This summer, Expedia was thrilled to host 10 teenage developer apprentices, all of whom were selected from graduates of last year’s Girls Who Code summer immersion programs in the Seattle area.

The apprentices spent eight weeks embedded in five different Expedia Worldwide Engineering teams. They worked side-by-side with our engineers on a range of projects while learning about our technology, agile development practices, and our culture.

The young women experienced a steep learning curve at first (as anyone would do in any new environment), but they quickly settled into a routine. They were active participants in team meetings. They embedded themselves into coding projects. They even embraced the “work hard, play hard” lifestyle that characterizes working at Expedia (including weekly Nerf Gun wars for some of the apprentices).

Early projects provided exposure to big data and hive queries, giving apprentices a taste of the code that powers Expedia. One apprentice, Aya, said she became comfortable diving into new projects by opening new files and trusting her abilities to complete the tasks assigned to her. She noted that she helped fix bugs and implement features, learning along the way that although Expedia is a big company, changes can be rolled out slowly so engineers can test the impact of those changes in a small way before releasing content to the wild.

Another apprentice, Aishwarya, mentioned she was nervous she would forget a semicolon in her code and “bring Expedia down,” but learned quickly that this isn’t Expedia’s first rodeo, and there are many safety nets in place to ensure those kind of syntax errors don’t cause big problems.

Here’s an overview of what each pair tackled this summer:

  • Aya and Karishma served on the Loyalty Engineering Organization Team, and enacted changes to Loyalty Program informational pages. They also worked on building an internal User Interface tool.
  • Jessica and Zoe served on the Media Solutions Engineering Team, and worked on hotelier-facing tool features.
  • Vickie and Amy served on the Packages Team and focused on building internal tools and fixing bugs.
  • Delaney and Aishwarya served on the Cruise Team, and spent their time emphasizing cruise path responsiveness.
  • Lilian and Rachel served on the Itinerary Team, and labored over an itinerary-sharing feature for Facebook and fixing bugs.

Over the course of the summer, program coordinators also made sure our apprentices interacted with a wide range of Expedia employees to get a sense of the variety of roles and careers possible in the technology industry.  In particular, we introduced the young women to our usability team so the apprentices could shadow lab instructors and learn how to run a usability study, research and gather real customer findings, and present these findings to the team. Apprentices also participated in company hackathons, attended various workshops, and were inspired by talks from various leaders within the company.

At the conclusion of the program, apprentices agreed the best part of the program (aside from the swag, of course) was becoming integrated in the company and culture. “It was exciting being a developer in a team, working on real code, and seeing it shipped to production,” said Lilian, one of the apprentices. “We got to experience first-hand all the different roles that make up an engineering team, as well as other areas of the business, [and that] allowed us to get a real sense of what it means to work in the corporate world.”

The experience was just as life-changing for Expedia employees. Dipti Patil, an Expedia software developer and engineer who served as a mentor of the apprenticeship program, said she loved the nurturing environment the program created. She added that she went out of her way to provide apprentices with a challenging and rewarding experience.

We love that the apprentices now feel like “true Expedians,” and we could not be more pleased with the progress they made. Next year, we will welcome this year’s apprentices back if they chose to reapply, and will select first-year apprentices from the pool of 120 Girls Who Code students in the Seattle area. We are already counting down the days until we get to start another strong program next summer!

In the meantime, half of the our inaugural apprentices will be attending their senior year of high school this year, and Amy, Aishwarya and Karishma will be freshmen at the University of Washington studying computer science. Vickie also will be studying computer science, only at Princeton University; Aya will be attending Brown University, and is leaning toward a computer science major.

We look forward to maintaining relationships with our inaugural class, and are confident they will be successful in their future endeavors!