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Meet a Gilt Technologist: Paul Lee, Software Engineer

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How did you arrive at Gilt?

I first came to Gilt while I was a student at the University of Waterloo in Canada (I’m Canadian). Our school runs a program in which computer science students complete six four-month internships over five years. I did my Gilt internship from September to December 2011, during my senior year.

What was your role here?

I was part of the Gilt City engineering team, working as a software engineer.

What was it like to be a Gilt intern?

I was able to interact with a lot of senior engineers as well as the vice president of engineering, and I learned a lot about the different roles team members fulfill. My supervisors gave me direct feedback on my work, which always helped. There’s just a lot of transparency here—I was on a small team, which allowed me to gain exposure to high-level details about what was going on in the company. Working on a small team also made it easier to see how my work made sense in the big picture.

How did you make your return?

After I graduated from Waterloo, I decided I’d like to come back to Gilt. When I graduated I followed up with Peter Bakhirev, who had been my internship supervisor, and asked if there were any opportunities. Gilt had some job openings, so Peter and I had a conversation and I ended up coming back.

While you were gone, how had Gilt or its culture changed?

One thing that has been changing with Gilt City more recently is that we’re moving toward taking the lead on our tech architecture—one that’s separate from the larger Gilt tech department, but follows the same best practices. This means that there’s a lot of work that needs to be done. I think the changes are interesting because they’re helping us to facilitate more cooperation between tech and business groups, and that helps us drive business growth. We’re creating something independent for ourselves, so we can make more independent decisions.

What do you like best about Gilt’s culture?

What I appreciate about Gilt is that it’s very safe to bring up new ideas and receive feedback. I also like that there are no private offices. For two years I worked as an accountant doing audits and taxes, and in that industry, partners and senior staff work in private offices, so you don’t always get to interact with them. It’s just how the industry works. It’s very different here—as a tech company, everybody’s very accessible and open to having conversations with the people across the hall. It’s something I think Gilt should be proud of. Even though Gilt has become a large company, it hasn’t lost its down-to-earth quality.

What are your thoughts on mentoring at Gilt?

I have a one-on-one session with Peter every week or two weeks to talk about my personal development and to let him know if I’m interested in anything else outside my current list of responsibilities. There are a lot of opportunities to switch projects, so I can get exposure to all the facets of my team’s functions. You can also switch teams here, which helps you to adapt to different work and management styles.

What are your career goals?

My primary short-term goal is to deepen my knowledge of different technologies and improve my learning speed.

And long-term?

I am very interested in entrepreneurship. Before joining Gilt, I had built several websites. One of them was an online community for my school, and it ended up serving over a million views. Seeing many people using my product felt really good, and I wanted to experience that more. I then participated in an incubator, where I worked on another venture with seed funding and mentors to learn more about entrepreneurship. I hope I develop a variety of skills and build relationships here at Gilt to become a better entrepreneur.

How do you think working at Gilt will help you to become a better entrepreneur?

Despite its size, Gilt maintains an entrepreneurial spirit. There are a lot of experiments going on, and many decisions involve taking a lot of risks. I get to see what works and what doesn’t. It’s still a relatively young company. I think there’s a lot here for people who might want to be an entrepreneur someday—you can make lifelong connections and learn critical skills.

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