My Pinterest Internship Experience

As many of you may have already known, I spent two internships at Pinterest (Winter 2016 and Fall 2016), and I’m returning soon to be a full time. Pinterest has stopped recruiting for winter and fall interns, and I was very lucky that I was just in time for the last batch. The two internships I had there were the most influential ones I had during my undergrad studies, and in this blog post I would like to share what I learned there, as well as the fun I had there!

Internship #1

The reason why I said that my Pinterest internship experience was the most influential one is because they really trust their interns, give them big and cool projects, and encourage them to innovate. For my first internship there, I had the full responsibility to write a distributed data pipeline to generate training data for our object detection model from raw user data. Something like this:


(The bounding boxes on the left are generated by users, and the bounding boxes on the right are the predictions on object locations)

Of course, the raw user data was way messier than this. I was honored to take this project entirely and be able to work on it independently. Pinterest also offered many tech talks, which were very helpful for personal and career growth.

One thing I noticed regarding the work style here is that they give me a big picture instead of task assignments. In the past, I usually got JIRA tickets and my task was to clear off the lists. In here, they tell me the big goal, and ask me to think ahead, get involved. They focus on “what do you think” versus “you should do this”. They would ask for my opinions after meetings, and they really value my thoughts and encourage me to speak up. The team was small. There were 5 people on the Visual Search team including myself plus 2 part time researchers. I like this small team atmosphere because it’s a lot easier to get to know people, and we turned out to get along very well. The average age at Pinterest is young. The entire atmosphere is very youthful and energetic, and I love to be surrounded by these amazing and creative people!

This internship at Pinterest was totally a blast. The perks were also unbelievably amazing. I got a 1b1b luxury apartment suite on my own at a convenient location. I got all 3 meals covered plus snacks, fruits, beer, and such. There was one outing on average each week either organized by the team or the interns crew. I had tremendous amount of fun here, and without any question, I took the return offer.


Internship #2

The second internship was more like a growing experience for me. Growing from an intern to a real adult. I was quite honored to take the project of Pinterest Lens, and I was responsible for fetching results and blending them in the most interesting and helpful way to users according to the type of the object. For example, if you take a picture of a grapefruit, you may get results like this:


The best thing about this project was that I was involved in it at its initial stage. I feel proud to watch it grow and make it happen. The design of this project has gone through countless revisions, and communications have been becoming ever-so-important to me. In this project, I not only gained end-to-end technical knowledge about what happened exactly behind the scene, but also developed much better communication skills. I was also involved in the Pinterest-Samsung partnership. The idea was to “access billions of Pinterest ideas from every corner of your Galaxy S8”. My responsibility was to make an API endpoint that meets their needs. This doesn’t sound like a lot of work, but its correctness and stability directly relates to deal or no deal, which is a lot of $$. In this entire Lens project, I did feel that I was turning into a real adult, a full-timer, someone who’s taking real responsibilities.

Work aside, I also had a lot of fun this term. I was not expecting that the company would still organize intern events for me because I was the one and only one intern, but they did! It was too good to believe!

I happily accepted Pinterest’s full-time offer. Lots of exciting adventures are ahead waiting for me. I look forward to this new chapter of my life!



About me

Hello! I am Shirley, an ML engineer living near San Francisco, California. I was born in Suzhou, China, and immigrated to Toronto when I was 16. I earned my degree in Computer Science and moved to SF for work and living. When I am not working, you can find me playing music, traveling, reading, and writing in this space! I usually write in English for tech stuff and Chinese for everything else :)

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