How to Score an Internship with Confluent

by | Nov 20, 2020 | Confluent, Internships

Parker Pell (host):

Welcome to The Internship Show, where each week we explore the ins and outs of early talent programs at companies of all sizes across the globe. Early talent fuels businesses from startups to the Fortune 500. We’re here to provide the information you need to stay informed on all of the amazing opportunities that exist. I’m Parker Pell and this week I spoke with Amy Morimoto and Niki Patel from Confluent, a UC Berkeley graduate. Niki started her career at Houzz as a recruiting coordinator where she first learned her passion for university recruiting, actually helped build out their program. Over the last four years, she has built the university programs for both Rubrik and Confluent from scratch and today owns hiring for G&M, Business Operations, and University Programs globally for Confluent. Where Amy started her career at Lockheed Martin in University Programs. After a year at Google, Amy found herself working at a fast growth startup, Confluent, where she helped grow the University Programs to all parts of the business.

Having experience working at both large public companies and an early stage, now mid-stage startup, Amy uses her unique perspective to help both interns and new grads navigate university recruiting to land their dream jobs. Amy and Niki, thanks so much for taking the time today.

Amy Morimoto:

Thanks, Parker, we’re excited to be here on the show.

Niki Patel:

Yeah, we’re really excited to talk a little bit about Confluent and internships and all that stuff with you today.

Parker Pell (host):

Yes, I know. When you both have such extensive experience in early talent in university relations, did you both know when you were in undergrad that you wanted to go into early talent and really what was your journey like into your roles now at Confluent?

Niki Patel:

For me, my interest in talent in general started in college actually. I went to Cal, I was actually studying to be a nurse practitioner, so I was pre-med or pre health. And then one of my work study jobs on campus was a recruiting coordinator, HR coordinator and that’s how I got exposure into talent. After I graduated, got into nursing school, my parents were super excited, I don’t know, I had the itch to work in tech, I decided to take a year off to try it out and got a job at a startup as a recruiting coordinator. That’s how I got my first experience into university recruiting. And I started to help my boss build out the university recruiting program at Houzz. And I just loved it. I loved working with new grads, I loved working with interns. I love the energy going to campuses. It almost felt like I was still in college. So yeah, that’s how I fell into it, Amy.

Amy Morimoto:

Yeah. So similarly I chose my university because I wanted to go to dental school, long story short, didn’t go to dental school. And after I graduated from school, old classmate of mine reached out, she was hiring a recruiting coordinator for the university team. I had no idea what that meant, but that sounded great to me. And I started going out on campus and meeting different partners, whether that’s through the school as well as students. And I realized one, I like to travel and two, I like to talk to people. And so it really was a perfect match of being able to do things that I was really passionate about. And so I’ve worked at Lockheed Martin and Google and some bigger public companies and now at Confluent at a startup. So I’ve seen the breadth of different spheres and atmosphere. So it’s definitely a really exciting space and fun to work with students while they’re figuring out what they want to do.

Parker Pell (host):

It’s so funny to hear that you both, I feel like had a non-traditional route, you had your mind set on one career path and then whether it was by fate, Niki, just from a work study job that you had. Or a friend Amy, reaching out to you, you found yourself in the UR and then took a step back and realized it’s fun. You get to talk to people and travel and it was something that you liked, almost as if you’re both meant to be in early talent altogether. But I think that translates great as well because students, when they’re talking to people in early talent, you want to talk to someone that’s passionate about what you all are doing and knows where they’re coming from as well. And I’d love to hear from either of you, what really motivates you so to speak in your role currently a Confluent?

Niki Patel:

Yeah, I think for me, helping people, especially early in career talent, students kick off their career and find a company and a team that they’re really excited about and really play such an integral part of their work life and helping get their career started. And so that was really what was fulfilling to me and what motivates me every day to continue doing the work that Amy and I do. It’s just been really fun and it’s so exciting to see their growth once they start at the company. Our first class of new grads here at Confluent, a big portion of them are getting promoted. And it’s just so exciting to see that, them starting out as new grads and now growing into more mid to senior level engineers at the company.

