October 6, 2022
Sitting among scattered One Night Werewolf cards, MVHS alum ‘16 May Cui felt she had found a community among the people she met during her freshman year summer internship at Facebook University. Cui initially attended the University of California, Berkeley as a sociology major, as in high school, she believed she would “probably not be a very good software engineer” despite her high performances in math and computer science classes. However, after she got into her first of three computer-science focused internships at UCB, Facebook University, Cui chose to double major in Sociology and Computer Science.
Facebook University, now called Meta University, is an introductory summer internship in Menlo Park for students who are interested in computer science. The application was unconventional, as unlike other computer science internships, it focused on essay prompt responses and behavioral-focused interviews over resumes and technical proficiency. Cui heard about the program through word-of-mouth and applied because it was “more up her alley” of humanities writing. After being accepted, Cui went through three weeks of mobile app development training and five weeks of hands-on activity, creating an “anti-Facebook” Android app that used demographics and preferences to find diverse news and subvert the echo-chambers of social media.
“Coming out of MVHS, where a lot of people specialize in STEM and a lot of high schoolers have already learned how to code, I always had this impression that I was already behind,” Cui said. “But I think that internship experience made me realize that I wasn’t behind, this is what I wanted to do.”
Although Cui found value in the opportunities at Facebook, she didn’t connect with the “aggressive” promotion of social values of “leaving a good impact on the world” that was plastered on posters and present at every meeting from a large company that made controversial decisions. Cui’s ethical and moral interests were better aligned at her junior year internship with Tally, a San Francisco fintech company, as she could use software development to assist people with refinancing their credit card debt.
In the beginning, Cui felt the need to prove that she wasn’t just at these internships to fit a company’s gender and racial diversity agendas. Over time, she has felt less imposter syndrome and asks questions to better understand her projects. While it would’ve been easy for Cui to gravitate towards her comfort zone, she has used internships as a way of exploring potential careers.
“Everything’s kind of a spectrum, so it’s hard to find that right balance and [be] honest to yourself about those trade-offs,” Cui said. “I would say right now my job is definitely not the most well paid [even though] it can be for software engineers. It’s not super lucrative, but it’s definitely enough. The amount of extra passion I feel or just general feel-goodness I have about what I’m doing definitely makes up for it. You tinker with the values — it’s not zero or one.”