Spotlight: Ben Wu

IMG_5345Role: Sr Software Engineer, Enrollment Marketing

Hire Date: April 2007

Fun Fact: The company was 9 people when he joined.

“By putting students first, Chegg is changing the whole education path and experience for those students.” 

What’s been your experience over the last 7 years at Chegg?

When a company is 9 people, it feels very much like a family and you know everyone really well. Although the company is much larger today, our team on Enrollment Marketing still has that family feel to it, which is really nice.

Also, because of the growth of the company, I’ve been able to grow a lot over the past 7 years. Every year, I’ve been able to take on more challenges that have really helped my career. Every day, I come in looking to improve myself so I can help make the company better.

What did you do before coming to Chegg?

Chegg was my first job after college. Before Chegg, I was at the career center at UC San Diego as a Web Developer developing a scholarship application. Coming to Chegg was a natural fit.

Why do you stay at Chegg?

Chegg’s mission to help the student is great and I’m really drawn to it. The average student may have issues getting through college with a lack of funds or other services and Chegg is building something that is going to help those students and any student throughout their whole lives. How can you not want to be a part of that?

Also the people here are awesome. Our team is really close and feels like a family. The company has a great energy here.

What makes someone successful here?

People will be successful is they understand and are on board with our mission. Also, self directed and motivated people, who are curious and want to continue to learn and grow, will do really well here.

How did you get into engineering?

One of my science teachers in high school was going for his graduate degree and one of his classes was developing a web site. The teacher enlisted my help to build the site so I started helping as extra credit. I taught myself html and javascript to make it happen and really liked web development so I went to college for it.

What are you proud of?

I loved working on the shopping cart and getting it to the point where it could handle a large scale of customer orders.  Also, seeing the architecture change at Chegg and knowing that I’ve played a part in that. I’ve also been really proud of being on this journey for the last 7 years.

What excites you for Chegg’s future?

I love that we put students first and I just know that as we continue to build out our student graph we are going to be able to help more student’s educational future . That is so huge!

What have you been working on lately?

Lately, I’ve been developing architecture for the web framework for our Enrollment Marketing product.  Prior to this role, I was working on the check out system for Chegg

What do you do out side of work that people would be surprised to know about you?

Watching television is one of my favorite things to do – I watch it all the time with my wife. Grey’s Anatomy and Agents of SHIELD are a couple of our favorites.

Chegg sponsors student hackathon PennApps

Student hackathons at colleges and universities are all the rage now and the fall season was recently kicked off at University of Pennsylvania with their PennApps hackathon over the September 6 – 8 weekend. Chegg was excited to be part of the action by being a sponsor at PennApps! Being one of the largest university hackathons, more than 1,000 students globally came to spend 48 hours coming up with innovative ideas, vying for prizes, networking with other students and companies, and trying to get by with as little sleep as possible.

Chegg was well represented with employees from Engineering and Recruiting to help mentor students with technology questions and internship and job search questions. We were also represented with hackers, having 3 of our summer interns, Max from U Penn, Matt from Miami University, and Blaise from Johns Hopkins University, all hacking! Another Chegg engineering intern, Geoff from U Penn, helped organize the whole event!

As a sponsor, Chegg presented an award to the student team who built the best hack that made students lives’ better. Over 125 teams submitted to be considered for Chegg’s prize! Out of the many awesome submissions, we chose the hack from team who built a product allowing students to collaborate with people taking the same class to create a study guide with various levels of student engagement. This team won a cash prize and a free semester of Homework Help from Chegg. Well done team!

There were a variety of other prizes and Chegg is proud of our intern Max who made it into the top twenty finalists with his project, Juke. Congratulations, Max!

All in all, we were really impressed with the level of talent and dedication these students had throughout the whole weekend and look forward to being part of many other hackathons in the future!

A shot of all the student teams demoing their hacks to companies and judges

A shot of all the student teams demoing their hacks to companies and judges

Chegg Engineering Director, Jason, learning about the ReviewWith.Us  hack – the winner of Chegg’s sponsored prize

Chegg Engineering Director, Jason, learning about the ReviewWith.Us
hack – the winner of Chegg’s sponsored prize

Chegg Intern, Max, presenting his hack, Juke

Chegg Intern, Max, presenting his hack, Juke

Chegg intern Matt being discovered in the hallway by Director of Talent Acquisition, Amy and Engineering Director, Jason

Chegg intern Matt being discovered in the hallway by Director of Talent Acquisition, Amy and Engineering Director, Jason

Spotlight: Anand Madhavan

anand-croppedRole:  Product Leader, Search and Personalization

Hire Date:  November 2011

Fun Fact:  Anand is a Black belt in Karate.

