Student Spotlight: An Interview with Instagram Intern Racheli Moskowitz

By: Ellie Parker  |  October 16, 2018
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By Ellie Parker

Racheli Moskowitz is a senior at Stern College with plans to graduate in May 2019. She is double majoring in computer science and physical science and this summer, worked at Instagram as an intern.

Ellie Parker: Can you tell us a little bit about what you did this past summer?

Racheli Moskowitz: Sure! I worked in the Facebook office in Menlo Park, California. My job was specifically for Instagram, now owned by Facebook, as a social engineer working for their ads team.

EP: What drew you to this particular field?

RM: I’ve always really liked math and science and things that were intellectually challenging. I took AP computer science in 12th grade and loved it, so when it came time to declare a major at Stern, I couldn’t decide between software and engineering (thus, the double major). At Stern, I fell in love with all of the coding that I was doing, and I found it really exciting. I love the problem solving and that feeling of accomplishment after I had been banging my head against the wall for an hour trying to figure out how to rework a problem.

EP: This is clearly a highly sought-after and competitive internship. What steps did you take to get accepted?

RM: I actually applied online. The year before, when I had little experience, I started the online hunt. I didn’t begin looking until the summer of my first year on campus, and I quickly realized that I was a little late in applying. I applied over and over again to all of these different companies, and I wasn’t accepted anywhere. I ended up working for a startup which I learned a lot from, but it wasn’t the experience I particularly wanted. So, my second summer of college, I decided to start applying online really early, and to a lot of different places (probably around 25 or 30). I really didn’t expect to, but I heard back from Facebook and they liked what they saw on my resume and called me in for an interview. I had two rounds of software interviews which are a little bit like tests; you work on a shared document with problems given to you by an engineer, and you sit and code for them. After the interviews, they reached out to me with an offer, which was really exciting.

EP: Do you think Stern prepared you for this kind of internship?

RM: Yes, and especially for the interviews. Professor Broder has a fantastic data structures course which is really great preparation for interviews. Though you can definitely learn a lot from your classes, it takes a lot of work on your own as well. I did a lot of practice interview questions and took the time to review old notes before my interview.

EP: Would you consider yourself a social media buff per se?

RM: It’s funny, I really am not at all. I didn’t even have an Instagram before being accepted for the internship.

EP: What was the coolest thing you learned about Instagram during the summer?

RM: I hadn’t really realized how widely used Instagram is since I had never used it before. This summer showed me the scope of the product, especially since I was able to witness Instagram receive its billionth user. It was incredibly exciting for me to see that a product which I didn’t really know much about was being used by a billion people across the globe.

EP: Was there anything that surprised you about your internship?

RM: I knew that it would be hard, but it was challenging in ways that I hadn’t expected. For example, there were no specific hours. I could walk in and out whenever I wanted to. There were some days when I would be there super late trying to solve a problem, and I guess I hadn’t prepared myself for that kind of a challenge, but it was ultimately super rewarding.

EP: Do you have any advice for current students looking for internships in the social media field?

RM: Start your search early, like right now. I started my Facebook application process during the first month of school. If you’re doing applications online, apply to as many as you possibly can because it doesn’t take so much time and it can’t hurt. Also, practice the types of questions you know you might be asked and make sure you’re really prepared for your interview.

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