Amy Morimoto:

Yeah, definitely. I love working with new grads and interns and just their excitement and passion for what they do. What I really like about my job and what motivates me is helping them really identify what do they want to do right now and what do they want to do long-term. So having had that experience at a large company, and then now at a startup, two totally different experiences. And so it depends on what they want, right. There’s definitely pros and cons and so I really enjoy talking through that with them and going through the problem solving stages of helping them figure out what their long-term career path looks like.

Parker Pell (host):

And students who are listening to this and they may have not understood or really know that university recruiting and early talent is such a thriving space now more than ever as companies are looking to grow their pipelines and structure their programs out. What would you say, a student in undergrad is listening to this characteristics that are needed to be in early talent and you are to be successful in the roles that you are both or are in, or why should they consider a career in early talent?

Niki Patel:

Yeah, as I guess, doing this for a while now, and being a university recruiting manager, I’m interviewing people like Amy and people to join our team, I would say the positives of what’s really exciting about working in university is it’s such a dynamic role. I mean, you get visibility into so many different parts of the company like Amy and I work with almost all of the executives at Confluent, because everybody has some level of wanting to build their workforce from an early in career talent to a senior level. And so you just get exposure to so many different parts of the business. You get program management experience, you understand how the business is growing and you play such a big part in that strategy in terms of workforce planning. And you really get to work with a really fun demographic of people personally.

Like I said, I love working with new grads and interns and if you feel like you love traveling and going to events and networking and talking to people about different opportunities and helping people, and just in general, in that sense, I think that UR might be something that you want to consider as a post college career. And I’m sure Amy and I would be more than happy if any of the listeners here today wanted to reach out to us and hear more about our experience. We’d be happy to hop on a call or a Zoom at this point and chat about what our experience has been, how we can help you all get into your path and all that stuff.

Amy Morimoto:

Yeah, absolutely. Along with what Niki said, if you want to roll like every day is a different day, university is definitely a great position to be in. Everything from long-term planning that you get to do as well as quick changes, like when we moved our intern program from in-person to virtual. Really keeps you on your toes and it’s really fun and a great opportunity to, again, work with different areas of the business and different leaders too.

Parker Pell (host):

And I love the ability and exposure to different levels of individuals and employees at company that you all receive, because like Niki, you said, you’re working with executives as well as anyone else in the company, figuring out what are their needs and then filling those needs with the talent that’s looking jump on board. And you’re both here to represent Confluent, for those who don’t know, could you give, one of you give an overview of who is Confluent?

Niki Patel:

Yeah, just a quick overview of Confluence. So we were started in 2014. Our three founders are actually the three original founders of Kafka. So they built Kafka while they were over at LinkedIn together. Originally they built Kafka as a pub sub system, LinkedIn wanted to use it for suggestions on jobs and people who you should connect with. But because June, Neha and Jay were more, I guess, systems engineers or database engineers, they ended up building Kafka more like a database than a traditional pub sub system. They made it open source, they opened it to the public and they started seeing how other tech companies within the Valley, like Uber and Netflix were building their entire infrastructures around it. And so they left to go start Confluent because they felt like they could do more. And so we started Confluent.

It is a data streaming platform that enables businesses to get real time insights and make real time business decisions with their data. We’re pioneering the space and with obviously, like I said, the founders of Kafka, which is really exciting. And we recently actually did around a funding at the beginning of the pandemic, which was a little bit nerve wracking, but we raised at a $4.5 billion valuation. And so that was really exciting. We’ve grown, even in the two years that I’ve been here so much, not only as a company, I think that was low 300s in terms of employee count and we’re over a thousand now, but when I started the valuation of the company was only 500 million and to be almost 10X that, is crazy. So, yeah.

