Intern Profile — Kingston Tam
What’s a summer as a Square Intern like?
Written by Kingston Tam.
This summer our engineering team was fortunate enough to be joined by fantastic, exuberant talent from schools across the country. From this year’s amazing crop of summer interns, we’d like you to meet Stanford senior Kingston Tam.
What were you doing before Square?
I am majoring in Symbolic systems in school, which is an interdisciplinary major that combines a lot of social sciences and hard sciences — it’s kind of a mix of psychology, philosophy, linguistics, and computer science.
In the past couple years, I interned at a tiny startup called BuyAds.com and then Facebook. BuyAds was called iSocket when I was there, and I was doing a lot of different things. When you work at a seven-person start-up you end up doing a little bit of everything. Then at Facebook I was working on Open Graph back end stuff and a little on the developer tools.
What attracted you to Square?
What pushed me to Square over everything else was the opportunity to really try things and experiment. Because Square is so transparent I had a great and unique opportunity to learn from everyone. I also got to work on a big variety of projects. The other thing that really drew me here was definitely the design culture — the fact that everything they do is centered on “what does the user want?” At the end of the day the most important thing is the person using your product.
Generally though, I think Square is just making really cool products. They’re taking something no one thought to do and making it really easy. The other places I considered were very engineering focused cultures but I wanted to be able to immerse myself with a more design culture and try to make the solutions to a engineering problems beautiful. When it comes to design problems there’s a far wider range of solutions and the creativity you need to solve them is something Square focuses alot on.
What are the main projects you worked on?
I got a chance to work on a bunch of projects that are either out or coming out soon, which was really cool. I remember the first day I came in, and my manager was out, one of the engineers said “we have a few projects lying around if you want to take a shot at them.” I picked something I thought seemed pretty small and simple, and by the end of a couple weeks there was a whole team working on it and I got the chance to implement a good portion of it from scratch. It really didn’t feel like an intern project.
What stood out about your experience?
One thing I really liked was how open everyone is here. I like the ability to look over the table and say “I kind of have a problem here, can someone help out?” and have someone come over. Everyone is incredibly helpful and easy to talk to, and I really respect that. I think the culture is also really cool — everyone works hard, but I didn’t see anyone working to the bone, and everyone still had a life.
There was such great opportunity to diversify at Square. As an intern you don’t really do what interns normally do. Instead you really become part of the team. It was great that I could help people with things and they could help me with things. It felt a lot more like being an employee than being an intern.
What are you focused on next?
First and foremost: school. I want to enjoy my last year and my final classes. It’s hard to actually go into the ‘what happens after college’ thing, but I know I want to pick up some more iOS and design stuff, dive into it and see what happens.
What are some fun facts about you?
I went to high school at a boarding school in England.
I love dubstep violin.
I was once in the inner cover of TIME magazine. Kingston Tam (@KingstonTam) | Twitter The latest Tweets from Kingston Tam (@KingstonTam). Tinkerer, Designer, Entrepreneur-in-progress. Student at Stanford.…twitter.com