Spotlight: Matt Herbst

Matt Herbst Name: Matt Herbst


Role: Data Engineer



Hire Date: Intern Summer 2013, Full Time July 2014


Fun Fact: Has traveled to 30 countries (and counting)         

“When it came to looking for a full time role, I was looking around at different companies and had interviewed and received some offers, but I couldn’t find a culture that was the same as Chegg’s. There was one company that I had spent a lot of time with and they made me an offer, but they were very closed up. Coming from DC, I was used to a traditional work environment, but after interning at Chegg, I couldn’t go back. Here, I interact with people and I can always see everyone. There are no cubes. We have our desks, but I can see everyone when I stand up. I knew I’d be doing things I’d be interested in, and I knew I loved the people who would be on my team, so I came back.”

What did you do before coming to Chegg?

I was finishing my Masters degree in Computer Science along with my Bachelor of Arts (B.A.), in Political Science and History at Miami University, which I completed in five years. I came to Chegg as an intern that summer after my first year as a graduate student and started working at Chegg full time once I graduated.

Why did you decide to come to Chegg?

When I was applying to internships, I probably applied to about one hundred internships all over the country and I got a few offers from companies other than Chegg. I had actually accepted an internship with a defense contractor because I had previously spent a lot of time in politics working in DC, and I thought, what’s a good way of merging tech and politics? Oh, I’ll go ahead and work for a defense contractor. It all made sense. I had dropped the internship search at that point, but then Chegg reached out in regards to my application with them. I then decided to continue the process to see where it would take me. Speaking with Tammi (the manager who hired me as an intern) on the phone got me really excited about Chegg. Chegg was (and still is) a 300 something person company versus the defense contractor, an 80,000 person global enterprise. I kind of liked the idea of working for a smaller company and not being based in a cube somewhere. Chegg also has very competitive benefits.

When it came to looking for a full time role, I was looking around at different companies and had interviewed and received some offers, but I couldn’t find a culture that was the same as Chegg’s. There was one company that I had spent a lot of time with and they made me an offer, but they were very closed up. Coming from DC, I was used to a traditional work environment, but after interning at Chegg, I couldn’t go back. Here, I interact with people and I can always see everyone. There are no cubes. We have our desks, but I can see everyone when I stand up. I knew I’d be doing things I’d be interested in, and I knew I loved the people who would be on my team, so I came back.

What are you proud of?

I was extremely proud of the project I did during my internship. A lot of interns are given tasks, where you do learn a lot of breadth, but not depth. I kind of had the opposite experience as an intern, where I was given one project on day one and I was to design, mock up, build, and test the project, completely by myself, essentially. The project entailed visualizing Chegg’s data warehouse and the data connections within it. We have a big in-house program in Data Engineering that we use to manage our ETL jobs. It was getting very complicated to manage all of those data flows, so I created a visualization tool where you can see, filter, and organize all of them. I did all of this using a technology I’d never used before. It was interesting because I had so much control and I had very little oversight. It was tough in some ways because I wanted more management, but it was also nice not having someone micromanage me. I was really proud of myself in the end when I went to present this because I had successfully completed my project and was able to show that, yes, I did this! I managed my time, asked the right questions, and executed the project properly. A lot of the things I’ve done at Chegg are things I’ve taught myself. My education at Miami certainly helped give me the ability to teach myself, but they didn’t teach me the technology itself. Currently, I’m finishing a project that utilizes the same technology I used last summer, which served as a stepping-stone to get to where I am now.

Because I was so focused on that one project during my internship, I wasn’t exposed to everything the team was doing. Even now, I’ve been here a few months and I still don’t quite know everything because there is just so much. I have an analytics and software engineer background, but not a traditional data engineer, data warehouse, or database background. This makes the job more interesting, since I am constantly learning new things but also being able to apply other skills to the role.

What have you been working on lately?

One of the projects that I’m working on is a central dashboard UI that will hopefully replace all of the other ad-hoc and random dashboards and reports that Chegg has. Right now we have a lot of different reports in different formats. We want to get all of our reports into one format that we can easily see on one dashboard. We want to unify the data experience; both on the front end and back end by unifying how we get the data and how do we serve that data. I am primarily working on the front-end of that application.

