Day in the Life of an Intern: Joshua

Riot’s summer internship program offers students projects, mentorship and play– no coffee runs here.  The deadline for summer 2014 applications is fast approaching on January 15, 2014. 

Joshua joined as a summer 2013 intern on the Software Engineering (Core Services) team. He caught our eye with the awesome stuff he’s made before even earning a paycheck. After graduating from high school he founded and built Elophant.com for the League of Legends community. Joshua’s now working with us part-time until he finishes his Computer Science degree at UC Irvine and becomes a full-time-Rioter.

Joshua dished on his internship experience:

What team did you intern with?

I worked with the API team under Software Engineering (Core Services).  

What were some of the projects you tackled?

Before coming to Riot, I worked as a third party web developer and created Elophant.com. My work on the site granted me early access to the Riot APIs, making me pretty familiar with Riot’s then-upcoming Riot Games API beta.

When I started with the API team, they asked me if I’d used the API developer portal and what I thought of it. We joked that the portal didn’t really look like a League of Legends or Riot product; despite its complexity, it was sort of bland and it wasn’t player-friendly yet. And just like that, I was given the chance to work on the developer portal with my main focus being the reskinning of this piece of the API. The design I came up with for the API tool is what’s there’s today, and I did a lot of the writing on the site, too. I also used this cool Riot style guide that included all the colors and fonts associated with Riot and League of Legends. I got a ton of feedback from my team and learned so much in just one summer. Most of all, though, it’s pretty surreal that I was part of the team that carried the “Riotizing” of the tool through to completion.

What was your typical day like?

I noticed that Rioters tend to start off their workdays pretty late, but they stay late to make up for it. I’d usually get in at 10am and catch up on emails, read news and say good morning to my teammates as they rolled in. At 11am, we’d hold a standup meeting where each of us would talk about our work the day before and our plans for the day. Then, before lunch, I’d start tackling whatever I needed to do for the developer portal. After lunch, I’d plan, design, code, test or whatever else was needed until the end of the day.

Most days I’d hang out with my team after work to play games. I also spent a lot of time bonding with the other interns at intern events. We visited the LCS studio, went to Six Flags, ate at an Argentine steakhouse and participated in an Iron Chef cooking competition.

How did your experience interning at Riot compare to your expectations going in?

Before getting here, I read everything I could about Riot, like the LinkedIn thread on internships and everything on riotgames.com. From these sources, I gleaned a basic understanding of what it would be like to work for the creators of League of Legends. I expected to smile and laugh many times each day, find solutions to interesting problems and meet many amazing people. What really surprised me was I never felt like I was being micromanaged or anything like that; I didn’t have to get approval for my ideas because they trusted me to use my time wisely and make the right decisions. I’m really happy to say that my actual experience definitely exceeded my expectations. I would highly recommend this internship program to anyone who’s interested in leveling up their education and challenging themselves in new ways.

How has your time at Riot influenced how you approach your craft? What are some things you learned? What are some things you taught your team?

My mentor at Riot placed a heavy emphasis on testing code and organizing tasks in JIRA. She told me that development is 50 percent testing, 30 percent planning and 20 percent programming. I imagine that these two areas of software development are often overlooked at other workplaces, so it was really cool to see how important they were on my team. As I level up my skills, I hope to exercise similar discipline in these areas.

In terms of hard tech stuff, I polished my HTML, CSS and Java skills, became acquainted with Grails and Spring Security, and learned how Riot’s API is architected.

As far as what I taught my team, I brought a unique perspective on the APIs and the data they return because I used to be a third party developer. I used this knowledge to help my team form a better understanding of what third parties, like LolKing and Solomid, are looking for and what we could do to help them develop player-focused tools. I wrote the documentation guidelines and getting started guide, fixed some bugs and added a lot of functionality to the site that I thought developers would appreciate.

Have your professional goals changed after working at Riot? What’s your biggest takeaway from the summer?

Fortunately, my professional goals haven’t changed post-internship. Of course, my team jokingly insists that I must now want to major in psychology due to the trauma they put me through over those ten weeks.

My biggest takeaway from the summer, and something I’ve been noticing more frequently, is the value of an entrepreneurial spirit. I’ve read many commenters on reddit and Hacker News questioning how people come up with ideas or even complaining that they “thought of it first,” but just didn’t act on the idea. If I hadn’t pushed myself to build Elophant.com into a multimillion page view per month website, I would have never had the chance to intern at Riot.

What are some things you learned at Riot that you think will help you as you maybe go back school or enter the professional world?

I acquired a fair understanding of Grails from working on the developer portal. Before interning, I hadn’t even heard of Grails! It was also interesting to see the emphasis that Riot places on JIRA. I had only used Mantis before, and casually at that, so experiencing a different task managing and bug tracking system was a huge learning opportunity that I’m sure will help me with projects that I’ll work on in school.