ezyang’s blog

the arc of software bends towards understanding

Day in the life of a Galois intern

Vrrmm! Vrrmm! Vrrmm!

It's 9:00AM, and the cell phone next to my pillow is vibrating ominously. I rise and dismiss the alarm before it starts ringing in earnest and peek out the window of my room.

Portland summer is a fickle thing: the weather of the first month of my internship was marked by mist and rain (a phenomenon, Don tells me, which is highly unusual for Portland), while the weather of the second month was a sleepy gray in the mornings. "Is it summer yet?" was the topic of #galois for most of July. But in the heart of August, summer has finally arrived, and the sun greets my gaze. Shorts and a T-shirt, no sweater necessary! I silently go "Yes!"

I finish getting dressed, say goodbye to Pixie, the white cat who is curled up in my desk chair, skip breakfast, grab my bike, and head off in the direction of downtown Portland. (Warning: The rest of this post is similarly free of any sort of technical details (except at the very end)! Also, I'm a pretty terrible photographer with no idea how to post-process images.)

Commuting. I bike to work every day. The ride is about 30 minutes.

Along the way, I cross the Willamette:


This is a double-decker bridge, and the bottom platform lifts up when boats need to pass through. Which, unfortunately, is occasionally during my morning commute, in which case I have to bike further down the Riverside Esplanade.


At the end of my journey, I am greeted with the familiar face of the Commonwealth Building.


It's a pretty famous building as far as buildings go: it was one of the first glass skyscrapers ever built. I hear architecture students from universities around the city come by to look at the building.


Galois is on the third floor.


I park my bike in one of the handy bikeracks in the office:


and head off to my desk. (Crazy deskmate included. :-)


Office. Now that we're at Galois, perhaps it's time for a quick tour of the office. The Galois office is a single floor, with various rooms of note. Of ever-present importance is the kitchen:


from which coffee can be acquired (Portlanders are very serious about their coffee! It makes me almost wish that I was a coffee-drinker):


The kitchen is where the all-hands meeting takes place (Galois is small enough that you can fit all of the company's employees in a single room—only Ksplice, the startup I interned at, has also earned this distinction). One of the really good reflections on Galois’ culture is the practice of appreciations, during which Galwegians (our name for Galois employees) appreciate one another for things that happened during the week.

There is a small library (a nice quiet place to chill out if some particularly hard thinking is merited):


A conference room:


And even a little room where you can take a nap!


By twelve, we Galwegians are hungry, so we head out to get lunch.


There is one tremendous advantage to being in downtown Portland: the food carts. I've never seen anything quite like it: blocks literally have fleets of carts lined up to serve you, whatever style of food you like.


Portland is also famously vegan friendly. You can get Vegan Bacon Cheeseburgers! (They are quite delicious, speaking as a carnivore.)


Or a fruit smoothie.


After we get our food, it's back to the office to chow down.


Our chief scientist and the engineer who sits across from me are having a post-lunch game of ping pong! (I've played a few rounds: they are quite good—back spin, top spin, it’s more than I can keep track of!)


Offer building. On Tuesdays, instead of converging on the kitchen, many of converge to the conference room: it’s the MOB lunch!


MOB stands for “Merged Offer Building”, though the name itself has a nice flavor: “The MOB makes you an offer you can’t refuse.” Unlike traditional product companies, in which you have an engineering department which makes a product and then a sales department who finds clients and convinces them they want to buy your product, at Galois, for many contracts the engineers are the salespeople: they are the ones responsible for writing the proposal we submit for funding. The MOB meeting coordinates all of the various offer building efforts—though it’s had no direct bearing to my internship, sitting in on MOB lunches has been a fascinating peek into the world of SBIRs, procurements, EC&A and many, many more acronyms.

tl;dr Interning at Galois this summer has been a blast, and I’m very sorry that there is only one week left. I’ll miss all of you! ♥

Postscript. After a summer of Tech Talk writeups, I'll be giving a Galois Tech Talk myself, this coming Tuesday! It will get into the nitty gritty of abcBridge, the Haskell library I built over the summer. If you're in the area, come check it out!