Another project I’m working on is the enhancement of the ETL tool that I worked on during my internship. We are hitting the point where we have to be very careful with our work, where even the smallest mistake can have major downstream impacts. We don’t scale very well right now. So what I’m looking at is to see what paths are open to us. We have the choice of modifying our tool to an improved version, or maybe adopting an open-source solution instead. Our tool was created a few years ago because nothing existed then that met our needs, but now there are a few tools out there that might be good candidates for replacing, augmenting, or adapting our existing toolset.

Has anything surprised you about working here?

When I was an intern, the company was still private. Now that the company is public, a few things have changed. We now have to worry more about things such as SOX compliance, and the quarterly financials. There is also a significant auditor presence every now and then.

There are also just many new faces at Chegg since I was an intern, many new people to meet. It really shows you the demand in the valley, and the creativity of the people starting their own ideas, and how people believe that coming to Chegg will let them do something different. I also don’t think I fully appreciated the diversity of the company as an intern – I mostly stuck with the other interns. However, now as a full-time employee, I work with significantly more people, and it amazes me at that we have all these unique backgrounds. Especially in regards to the number of international employees we have, it really adds to the culture of the workplace and makes for some awesome unique events and experiences.

How did you get into your field? 

As a big video game fan, I’ve always been doing computer stuff and have always been interested in politics and history. When I started in school, I started out as a political science and history double major. That summer, I worked on a political campaign in Cincinnati and also took the Intro to Computer Science class. At the time, I was thinking about doing a minor in computer science, or just taking some classes that I thought would be fun since I’ve always been interested in it. I used to be one of those guys who would make those MySpace themes with flashes everywhere that would kill your eyes. That’s how I first got my feet wet with programming. The next year, I studied abroad in the fall and then in the spring I spent the semester in DC as part of Miami University’s Inside Washington program. Part of the program was doing an internship in the Beltway, and I managed to get one in the office of the just-elected Speaker of the House John Boehner (who happens to represent the congressional district my school is in, OH-8th). I loved it, and I decided to stay the summer and I interned with another congressman from Ohio that summer.

When I got back to Miami in the fall, I spent time looking back at what I’d gone through, I realized that even though it had been a fascinating experience and I had learned a lot, it also really disillusioned me. At no point during my internship did I feel ownership of my work and certainly not recognition for any of the work I did. The work I was doing was work that I could have done in high school. And I know how the political trajectory works, where you basically continue working in Congress doing the same type of work for a bunch of years. Most people burn out after two or three, go back to school, or start working in a lobbying or communications firm. Working your way up in the congressional staff is long hours and low pay, and then after a bunch of years you can make your exit into the private sector and get that six-figure salary.

I started thinking that I really wanted to try and do something else. So I thought about a triple major, adding Computer Science to my existing studies. I did the math and it basically came down to my normal four years plus an extra semester. That extra semester would have just been doing gen-eds for the bachelors in computer science. I thought I was going to do that and so I started school junior year and took a computer science class and I was talking with my professor about my experience and what I wanted to do and she said something along the lines of “instead of spending an extra semester for a bachelors, why not spend two extra semesters and get a masters?” She convinced me that once I had the masters, no one will care that I didn’t get a bachelor’s in Computer Science because no one will see that. And so I started doing that and here I am. I hope to eventually be a policy maker in tech, but how can you make policies for something if you don’t know how it works? So I eventually hope to move into a position where I can make policies decisions. That’s why I really like the head of our Data Engineering/Business Intelligence unit at Chegg, Dax Eckenberg. If you start telling him about an interesting problem or bug, he’ll just sit down and start coding with you. Not every manager does that and not all tech managers have the skills to do that.

What advice do you have for someone who wants to start in a role like this at Chegg?

I think the most important thing is to be able to understand how data systems can scale. That’s the challenge that every team at Chegg is facing right now. It’s a growing pain that I think every middle sized organization faces, when you have to come to terms with the “let’s get it done” attitude of the code base created when the company was small.

I think you can pick up SQL, you can pick up learning different tools, but I think you always have to have that mindset of “What’s the bigger picture here?” and not just focus on the one little component you’re working on. For example, the data engineering team is kind of in transition. Before, people would come to us and ask us “Can you please do this and that?” What we’re doing now is to develop tools to automate many of these tasks, and to allow people to do it themselves. We’re trying to allow tools that allow non-technical people to do technical things without having to rely on us for requests. One of the problems that medium sized companies have, and this isn’t a bad problem to have, is that as different teams grow, supporting teams often need to grow as well. For example, if every other team grows and we start a new product, and we hire ten people for that, they’re going to start making requests from our team. Doing things the old way, that means that eventually, with enough new people and products, we’re going to have to hire someone new. Our goal for our team is to think, let’s get these things automated, or empower any developer to do them. Think of data as a service where all the data you want, in the format that you want, is available all the time without having to ask for it.

