile Soft­ware Devel­op­ment.  The idea is that you release prod­ucts and fea­tures quickly so you learn quickly—the key to this system is that you don’t release it when it’s per­fect, you release it when it’s ready, so that you can get user feed­back and adjust things according to that feed­back.  We are able to do this through “Sprints”.  Every Monday we have a big plan­ning day where the whole team gets into dif­ferent groups (like design, product engi­neering etc.) and we try to brain­storm on what we can get done. Natalie leads the meeting and talks about the direc­tion she wants to go in, and then we triage from there—the design team says we can do this, and then product engi­neering says that they can do that etc. We release in two week chunks.  On the web, we release as soon as the app is done.

(AL): What are the challenges?

(AB): One of the chal­lenges working for a start-​​up is that you have to start projects that you don’t really know how to design. You might think some­thing will work, but in actu­ality it won’t.  One time I lit­er­ally deleted every­thing that I worked on for a long time because it wasn’t func­tional and I made a mis­take. For every mis­take you do though, I think you always learn two or three things, so that you always are a better pro­grammer today than yes­terday.  As a stu­dent, you are taught to do things in a cer­tain way, but you need to learn to think out­side of the box if you want to solve a problem or do some­thing that hasn’t been done before.   

(AL): What do you like most about it?

(AB): Freedom is what I like most about this position—they don’t call me an intern because I will build a product for them like the other engi­neers, so they treat me like another member of the team. They give me a huge amount of respon­si­bility, which I don’t feel like I would’ve gotten at an intern­ship at say, Facebook.

Tech Startups Image Source: entrepreneur.com

Tech Star­tups
Image Source: entre​pre​neur​.com

(AL): How did you get your co-​​op with Happier?

(AB): I met hap­pier at the Co-​​op expo.  They really liked that I had already made two apple apps—I started learning how to make apps by signing up for 12 one-​​hour classes on how to do it. It was time con­suming, but I loved it.  I gave them my resume but actu­ally showed the apps I made. I believe this side project helped dif­fer­en­tiate me from the other can­di­dates and say more about me than my resume could.

(AL): What about post graduation?

(AB): I would love to start some­thing on my own one day—the startup space is fun, a lot of work, and moves very quickly, but I just love that environment.

(AL): What is the best piece of advice you can give other stu­dents to be suc­cessful in co-​​op?

(AB): I would say to def­i­nitely speak up to your super­vi­sors.  Don’t be quiet in a meeting and voice your opin­ions. Your team really wants to hear what you have to say.