Parker Pell (host):

And I feel like being in that environment, such a high growth startup gives you, like Amy, you were mentioning with your roles at larger public companies and now at Confluent, that’s growing so rapidly. That the dynamic of just the environment and the people is so different when students are evaluating, I think different types of companies as to where should I intern, should I intern at a name brand Fortune 500, or should I intern at a “high growth” startup? What are the pros and cons of those? And it’s crazy to hear that just from an employer perspective, the growth is so rapid, and I’m sure you would say to interns that come into Confluent they’re going to basically be put to work and they’re going to feel it and really embrace that culture.

Amy Morimoto:

Yeah, definitely our company culture is definitely built around our core values. And so, as you mentioned, we’ve definitely gone through this hyper-growth stage where we’ve more than doubled in size in just a year. And so in order to do that, we’ve obviously relied a lot on each other and leaned into our hashtag one team value. And so we’re all working towards the same goal, right? We all want the company to be successful. And so in order to do that, we really have to rely on being one team and picking up where the need is. And so we’re also working with industry leaders in this space. So everyone’s incredibly smart, humble, and empathetic, which is another one of our core values. And so we’re a really tight knit community and I think that fabric sets the foundation for, or set the foundation for our initial intern class to join us again. All of our interns from last summer, who’ve received an offer are joining us again now as full-timers. And I think a lot of that was due to the company culture that they experienced when we were all together.

Parker Pell (host):

And for student’s awesome, I want to check out Confluent and apply to intern. What can a student do to stand out to your team when they’re applying or when they’re interviewing with your team for your internship program?

Niki Patel:

I think for what a student can do to stand out, sorry, number one, I would say be yourself. I think that’s, for me the biggest thing, having your own personal brand, understanding what you’re passionate about, what you want to learn about. And sharing that with your recruiter and your interviewers throughout the process, helps them give an understanding of who you are an like how you fit into the company and how we can help you. And so be your own advocate and make sure everyone knows who you are and what you want to do and what your previous experiences, that’s really what stood out for us. People who are super passionate about the space that we’re in or really passionate about databases, or sometimes even other things like data science or things like that. If you have something that you’re interested in, go for it and make it known. So that’s what I would say.

Parker Pell (host):

And we’re always talking to students about growing their own personal brand and bringing their whole self to work. And it’s great to hear that concept, it’s something that you all are looking for and embracing. Opinions, even that students may be coming in as an intern and saying, “Hey, have you ever thought about it this way?” So to speak, we’ve heard from executives, they love early talent because they’re not afraid to say something if they think it’s broken. And if they think it’s broken, it probably is broken since there are new and fresh set of eyes so to speak that are in the company and helping really make an impact.

Niki Patel:

Yeah, totally. I think that, we definitely value that. Our current team really loves hearing from our interns, Amy, I think will share maybe a little bit more about this later. But we really do have a pretty hands-on internship program where you’re working directly on our product and with our customers to ship something. And so if you feel like something’s not working and you say something, your voice will be heard in a room. And so we’re really proud that our managers and our engineering leadership team has taken such a hands-on approach with our interns thus far. And we hope we can keep it that way for as long as possible.

Parker Pell (host):

Yeah. And Amy, I’d love for you to jump in and go a bit more into what should we expect as an intern at Confluent?

Amy Morimoto:

Yeah, definitely. So most of our interns intern for about 12 weeks over the summer, and as Niki was mentioning, they’re not only working on the technical product that ships to our customers and they’re working very hands-on, but there’s also a huge sense of community with our intern program too. So last year, obviously we were in the office and we did a lot of in-person events to really create that community. This year obviously was a little bit different in that we were shifting things to remote, but we host a lot of virtual events, like a virtual escape room, and we did a cooking class and all make tacos. It was really fun. And so it was a really great opportunity for our interns, as well as their mentors to really collaborate and get to know each other.

But on more of the technical side, our interns are really working on everything from end to end. So they’re working on the design and then they’re shipping to the customer and everything in between. So they do have a lot of opportunities to make changes and speak up and give their ideas because they really do have the ownership of their entire project.