What excites you most about Chegg’s future?

I think we have a real chance at actually being able to get someone from that high school level to that first job. People are thinking about how do we make this all into the Student Hub? And that excites me! The idea that we can actually help people find jobs from start to finish, that we can help you find that school, help you attend that school by helping find the funding that you need and really help realize your success.


Spotlight: Mark Allen

Mark AllenRole:
Director, Business Analytics




Hire Date: May 2013




Fun Facts: Has a deep knowledge base of Pre-1992 American Musicals

“I’m very excited about the diversity of things we have going on. I think we have the one tent pole business going on that’s doing great, keeps the lights on, but we have this fire hose of students that come to our site and we have an opportunity to create a portfolio of different services that students would be interested in. Creating a sort of ecosystem designed for college students is really cool!”

What did you do before coming to Chegg?

I worked at a small education start up, first in Palo Alto, then Menlo Park, where I was a Data Scientist. In fact, I was the only data scientist there, so I was responsible for data science, business intelligence, along with a little bit of engineering. Both of my parents were in education. My dad was my elementary school principal, my mom was a teacher, and my brother is a teacher, so it just sort of fit.

Why did you decide to come to Chegg?

I liked the interesting problems that Chegg has. I liked all of the people I met and I was really interested in a place that was growing. I didn’t want to go to a very large company. I wanted to go a place where I felt like there would be a lot of problems to solve and just start hammering through them. There were places where they already have a 98% solution for everything and just need you to get it to 99%–that’s great and some people are into that.

Here at Chegg, we probably have two types of problems on a regular basis:

A. What is going on here? Which is a lot of problem solving and it’s almost like playing 20 questions because the more questions you ask, the more you exclude and the more you can drill down further and further to what the answer might be, which is the sort of problem I think is fun.

B. The other thing I think is fun is changing the way people think about things and creating new processes. For example, I really enjoyed creating a new process for forecasting the textbook business and understanding what’s the right way to carve out the puzzle pieces so that they fit together nicely as opposed to taking a bunch of different stuff and trying to hammer it altogether. With any sort of process, the more hands on and touching people have to do, the more problems and moving pieces there are, which makes it that much difficult to solve. The idea of removing moving pieces and just sort of getting into it is a very powerful thing.

What are you most proud of?

The one thing I would say that I am proud of is I think when it comes to our textbook rush, it’s a lot more calm than it used to be. I’d like to think I played a hand in getting there. I think we generally make better decisions when we’re calm, and I’m by no means the only person who helped getting things that way. I think this rush we went through, no one seemed to be running around like they did in the past. I think we’re getting better at everything. I think we do a much better job of diagnosing—you know when you see something that’s unexpected, we’re doing a much better job of remaining calm and going through a series of questions and narrowing it down. I think we’ve gotten a lot of things sorted out.

What have you been working on lately?

I’ve been working on a lot of stuff, but the one thing I’ve been trying my best to focus on more than anything else is learning more about Chegg Tutoring and understanding how that business works.  There’s a formal business integration plan, but really the way our group works is that there is a person associated with each part of the business and in the case of Chegg Tutoring we have Jessica up there, who can help us learn about what they think is interesting, how they solve problems, and how they go about running that business. One of the things I think is really interesting about Chegg is learning about all of these different businesses, how they subtly affect each other in different ways, and understanding the tradeoffs. I know that we have the textbook rush at the beginning of the semester quickly followed by Chegg Study getting really busy and Chegg Tutoring just keeps getting busier throughout the year. There is this interesting sort of complement among the three businesses. The next step is to see how we can streamline our products to better serve our users, the students.

Has anything surprised you about working here?

I would say that I was generally surprised at how few bad apples there are here. I think everyone is basically fine. There are some people where you see the same situation and you disagree about it and that’s fine; you get a couple hundred people in a building, that’s bound to happen. But generally speaking, there’s no one I find extremely unpleasant, which is not the case at my previous job, so maybe that’s why it was so surprising.

How did you get into your field?

