Developing Tomorrow's Tech Leaders

The series of interconnected tents are buzzing with activity. Small groups in animated discussion huddle around laptops and monitors, while some people are lost in private discovery as they interact with new apps or prototypes on their smart phones. Similar scenes repeat themselves from row to row throughout the space.

Sound like the typical software industry expo?  In this case, the venue is one of multiple showcases held on eBay campuses over the summer, and the presenters are not product vendors or seasoned exhibitors, but rather college interns demonstrating their work to peers, managers, and executives. With rare exception, the interns’ already-enthusiastic faces light up when asked if their summer at eBay had been a positive experience.

eBay’s global internship program brought more than 500 undergraduate, master’s, and PhD students to eBay campuses across the U. S. as well as to eBay Centers of Excellence in India and China. About 100 universities were represented in this year’s program. The vast majority of the interns are computer science, software engineering, applied science, or related majors. Their work covers the gamut of engineering challenges at eBay:  from unsupervised machine learning techniques and predictive forecasting models, to big data analysis and visualization; from personalization and localization, to new front-end features and development for multi-screen users; and from site security and fraud detection, to end-to-end testing and internal developer tools.

Lincoln J. Race, Computer Science graduate student at University of California at San Diego, says his internship “has been a tremendous learning experience for me, learning about how to work with a larger team to meet a project deadline.” His summer work has focused on big data. “I’ve loved working with the people around me to ‘GSD’, as David Marcus would say” (referring to the PayPal president’s shorthand for “get stuff done”), “and I can’t wait to continue doing that in the future.”

Oregon State University Computer Science major Marty Ulrich has been interning with eBay’s mobile core apps group in Portland. “The internship has so far exceeded my expectations,” he says. “I like that I’m given the freedom to work on the parts of the app that interest me. And if I have any questions, there are always knowledgeable people ready to help.” He adds, “My experience here this summer has made me want to work at eBay full time when I graduate.”

Ranjith Tellakula, a graduate student in Computer Science at San Jose State University, says he was excited when eBay offered him an internship that would combine his interests in data mining and back-end application development. Throughout the summer, he worked on developing internal metrics applications that identify gaps in the information available to eBay’s own engineers. Visual dashboards and export tools are now enabling support groups to prioritize and close those information gaps.

Like Marty, Ranjith says his internship has exceeded his expectations. “My work is actually going to make engineers’ lives better,” he says, “and I’ve gotten to learn new technologies all along the way. For example, I had no experience with shell scripting, but now shell scripts I created are running every day. And I’ve been amazed that I’m treated as a peer, even by people with years of experience.” His colleagues say he offered expertise in MongoDB that has benefited the entire team. Ranjith continues to work with eBay on a half-time internship while he completes his master’s degree.

Here is a sampling of other intern projects:

  • 3D structure estimation by augmenting a single 2D image with its depth metadata — Mohammed Haris Baig, Computer Science PhD candidate, Dartmouth
  • Write-once run-anywhere by-anyone integration testing – Greg Blaszczuk, Computer Science and Engineering undergraduate student, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
  • Extraction algorithm to cluster eBay search engine output into groups that are meaningful to users – Chao Chang, Statistics PhD candidate, Washington University in St. Louis
  • Buyer recommendations for similar products that are more economic and environmentally friendly – University of California at Santa Cruz undergraduate students Trieste Devlin (Robotic Engineering), Navneet Kaur (Bioengineering), Anh Dung Phan (Bioengineering), and Alisa Prusa (Computer Science)
  • Examination of how we treat money obtained through programs like eBay Bucks differently from money we earn through normal means – Darrell Hoy, Computer Science PhD candidate, Northwestern University
  • Prototype for providing price guidance to eBay bidders—Isabella Li, Information Technology master’s student, Carnegie Mellon University
  • Use of intelligent caching in eBay API calls – Bharad Raghavan, Computer Science undergraduate student, Stanford University
  • Emulation and testing of various types of DDOS attack tools – Sree Varadharajan, Computer Science master’s student, University of Southern California
  • Dashboard framework enabling data-driven decisions without requiring coding – Jie Zha, Software Engineering master’s student, UC Irvine

Interns received onboarding orientations, goal-setting sessions with their managers, deliverables, and performance reviews, much like regular new-hires. In addition, they attended a three-day conference featuring presentations specifically tailored to the internship experience, including talks by eBay President and CEO John Donahoe and eBay Global Marketplaces President Devin Wenig.

Of course, interns had all of the fun experiences typical at a high-tech company (casino and bowling nights, sports leagues, various other competitions, barbeques, etc. etc.). But according to the interns’ feedback, what made them want to come back to eBay are the opportunities they saw for innovative research and product development, in a self-driven manner, using cutting-edge technology.

“Infusing young talent into the eBay culture is really the future of our company,” says eBay’s university engagement partner Jill Ripper. Adds her colleague Joy Osborne, “Providing access for our interns to connect with both fellow interns and the broader eBay Inc. family in a meaningful way was a key component to the success of our summer internship program.”

To learn more about eBay’s internship program, visit