“The energy and the passion of building products with a ‘students first’ attitude is amazing. Chegg has top class people who dare to dream.”

                                                               How would you describe your role here?

I am a Product Leader focused on Student Graph, Search & Discovery. My main aim is to help students find stuffstuff that’s relevant to their academic life, stuff that helps them save time, save money and get smarter – like books, courses, study materials, and other students and experts. It’s a highly innovative role that demands a good balance of user experience and data science – which I enjoy.

 How do you describe your first year?

The first year was all about defining the vision for search and personalization and building the foundation – starting with building the team and building the infrastructure. Developing the platform that scales to the growing user base at Chegg and to the pace of product innovation was a daunting task – but the super star team made it all look easy!

What are you most proud of during your first year?

Building the Student Graph. When I joined Chegg in 2011, it was still a collection of companies – Chegg, Cramster, Notehall, CourseRank, and Zinch – and a lot of data hadn’t yet come together. And in the first year, the most important thing we did was to bring everything together and build the graph. This is immensely useful to power future personalization and cross promoting different services.

What did you do before Chegg?

I started my career at Yahoo! as a data science engineer in online advertising – connecting users to advertisements that are useful rather than boring or obtrusive. Since then, I have moved onto playing a mix of product and technology leadership roles in smaller companies – I led the e-commerce product at Lockerz – a social commerce company based on game theory and then worked at Nominum as a Principal Architect, helping them build a consumer product geared towards parents and students. And then Chegg happened and there’s no looking back.

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Spotlight: Vikram Naidu

vikramRole:  Finance Leader, Print and Digital

Hire Date:  June 2009

Fun Fact:  I love outdoor sports and played cricket and hockey. I was the captain of my University hockey team.

                                                     “there is internal mobility for your career and it’s a strong, growing company where you can make a significant impact.”

Why did you come to Chegg?

This was my first job out of school and I really wanted to work at a start-up for many reasons – the accelerated learning experience, the opportunity to work on many diverse and interesting problems and the ability to play a big role in critical business decisions. So that was really motivating to me. I started looking at different start-ups and connected with a friend who joined Chegg a few months earlier. He only had positive things to say, and I ended up being part of the family. Also Chegg was offering free manicures and pedicures, which made the decision a whole lot easier.

How many people were at the company when you started?

60! And now we’re hundreds so I’ve seen it through a lot of growth.

What was your first role?

I started out as a Business Analyst and had a lot of opportunities to improve our operations. Then I was given the responsibility of managing the entire catalog for our textbook business and now I’m the Finance Lead, doing the planning and financial analysis for the Textbook and eTextbook businesses.

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Spotlight: Colin Murphy

COLINRole:  Product Leader for eTextbooks and our eReader application

Hire Date:  August 2012

Fun Fact:  While he was a college student Colin spent a Semester at Sea. He traveled by boat from Vancouver all the way to Florida.

“When you think about what Chegg is actually doing – helping students learn and study – it’s pretty easy to be excited about.”

What have you done in your first 9 months here?

A lot, actually, which has been great for me. Chegg is the largest company I’ve worked at and since I’ve worked at much smaller companies, I’m used to the dive in, swim, figure it out and get things done mentality. I was afraid that coming to a larger company would come with more structure and that I’d be a cog in the wheel, which isn’t the case here.

Day 1, I was diving into actual products. I’m working on the eReader application that students are using to read their eTextbooks on their Mac, PC, mobile device or iPad, and the day I started was in the middle of rush and our largest day ever for the eReader application. This product was dropped in my lap – which was amazing!

Since then I’ve been working on some cool things and have been taking advantage of our on site user Research Lab. We’ve had about a dozen students come in and use the eReader and got a lot of great feedback from those students. It was very important to students that the eReader experience is similar to the core experience of reading a book – like flipping the page or having high quality readability for example – so we’ve been focusing on the core foundation and making it a great experience for students.  Having real feedback from students is awesome and we’re working on other ways to get in depth and continuous feedback, which is really interesting to me.

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