Blind luck. I was a physicist for 10 years, PhD in Particle Physics, Post Doc in Astrophysics and it became clear that I didn’t want to keep doing this. I started looking around for jobs and I figured that I had skills that must be useful to someone; I just didn’t necessarily know what those skills were and what people called people who had those skills. At the time, a lot of physicists were moving into Finance, which occurred so often that it became a stereotype. It was 2011, which was only three years after physicists broke the entire financial system; sorry about that!

I knew that I didn’t want to be go into Finance, but knew the applicable skills I had would be just working with data, because that’s what I’ve been doing since I was 19 years old. I spent a lot of time looking at job listings and talking to various people and eventually discovered this thing called “Data Science”, which is a fancy version of a Data Analyst, but that’s basically what we are. I think a lot of it, just like any other job, is that it’s a craft and I’m used  to looking at data and graphs and pulling out things that are what we should be paying attention to because it’s something that I’ve been doing for forever. It’s just not what everyone has been doing for forever. That was actually the thing I found the hardest was that when I left, is that when I started showing people the results, I expected everyone to see the same things I did. I’ve been staring at plots for 10 years and the hardest thing I had to learn was that people aren’t used to seeing information presented to them in that way. The first time I showed a plot my first time out of academia, I spent a lot of time on it and thought it was going to be great since we were a data driven company. So I put it in up in front of everyone and I showed this plot very quickly, said two things and was about to move on when everyone stopped me and asked me to walk them through the plot. It was then I realized not everyone sees what I see. It’s the same thing with an engineer, who has tons of code, or one of our recruiters who looks at resumes, after doing what you’ve been doing a lot, you just pick up that skill. John, (one of our Principal Recruiters) can flip through resumes faster than anyone like that I’m sure.

What advice do you have for someone looking to start in a role like this at Chegg?

Just go after it. There’s no substitute for just taking the initiative and going and getting it. Whatever it is, just go get it done. I’ve always believed in the making copies test and I almost feel like we should do this with people we interview. “Here’s a stack of papers, the copy machine is over there, give me copies on my desk in 30 minutes.” Basically there are going to be people who can do it or not. I think for people to be successful at Chegg and anywhere else is that it’s not just going to come to you; you have to go get it. You need to go read the manual if you’re a manual reader, or you need to start talking to people if you’re the person who can do it. Everybody has their own style but you just have to figure out the right way to make copies for you. There are people who will have copies on your desk by the end of the day and people who won’t.

What excites you most about Chegg’s future?

I’m very excited about the diversity of things we have going on. I think we have the one tent pole business going on that’s doing great, keeps the lights on, but we have this fire hose of students that come to our site and we have an opportunity to create a portfolio of different services that students would be interested in. Creating a sort of ecosystem designed for college students is really cool!

Spotlight: Kaari Peterson

kaari pictureRole: UX Research Manager


Hire Date? May 2011


Fun Fact: Makes portraits out of dryer lint

 “The thing that surprised me most is how passionate people are about putting students first. When I start talking to them about students and student needs, everybody’s just so excited about learning more. I think that all trickles down from Dan (our CEO), because he’s so passionate about it.”

Why did you decide to come to Chegg?

Working in Silicon Valley, I’d worked for a and I’d been laid off in a re-org, which is common, but I had never worked for a start-up and I felt like that was a badge that I needed to earn. I really liked Chegg’s mission and knew that I wanted to work in some kind of consumer facing product. I also really like working with the college student segment because they are very straight forward about how they feel and are very tech savvy, which makes them a great group to work with from a user experience standpoint.

What are you proud of?

One thing that has been important to me is identifying who our user is and how important they are to what we do.  When I first got here, user research would often be an afterthought, which was partly due to early start-up stage and not having enough resources. We would design things based upon our perceptions of what we thought students would like and when we’d get the product out to the user, we would realize that they were having issues with it or that they didn’t actually like it. So one of the things I really wanted us to do was to make sure we got our products in front of our users earlier so that we weren’t so far down the road on design that we couldn’t turn back. As designers, we love seeing people use our stuff and learn every time we watch someone use our product. This really motivated me to get feedback from our users early and often, which we achieve by inviting students to participate in studies we conduct on-site and things of that nature. By making user research a regular part of what we do as far as when we’re creating the product and the product feature, I’m really proud to say that we’ve been able to elevate the importance of the user and help improve our overall user experience at Chegg.

