Kary Chen ’23

Whooo’s Reading, San Diego, CA

Kary Chen with laptop.This summer, I interned as a full-stack software developer at Whooo’s Reading, an educational tech startup that focuses on strengthening reading comprehension and writing skills in K-12 classrooms. To accomplish their mission, they utilize a machine learning algorithm that provides real-time feedback on student responses, which in turn also lessens the weight of grading on teachers. The company is fully remote, but the small size of the development team made it easy to quickly receive feedback on my work and guidance on next steps. I was able to frequently communicate my progress with my mentor—a Williams alum. During the weekly meetings, I also got to know the rest of the company, with whom I felt comfortable sharing my ideas and presenting my work.

During the course of my internship, I experienced the full software development cycle: user research, design, implementation and code review. I began by exploring the product and analyzing large datasets, using Python and Google Colab, to examine how students engage with the Whooo’s Reading website and to pinpoint areas for improvement. This culminated in a meeting with the other members of the company, where we brainstormed projects that I could implement to enhance the student experience. Specifically, I worked on gamification features, such as making it simpler for students to navigate the Owl Shop—where they can use the coins they earn from completing assignments to purchase customizations for their owl avatars—and making the leveling up system more comprehensive. I also worked on adding more buttons to the website so students could conveniently navigate from one page to another. Lastly, I documented my work so my code would be coherent to my colleagues and anyone else who builds on the same features in the future.

Kary Chen with laptop.This was my first full-stack development role, and I had never developed in the front-end before. Therefore, in anticipation of my projects, I received plenty of resources to learn the new programming languages (HTML, CSS, JavaScript and React). Practicing these technologies in a hands-on, industry environment, while exploring an unfamiliar codebase, opened up more possibilities for my future career. Since I worked at a remote startup, I also had plenty of agency in regard to when and how I worked. Although I often asked my teammates for feedback through regular demos, I was responsible for designing the features independently and integrating them into the existing framework; the problem-solving aspect and general flexibility made my internship especially enjoyable. From my tasks, I learned to take charge of my projects by setting a timeline for myself so that I would be able to receive critique and move forward in a timely manner.

I am very grateful to Mr. and Mrs. Case and the ’68 Center for Career Exploration for their generosity. As a first-gen college student, the opportunity to explore a role relevant to my interests was an invaluable experience. I had a very fulfilling time this summer, and I gained a lot of insight that will definitely shape my future career.