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Engineering Spotlight - Intersection

July 23, 2020

Engineering Spotlight - Intersection

Intersection is at the forefront of the smart cities revolution, improving the experience of public places through technology that provides connectivity, information, and engaging content and experiences. 

We connected with engineers Arjun Rao and Dara Sy, to get an inside look at Intersection's technology, various projects, the team's culture, and more. 

Interested in joining Intersection? Take a look at all of the company’s openings on the list to the right!


Can you share a summary on what Intersection and Place Exchange do?

Dara Sy: Intersection is at the forefront of the smart cities revolution, which exists to improve daily life in cities and public spaces through content, services, and advertising. Our products reach millions in engaging and relevant ways as we lead in media technology and OOH industry, bringing digital and physical worlds together in urban environments. 

Arjun Rao: Place Exchange, which is an internal business unit of Intersection, is out on a mission to make out of home advertising truly programmatic. Place Exchange unifies execution, reporting, and attribution for OOH with other programmatic channels for the first time, all while providing unmatched scale, full transparency, and built-in brand safety.  

What are some of the different technologies that the engineering team gets to work with and at what scale?

DS: I primarily work on the Ad Product Team which focuses on dynamic ad campaigns, heavily built on JavaScript, Vanilla or React. Our backend on Ad Platform is built with Python, using many Amazon Web Service tools such as Lambda, API Gateway, Cognito, DynamoDB, CloudWatch, S3 Bucket, just to name a few. For analyzing data, we use Looker and DataDog. DataDog is useful for instrumenting our production applications such that we can evaluate performance against our KPIs. Transit and Public Spaces Teams use Django, Pytest, React, Golang, and AWS tools. We use Buildkite for CI/CD on all of our applications.

AR: Our Engineering teams build products and tools using a variety of Amazon services such as Lambdas, DynamoDB, and Kinesis among others. The server side technology stack is primarily Python/Django apps deployed on EKS (Elastic Kubernetes Service), along with a smattering of Node. The front end stack is mostly React-based. We instrument our services with Datadog and use Looker & data storage systems (Warehouse, relational DBs etc) for analytical purposes. Scale is highly dependent on which part of the stack you are inspecting but to give a general indication, we conduct 10s of millions of ad auctions per day. 

What are some of the interesting projects that the Engineering team is tackling?

DS

  • The Ad Product engineering team takes ownership of paid dynamic ad campaigns that come in based on client requests and sales. These ad campaigns can range anywhere from mapping, movie showtimes, to social media accounts, pulling dynamic information from 3rd party apis and displaying it on top of client creatives. 
  • We also build house content for LA Metro, LinkNYC, and Minneapolis Metro. Some house content include: the local Weather, AP News Top Stories, and Congrats to Class of 2020! 

  • The Bundle Baker is a tool our team built so that internal stakeholders within Intersection can create a dynamic campaign within seconds, using our Dynamix Mapping and Showtimes Template. Users can upload custom assets, such as mapping pins, csv files, and images. Our handy tooltips provide hints on standard dimensions and permitted file types. 


 

AR: We are working on all kinds of fun stuff :) Some of the items include 

  • adding video capabilities for ad serving which involves a lot of API modeling as well as complexities around handling large video assets

  • making our reporting infrastructure zippier and more feature rich - for both internal and external teams to be able to glean useful insights from it

  • as a growth startup, we are always increasing our scale profile to handle increased load resulting from our new partnerships, which lead to fun & challenging architectural changes & discussions.

Does your Engineering team have a chance to work on projects outside of their day-to-day responsibilities? 

DS: Yes, engineers have the chance to work on projects outside our sprint work. We are regularly invited to attend conferences (e.g. Dash (hosted by Datadog)). Every year during Intersection Gives Back Day, engineers volunteer their time to visit non-profit bootcamps for underrepresented populations to conduct mock interviews, coding challenges, and offer constructive feedback and support. We set aside 10% time for engineers to explore new, creative projects and ideas that can benefit them, the team, and the company. This could range from anything educational, taking courses to pursuing creative passions that can support and benefit our personal, professional, and career growth.

