Inside Prefect: Reflections on my Internship Experience
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Inside Prefect: Reflections on my Internship Experience

A peek behind the curtain from a software engineering intern

Yueh Han Huang | Software Engineering Intern

August 27, 2021

I stumbled on Prefect’s website as I looked through a VC’s portfolio - an unconventional way to connect to a company. Browsing through the website, I was excited about Prefect’s value proposition, and figured out Prefect was opening their inaugural internship program. I found the job description aligned with what I was looking for - and wrote an email to apply that eventually led to my current position.
As I’m writing this, my summer internship at Prefect is coming to an end. I’d love to share some memories and observations over the summer!
Familiarizing myself with the Product
When I just got started, I had relatively little knowledge about data tools. This could be intimidating, but I quickly adopted the fact and cherished the opportunity to learn on the way. A key thing that shifted my mindset was listening to podcasts. I was able to find some great episodes on the modern data stack or founder story, and listening to them just sparked my curiosity and courage to learn more.
Learning about the industries and connecting to your personal value takes some work, but it just makes everything you do much more meaningful.
Remote Onboarding Experience
Getting Supported in Structured Mentorships
I received a warm welcome from the team the day I joined. From the Slack messages, onboarding training calls, to well documented internal resources.
Prefect’s internship program was structured and supported beyond my expectations. With a weekly check-in, I felt comfortable sharing my progress. We had a mock 90 day weekly plan to mutually understand expectations. And I personally was really amazed by the weekly questions from my mentor:
1-1 Agenda
  • Feedback both ways
  • How are you doing? Really?
  • Areas to do a deeper dive
  • Issues / roadblocks
  • Progress updates on projects
  • Important and Not Urgent items
When seeking help from my co-workers, I found the comments on the Eisenhower matrix framework helpful. I used it as a standard to measure my questions by - and whenever I decided to ask for help, folks were always responsive on Slack, or even happy to jump into a Tandem meeting to pair on the problem.
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Connecting with my teammates
I scheduled coffee chats with the Prefect team, which turned out to be a rewarding experience. It helped not just with knowing the right people to navigate my way through my project, but also gave me a chance to learn about the challenges and aspirations of my co-workers.
During my internship, I also got to read two of the Prefect team’s favorite books: Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy and Creativity Inc. The following quote sums up for me the way that Prefect links innovation and failure:
“Failure isn’t a necessary evil. In fact, it isn’t evil at all. It is a necessary consequence of doing something new.” - Creativity Inc.
My project
During the course of my internship, I’ve worked on two projects. The first one was utilizing Prefect Core and Prefect Cloud for a data sourcing pipeline. The second one was creating event-driven email sending sequences based on the Sendgrid API.
Jumping into the email pipeline system was an unexpected adventure - it started from a coffee chat with our CRO, and ended up being a cross-team project. I was very intrigued to work on this problem as it could help Prefect users get more tailored support for their flows.
The major challenge was navigating through our existing systems and creating an inhouse solution with Prefect Core in Python. Eventually it ran on Prefect Cloud as well; I was very proud to be learning the Prefect product inside out in the process. In addition, I worked with the Sendgrid Email API and even ran into a niche API issue - eventually I was able to find a community resource to resolve it.
My learnings
Technical Confidence
I’ve grown so much as an engineer at Prefect. From writing more error-proof code and effective testing, to working with the Sendgrid API on email sending processes. The thinking process here was different from school work.
Product Fluency
One goal I set for myself was understanding the Prefect product and its position in the emerging trends of data tools. I had a great exposure to product knowledge during my internship with an insider view.
Saying “I don’t know”
Finally, I’ve learned how to say “I don’t know” more comfortably. Surprisingly, this is actually harder to do than it sounds. As an intern, I wanted to find information and deliver great results. I was mentally not used to saying “I don’t know” because I didn’t know the values it brought. Admitting there’s things I do not know allowed me to learn more in the process, and also to be more trusted.
Things like this don’t get learned in school. I think university in general values model answers to problems, and students always work hard to pursue it. That’s something I will have to “unlearn” from school when pursuing more open-ended projects at work. Ending Notes
As I wrap up my projects at Prefect, I’d like to thank my mentor Zach for his guidance and feedback all the way!
On my next step - I’ll be returning to school for my final year of study in Berlin, and I look forward to experiencing and learning more as a student.