Summertime for college students usually means lots of travel, friends, fun, and, of course, social media activity.
Michael Liu, of Fairfax, Virginia, a rising senior with a major in computer science, a minor in business, and a passion for entrepreneurship, is taking advantage of it all this summer — especially the social media aspect — while working in a paid internship at Facebook.
Liu, software developer, works in the same sprawling office as Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg. “I see him all the time when I am walking around,” Liu said.
Liu is housed in Redwood City, California, in corporate housing with about 150 summer interns. He and his peers are shuttled to Facebook headquarters in nearby Menlo Park on weekdays.
“One of the coolest things about working at Facebook is that I am working on a project that I am passionate about, because I use it every day and it is something my friends and family are familiar with,” Liu said.
Liu’s work this summer in the software engineering department focuses on integrating transportation services into Facebook Messenger, the social media’s instant messaging component.
Currently, two burgeoning for-hire transportation companies, Uber and Lyft, are connected to Messenger. Liu is working on both the server side and Messenger for Android.
“During my internship, I’ve been treated like a full-timer,” Liu said. “I attend all meetings with my team, am evaluated like a full-timer, and am responsible for my projects.”
He secured the internship after meeting a recruiter at an on-campus computer science career fair last September. Liu turned in a resumé, which led to phone and on-site interviews at Facebook headquarters.
Liu has held several previous internships at technology companies, but nothing close to the scale of Facebook, which hosts nearly 3,000 employees at its headquarters — and some 10,000 more worldwide.
“This is by far the biggest company I have ever worked for,” he explained. “It does feel different. There are so many moving parts and projects. You have to stay informed.”
Liu attributes his successful work at a top-tier tech company in part to the strong habits he built as student, including reading voraciously and approaching situations proactively.
“But the soft skills you take away from your classes are one of the most invaluable things on the job,” he added. “You need to be able to stand up for yourself and put yourself out there, especially in a company like Facebook where things move so fast.”
Liu is a former resident of the Innovate Living-Learning Community at Virginia Tech, an on-campus undergraduate community of transdiscliplinary students focused on entrepreneurship. He lived there during his freshman year and the first semester of his sophomore year until he left Blacksburg for 10 months to work at a startup in Austin, Texas.
“For me personally, Innovate was a catalyst that pushed me to put myself out there and work hard on projects important to me,” Liu said.
Through the program’s focus on practicing entrepreneurship via experiential learning, Liu was encouraged and motivated by his peers through activities such as late-night work on startups and traveling to other college campuses to compete in hackathons.
“We’re very focused on career outcomes and have Innovate students working this summer at progressive companies nationwide, from Boston to the Bay Area” said Sean Collins, Innovate program director and Pamplin faculty member.
“There’s a war for talent and students like Michael are in high demand. Companies such as Facebook vie for students who possess deep disciplinary academic skill sets as well as broad competencies in teamwork, leadership, and problem solving,” said Collins.
That formula seems to work for Lui: “That perfect mix of timing, motivation, and opportunities that Innovate gave me wouldn’t have been possible at any other program,” Liu concluded.
The Innovate Living-Learning Community is an on-campus undergraduate Community of transdisciplinary students from multiple colleges at Virginia Tech who live, learn, and practice entrepreneurship through experiential learning. For more information, or to apply for admission, please visit: ApexCIE.vt.edu/Innovate
Written by Courtney Cutright