Parker Pell (host):

That’s great to hear. So what is the size of your program and you hit on it briefly, but could you go into students, they have a project for those 12 weeks, so to speak that they’re working on?

Amy Morimoto:

Yeah, so currently our engineering internship is our most robust program. So our first intern class in 2019, we had 23 interns. And as I had mentioned, all of those who received offers are joining us again full time, which is super exciting. And so given the success of the previous year, our current intern class has doubled in size. And so we’re really excited to continue growing that in internship program. And so right now we’re in the process of partnering with other areas of the business and not just engineering to build out different intern programs as our company grows. But in terms of that internship program, every intern has a mentor as well as a manager. And so those are their opportunities to connect with different people in the team, as well as communicating with different people. So it’s a whole team effort obviously. And a lot of the interns ended up working with the entire team or they might work cross-functionally with other teams as well.

And so there’s a lot of different people that they’re connecting with during their internship, which has been even more crucial now that we’re remote in and they’re not in the office. So it’s not as easy to necessarily just go up to somebody’s desk and ask them. But it’s been a really great opportunity for them to build their network with different leaders.

Parker Pell (host):

Yeah. And it’s so great to hear that there’s opportunities across the board for students in Confluent, not only in the program through mentors, but also working on projects that are going and actually making an impact on the company, as well. As you all have obviously structured the program in design and then run it, what are you really hoping that are some takeaways from your internship program when the student at the end of those 12 weeks is set in and said and done?

Amy Morimoto:

So we’ve built our internship program around three pillars of things that we want our interns to accomplish during their time with us. So the first would be mentorship. So we have a very talented team of industry leaders, people who are really seasoned in understanding Kafka and understanding the space that they’re working in. And so we want our interns to get the most out of their time with those people too. So really having those mentorship experiences, whether that’s through lunch and learns or quick coffee chats or whatever that might be. So really taking advantage of the people that we have here at Confluent. The second would be professional development. So our interns again, have extremely hands-on projects where they’re really able to grow their technical skills and have full end to end ownership of their projects. So that’s something that whether they join us full-time or they join another company, we want them to be able to have that experience of how to manage their time and how to organize themselves and when to communicate different things to people.

So taking those skills that no matter where you’re working or what role you’re in, will be really crucial to your professional development. As well as the third is personal development. So we want our interns to have the opportunity to work cross-functionally and really build those strong relationships during their internship. I think this as an intern, it’s a really crucial time to learn what you like and what you don’t like. And it’s okay to not like things. And it’s better to figure that out earlier than later. And so having those personal development opportunities to meet different people in the business, whether that’s on a different engineering team or whether that’s on a marketing team or somebody completely different, really being able to look inside yourself, and realize what you want to do and make sure that you’re able to build yourself personally and build on that personal brand.

Parker Pell (host):

It’s been so awesome speaking with you both to learn about Confluent and the program that you all are running and growing right now and the company’s growing like crazy. Is there anything else or closing remarks that you would want to leave with listeners about Confluent the company or your program altogether?

Niki Patel:

I think that we would love to have as many people as possible who are interested reach out to us. Our internship program hopefully is an opportunity as Amy just said, to really not only grow professionally and personally, but have a great summer and create long lasting friendships and memories. So we really do emphasize community within our time. And so it’s been really been great sharing what Confluent is a little bit about our internship program. And we’re really excited to hopefully connect with all of you during this fall recruiting season.

Parker Pell (host):

Thank you so much for both taking the time today.

Amy Morimoto:

Thanks Parker.

Niki Patel:

Thanks Parker.

Parker Pell (host):

What a great time speaking with Amy and Niki from Confluent who told us what interns can expect working at their company, the things that a student leaves their internship program with, and so much more. To listen to all of our shows and get updates on future ones, check out our website, theinternshipshow.com. If you’re listening to this on Apple podcasts or Spotify, we’d love for you to leave a rating or review about the show. This episode is brought to you by Scholars. Scholars matches college students and employers for internships and entry level jobs based on skills, experiences, and interests. Make sure to tune in next time to The Internship Show and have a great day.