Another thing I’m proud of is starting the “Lean In” group called “CHO”, which stands for “Chegg Her Out”, where we meet once a month at lunch time to discuss all kinds of different issues, mostly relating to career progression, body language, and how to maneuver oneself within the workplace. It came about when I noticed that the Business Women of California were hosting a conference in SF, where Sheryl Sandberg, the COO of Facebook, was speaking and I thought it would be really interesting to attend. With the support of our VP of HR, I got women from all over our company—Finance, Business Analytics, Engineering, along with me and another designer to attend this conference together. We had some really great conversations and on the drive back, we realized that we didn’t want this to end. We then brought it back to Chegg and got a group together that isn’t focused on gender, but is rather, more related to figuring out ways we can grow professionally and supporting each other to do so.  We accomplish this by inviting different executives to our meetings, where they can share their backgrounds and answers questions we normally wouldn’t be able to ask when we see them around the office. It’s been really good because I’ve gotten to know a lot of people I would never cross paths with otherwise, which is becoming especially important the more we grow as a company.

What have you been working on lately?

This summer, I’ve been working closely with our design intern. I love seeing the interns here in the office on a daily basis because they’re our audience and I’ve been constantly pulling them into the lab and have them do testing for me. It’s really nice because they add a different kind of energy in the office and I learn from them since they’re currently in school and give us real time insight into what current college students are going through at the moment.

In addition to learning from our interns, I worked on a big user research project so that we can get a strong understanding of our user and their study habits, such as how do they study for exams, what materials do they use, how do they use those materials? Since then, I’ve been evangelizing and sharing the knowledge about our users to our other offices, such as our office in Israel, since their college experience is very different from what the American college experience is like. I’ve also been doing design work for the e-Reader as well as Chegg Study. Overall, I love wearing a lot of different hats because I am constantly being challenged, which keeps work interesting and exciting.

Has anything surprised you about working here?

The thing that surprised me most is how passionate people are about putting students first. When I start talking to them about students and student needs, everybody’s just so excited about learning more! I think that all trickles down from Dan (our CEO), because he’s so passionate about it. That’s another reason I came to Chegg because I remembered how inspiring he is when he would speak at different meetings at Yahoo!, so I figured it would be cool to work where he’s working. That level of passion and wanting to do the right thing for the student has been a really nice surprise and has made working here very satisfying. 

How did you get into your field?

I started out as a graphic designer doing things like print ads, brochures, and things like that, but then it hit me one day that when you do all of these printed products that people will look at it and note “Cool design!”, but then they toss it! I knew that I wanted to do something that was more web or software based because I wanted to do something that was going to live on longer than just a picture that was going to be tossed in the trash. I then started to learn about HTML and started building websites for companies and took off from there. When I worked for Adobe, I had helped design Acrobat with the team, and while I was adopting my daughter from Russia, somebody asked me what I did for a living and I said I worked on Acrobat Reader and they said “Oh! We use [Acrobat] Reader!” and it’s so cool that even when I’m on the other side of the world that people know what reader is!  I’m also interested in what the users think as well because as a graphic designer, the only feedback I had about my work came from the client, and not the actual user of the product. Therefore, interaction/user experience design has served as a perfect intersect because it combines my interest in design with my interest in people and psychology.

What advice do you have for someone who wants to start in a role like this at Chegg?

Internships are a great way to get into a company. Lora, the intern program manager, stated that an internship is like a three month interview and I think that that is one of the best ways to go about it. This way you can really come in and know what we’re about and how we do things and experience what it’s actually like to work here.

What excites you most about Chegg’s future?

It’s hard to choose just one thing! In general, I’m really excited about the direction we’re headed and just kind of expanding the knowledge of our user and having that permeate throughout the company and help improve everything that we do to help students and make it even better. Things are going to be relevant to every student, not a one size fits all sort of thing, which really excites me because it is only going to change our user experience for the better.

Intern Volunteer Event: Full Circle Farm

On Friday, July 25, 2014, our Chegg  interns, along with our Intern Program Manager, Lora Kyle, Chief Technical Officer, Chuck Geiger, Chief Marketing Officer, Esther Lem, and the Chegg for Good team battled temperatures of more than 100°F to give back to the community by mulching, weeding and seeding at Full Circle Farm. Full Circle Farm is a local project of Sustainable Community Gardens (SCG), a community-based nonprofit dedicated to the renewal of local, sustainable food systems. For more information, please visit their website at:

Before Chegg for Good

Here is our volunteer group before they got down and dirty!

After Chegg for Good

Our volunteer group after all of their hard work! Thank you Cheggsters for giving back to the community! We really appreciate your contribution to #OrangeSummer!