Shift Spotlight: Allie Cell

Find how and why Allie decided to help unblind us with (data) science.

Allie is one of the fabulous data scientists here at Shift. Longtime Shifter Dennis recruited her out of school, where she studied data science and engineering. She graduated in Spring 2018, and she’s been here ever since. We asked her about how she’s liked working here. 

When Dennis told you about Shift, what sold you on it? The problem is really interesting (and Dennis is really smart). I came up with ideas for [how to improve the model], and it seemed like a place where you could come in and have a lot of impact and ideas are really valued. 

I ended up crying during the on-site interview [I was told the story of a single mom who literally couldn’t have gone to a used car dealership, and Shift made it possible for her to buy a car.] There are a lot of use cases that are doing good. 

Did that sense of impact continue after you started? Absolutely. The impact has continued. My day 2 project turned into something that kept evolving into a three or four month project that had a few hundred thousand dollars of impact.

How do you think about Shift doing good? Our pricing is fair and isn’t based on how much you know about cars, it doesn’t discriminate. It’s as fair as we can be at fair market prices. It about the cars, not about the person. There’s no swindling or anything. That our pricing is fair, that’s the biggest thing. 

How do you describe Shift to your friends? I used the same line, that Shift is revolutionizing the car-buying experience to make it fun, fair and accessible. They make a joke about me being a sales person, but that’s it, I believe in it. 

Is that true of everyone here, that they believe in the product? I think so. I’m frequently impressed by how much people do care and want to stay true to that mission. 

Is that unique to Shift? A lot of companies try to come up with mission statements that people can believe in, but I do think that ours is better in some ways. 

Tell me about the culture. How have you gotten along here? Super well. One of the proudest accomplishments of my life was that [my manager] invited me and Dennis to his wedding in New York. I think on a personal level I’m really good friends with the people on my team, I really respect them. What’s cool at Shift, the impact that you have is not strictly technical, you work with a lot of stakeholders and business people, you have to understand how data impacts them. The people are great.

Would you recommend it to your friends? Yes, as I have! [She recruited her friend from college who now works here.] 

When you were first introduced to the idea of shift, what was your impression of the concept? It’s definitely different than most things going on in the used car space, but there are a lot of industries making similar transitions to online and less brick and mortar. The website also looked very nice. 

Do you feel like it’s something that should exist? I haven’t thought about car ownership much for myself, so when I’m giving people my one-line pitch of Shift, frequently their experience seems to be bad, they think it’s obvious that Shift exists. 

Making contributions? The talent here is pretty exquisite, it’s not like you have to shine a spotlight on people having impact, everyone is kicking ass. As someone who’s junior on the team, I feel like my work is having impact. 

Do you foresee staying at Shift? Are you excited for where it’s headed? Definitely. I think we’re going good places. We’re in a good place in that we have a good business plan, and if we can hit our goals, we’re going to keep up. Shift seems like a good thing to invest in (as an employee, and also as a financial backer). 

Anything else? We read all of our reviews, customer feedback is taken really seriously. We really do care not just as a sense of high-level product decisions. It’s not just that. At a granular level, I feel very, very confident that Shift cares about its customers. 

Anything else about being an employee? Some of my friends didn’t grasp the benefits of lunch (free food), apparently that’s a game changer. 

Final thoughts? We really want to keep growing our data science team, and the ability to learn is important. Shift is a good place for that to happen. There’s a lot to do, a lot of really cool problems that we get to tackle, and really good leadership. There’s two senior data scientists with mentorship experience, they want to help the rest of the team grow.

How to make the most of your engineering internship

Are you about to start an engineering internship and are wondering how you can optimize your time there? Or maybe you’re starting your first full-time job and want to get started on the right foot. Throughout my internship at Shift and other past internship, I have learned many invaluable lessons that helped me grow as an engineer and perform well at my internships. Here are some of the lessons and tips that I find most important to optimize your internship!

Be customer focused

Whether you’re building a new consumer-facing feature or internal tool, you should always be thinking about your users and customers.

Who are the users of your project? Are they engineers, data scientists, or car buyers? Are they technical? What is going to bring the best user experience to them? Understanding your users will help drive the direction and vision of your finished product.