AR: Absolutely! We have encouraged our teams to contribute to open source, be that codebases, thought leadership in forums, sharing insights they learned from projects via blog posts or conference talks. (Plugging our blogging platform dev.to here, and some of our conference talks at Dashcon or Re:invent). In addition, all engineers have 10% time to work on projects that they think they and/or the company will benefit from, and we provide them with resources to do that. 

What is the culture like at Intersection/Place Exchange for the Engineering team? 

DS: I would like to think of Intersection’s Engineering Culture as unique, fun, passionate, and intentional in everything we do. Our teams cultivate a healthy culture by encouraging growth through technical challenges, and finding innovative optimal solutions. When we’re not coding or whiteboarding, you’ll catch us playing at Board Game Night, hosted by my manager, Ben Krieger. 

AR: It's a classic chicken/egg problem to determine if teams define culture or culture defines teams. From my perspective, culture is something that is an amalgamation of the individuals that form the team. Every person we add to the team hopefully brings something new to the team as well as its culture. At its core, our culture is shipping great products/services that help move the needle towards our company vision, while making sure we are shaping thoughtful outcomes with a diversity of inputs. Folks on our teams are technically very strong, passionate about tech and are always open to helping each other grow in their careers. 

What can a potential employee expect during the interview process?

DS: A potential employee can expect an initial phone screen, with the recruiter who gauges more in depth on their background and professional experience. The second phone screen is done by the hiring manager who will dive into a more technical conversation with them. The candidate can then expect an onsite interview with 4 rounds. They will generally get a chance to speak with the product team to cover behavioral questions/cultural fit. They will also have additional rounds covering coding challenges and architecture design. In the final round, the hiring manager will touch base with them. 

AR: In terms of format, our interview formats are pretty standard - speaking with a recruiter, followed by a technical phone screen and/or hiring manager call, followed by about 3-4 onsite interviews. If the position is technical, you will be assessed on aspects of technical proficiency, system design and general analytical skills. Generally speaking, and this varies depending on the level of position being interviewed for, what the team is mostly looking for is an aptitude for problem solving regardless of technologies being used, and a passion/curiosity for the kinds of things that the team is working on. We totally understand that the interviewing process is long and hard, and if you keep an open mind and give us your best shot, we will definitely notice it! 

Are you involved in any local tech organizations or Meetups?

DS:  I am an Engineering Fellow at General Assembly and TechHire Impact. Every quarter, I am invited to give feedback on technologies, topics, and discussions with TechHire - OpenCode program. 


Rapid Fire Q&A 

What’s on tap? 

AR: Personally some kind of craft IPA (I am a beer snob without any credentials to back that up with), but as a team we probably have water

DS: We do love our water cooler 

Star Wars or Star Trek? 

AR: Star Wars any day

DS: Star Wars 

iPhone or Android?  

AR: Android or bust 

DS: iPhone 😊 

Coffee - hot or iced? 

AR: (Personal) Why would I ice my coffee? (Team) Definitely Iced

DS: hot 

Favorite employee perk? 

AR: Bagel wednesdays (when we used to go to the office in the before times) 

DS: Yogurt Pretzels and KitKats

What TV show describes the engineering team’s culture? 

AR: Megastructures

DS: I’ll sound like a snooze fest but I don’t want TV 😂 

What music is playing in your headphones or speakers? 

AR: This is hard. I think it might be some kind of electronic music. 

DS: Depending on my mood: Lofi, EDM, or Indie Folk 

View from your office

Intersections New York Office


Team Profiles

Dara Sy Intersections

Dara Sy, Software Engineer

Dara is a Software Engineer at Intersection. She graduated from General Assembly and studied Full Stack JavaScript. She held an internship at Hunter Digital, a marketing agency, before coming over to Intersection.


Arjun Rao Intersection

Arjun Rao, Director of Engineering at Place Exchange

Arjun is the Director of Engineering at Place Exchange. He graduated from Rutgers with a Masters in Computer Engineering and then spent the next 8 years at BlackRock building data engineering solutions . He enjoys scaling systems and teams, all while drinking copious amounts of coffee.


Want to learn more about Intersection? Check out their BIZZPage

Our current openings

7 Job Openings