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Informatics students make some magic during internships

Alexander Bell-Towne and Brittney HoyThe best thing about many Informatics internships is that companies just put you on a team and expect you to produce awesome products. You are expected to hit the ground running.

That was the case for Brittney Hoy and Alexander Bell-Towne, second-year informatics majors, during their 12-week summer internships. Both students had more than one internship offer to choose from and they picked the ones that fit their career interests.

Hoy accepted an internship with Disney at its tech office in Seattle.

“Whenever anyone thinks of Disney, they automatically associate it with ‘happiness’ or even ‘where the magic happens,’” says Hoy. “I was put into a position, as a full-stack web developer, where I was able to be part of the behind-the-scenes making of this ‘magic.’ It's funny because at Disney, at least in the Seattle office, the employees replaced words like ‘automatically’ to ‘auto-magically.’”

Hoy was hired in the unified message team to redesign the front end of an internal tool used for assessing the communication pipeline. Once she started, she was told to go ahead and rebuild the whole thing from scratch.

To be successful, she conducted user research by watching and interviewing people using the old tool. She then designed and coded the tool, taking it back to the users multiple times, putting into practice what she learned in her Design Thinking and Client-side Web Development classes. Once everyone was happy with the result, she implemented the tool from both the back-end server and the front-end user interface.

The internship experience led her to customize her Informatics degree so she can focus on front-end development.

Bell-Towne traveled to San Francisco to take an internship at Weebly, which provides a platform where users can build and market portfolios, blogs, stores and websites. He joined the billing team as a full-stack web developer, focusing on making it simple and seamless for clients to make payments to Weebly.

“I helped our customer service agencies sell products to our customers,” says Bell-Towne. “I also fixed bugs. It was fun to see my work in bringing clients’ websites online by watching the big interactive map at the company that shows all the customers around the world.”

Bell-Towne will finish this year with the Informatics data science specialization and a minor in mathematics.

Informatics alumni proved to be the key for both Hoy and Bell-Towne’s internships. Hoy spoke with Disney several times at career fairs and information sessions, but it was a Facebook post by former Women in Informatics president Kate Kinsman looking for someone to intern that did the trick.

Bell-Towne connected with Joel Shapiro, Informatics ’11, when Shapiro was in town for a career fair. Shapiro was one of the first people to work at Weebly and since then, he has been instrumental in hiring more Informatics students. Bell-Towne accepted a full-time position at Weebly after graduation.

“It’s cool, all the Info people who work at Weebly. There are three now and I’ll be the fourth.”

Hoy will return to Disney in January for a part-time internship that may lead to a position after graduation. 

“We learn a lot of skills in Informatics to get us ready for the real world,” says Hoy. “I think one of the most important things I’ve learned throughout college is that your friends are your network.”