Why are they using it? Are they using the product to buy/sell a car, for entertainment, or something else entirely? This is a question to address early because if you can’t think of any reason why they would use what you’re building, you should hold off on writing code. Instead, talk to your manager, designers, and even customers to get a better understanding of why people would want your feature. This step will also help you understand the leverage and impact of your project! Continue reading “How to make the most of your engineering internship”

Getting Started with Go: 3 Tips for Engineering Interns

When I received my first code review as a fresh new engineering intern, I was horrified. How could I have received 87 comments on a 50 line code change? After getting A’s in all my CS classes, how could I be so unprepared for programming in the real world? After taking a deeper look at the comments, I realized that my fundamentals were fine, I simply didn’t know any of the industry style guidelines or best practices. The code review comments were extremely helpful in teaching me the industry standards for programming in Go. To help any future engineering interns, this blog post is a list of the three Go styles and best practices I wish I had known before I started my internship.

Continue reading “Getting Started with Go: 3 Tips for Engineering Interns”

How I Used Machine Learning To Price Used Cars

Andrew Carman is a software engineer at Shift.

At the core of any market is pricing. If you get pricing wrong, your marketplace doesn’t work. Our success at Shift—as a marketplace that makes it easy for anyone to buy and sell used cars—hinges on accurately and competitively pricing cars. 

Dealerships traditionally have a team of experts that price trade-ins for customers and manage the prices of their vehicles. They haggle over those prices with buyers that come to their dealerships, and often take advantage of consumers who have less access to car price data.

Our goal is to make selling and buying a car a fun, fair, and accessible experience by using technology to disintermediate what car dealerships do poorly. So we build software instead of back-office sales teams to price our cars, which increases efficiency, levels the playing field for our customers, and lets us systematically improve the accuracy of our pricing over time.

Read on to see exactly how we did it, and pass this along to the folks who might be interested in our approach.

Continue reading “How I Used Machine Learning To Price Used Cars”

10 Tips For Becoming A Better Teammate

Kate Heddleston is an Engineering Manager at Shift.

When I was first learning to play water polo, a coach told me something I’ve never forgotten. He said, “Great players make everyone around them look like great players.” A great player can catch any pass, anticipating imperfect throws and getting into position. When they make a return pass, they throw the ball so that the other person can make the catch easily.

Here at Shift HQ, software engineering is a team sport. Like water polo, you can’t build incredible software systems alone. So when I first heard the concept of the 10x engineer, I was confused. How could someone be so talented that it overshadows the power of teamwork? In my experience, individual excellence is necessary, but not sufficient, for greatness. Focusing purely on individual achievement misses the larger picture that teams are required to build great software. So I decided to change the definition of a 10x engineer to this:

A 10x engineer isn’t someone who is 10x better than those around them, but someone who makes those around them 10x better.

Over the years I’ve combined my personal experience with research about building and growing effective teams and turned that into a list of 10 ways to be a better teammate, regardless of position or experience level. While many things on this list are general pieces of advice for how to be a good teammate, there is an emphasis on how to be a good teammate to people from diverse backgrounds. Read on, and pass this along to the people you work and collaborate with on the daily!

Continue reading “10 Tips For Becoming A Better Teammate”

SHIFT-ing Perspectives: What I Learned From My First Startup Internship

By: Emily Nguyen

Should I intern at a startup or a large company? With so many companies to choose from, picking a place to intern at is a difficult decision. It may be tempting to choose a large tech company, because of its well-known brand and perks. I used to be hesitant about startups too. In the past, I’ve interned at some of the big tech giants…and it was a great experience. However, for my next internship, I wanted the opportunity to work at a small startup where I would be able to build software from scratch, learn how a company operates early on, and make a significant impact.

I ended up interning at Shift, with their Buyer Experience team. What attracted me to this startup was the people, mentorship opportunities, interesting engineering challenges, and the chance to make a huge impact at a high-momentum startup. In the 12 weeks of my time at Shift, I’ve learned more than I have in all my past internships.

Continue reading “SHIFT-ing Perspectives: What I Learned From My First Startup Internship”