Interning at Blend (and returning as a full-time Product Manager)

Interning at Blend (and returning as a full-time Product Manager)

The best part about interning at Blend: everything’s at your fingertips—it’s up to you to seize opportunities and see how far you can take them in twelve weeks. (Or, as interns have done in the past, you can convert to full-time right afterward.)

Finding my way to Blend

I grew up on the East Coast, just outside of Boston, and moved to California for college.  At Stanford, I studied Environmental Engineering for my undergraduate degree and Management Science & Engineering for my masters. During my time in school, I worked on a product for pharmaceutical companies to monitor for illegally diverted inventory on darknet markets (cryptomarkets for illicit goods). By helping companies close supply chain leaks, we were able to reduce the flood of opioids sold in illegal markets that are fueling the opioid crisis. I loved going to work each day, knowing that I was contributing to a better future.

My internships there helped me identify my ideal work environment and role within a team. I knew I wanted a job that required optimizing for impact, establishing structure in ambiguity, and getting into the weeds. I wanted to be a Product Manager at a startup.

I applied to Blend because I realized that I could work on a game-changing product in a massive industry. My interview panel further highlighted Blend’s potential. Over six interviews, I tackled a diversity of problems, some of which Blend still faces today. As a bonus, half of my interviewers were women. By the end, I was sold on Blend’s mission, the caliber of my interviewers, and the promise of unprecedented challenges.

Finding my place at Blend

Blend placed me on the Intelligence pod, with Grace, HousingWire’s Rising Star, as my mentor. “Intel” is a horizontal team that develops features which leverage machine learning to streamline the mortgage process.

Intel’s features grow “smarter” over time, with each mortgage application. I was (and continue to be) humbled by the complexity and dynamism of the mortgage industry. Given the inherent intricacies of the problem space, Blend Intelligence is essential to building a truly frictionless future for consumer lending. On Intel, I worked with six full-time Software Engineers, three intern Software Engineers, a Product Designer, a Data Analyst, a Quality Analyst, and one full-time Product Manager – Grace.

What to expect as a Blend intern

Blend treats interns like full-time employees: you’ll have both ownership and accountability. You’ll block and tackle for your teammates, you’ll scope projects, you’ll complete user research, you’ll set the vision and define success, you’ll break down work, you’ll coordinate customer communication, and you’ll learn to do it all faster and better.

Blend will assign you a mentor for the summer, someone to help ramp you up, give you feedback and advocate for you. Having Grace as my mentor was one of the highlights of my internship. Observing how she ran meetings, communicated to different stakeholders, and made difficult decisions added nuance to my own approach. Then, when the annual Women in Product conference came around, Grace arranged for Blend to cover my admission. At the conference, I savored the opportunity to discuss the lectures and deepen my relationships with Grace and other female members of Blend’s product team.

One of my favorite aspects of Blend is its culture of “1:1’s.” We regularly schedule informal 30-minute meetings with anyone, from a teammate to someone in the company we’d like to meet. Early on, Nima, Blend’s CEO, even scheduled one with me. He and I walked around FiDi, chatted about the origins of Blend, my background, and my work that summer. Nima’s advice: “Find a pilot customer, iterate quickly, and run through walls.”

To build good features, you need to know your users. Blend will invest in research trips to deepen your empathy for users and your understanding of the industry. Over my internship, I joined a group of Engineers, Designers, Account Managers, and Customer Engagement Managers (Blend’s very own industry experts) to travel to three customers. Observing users clicking through your product will breathe life into the features you’re working on. On the road and around meals, you’ll develop camaraderie with your coworkers and build relationships that make Blend feel like home.

A funny side-effect of working at Blend has been that I’ve never felt so connected to my country. You’ll meet people from all over the U.S., visit airports large and small, and gain familiarity with an industry that is the backbone of the American economy.

At the end of an internship that felt like both a sprint and a marathon, I presented my summer’s work to Nima. I remember reflecting on the summer and feeling immensely grateful for the opportunity. I couldn’t believe how much I’d learned about the industry, working cross-functionally, and iterating quickly. I was also excited about all that remained to learn.

The chance to return as a full-time Product Manager

In my transition from intern to full-time, I moved from the Intel team to the new “GSE” team, which builds features that leverage Government-Sponsored Enterprise “Rep & Warrant” programs. Government Sponsored Enterprises increase liquidity in the housing market by purchasing mortgages on the secondary market; two of the most well known are Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

They’re important in the housing industry because once a lender funds a mortgage, they will often sell these mortgages to GSEs. Thus, the standards of the GSEs affect how lenders evaluate and process mortgages: all the borrower-provided information has to be double checked for accuracy and then assessed for risk, based on the guidelines from the GSEs.

Rep & Warrant relief programs are data validation “fast-passes” that reduce the time it takes a lender to close a loan and sell it to a GSE. New technology allows borrowers to send data directly from their bank account to a lender, and the lender can be more sure about the accuracy of the borrower information from the start. In other words, lenders don’t have to do as much manual checking and they can process the loan faster to eventually fund the loan. By partnering with GSEs to make it easier for our lenders to sell loans, we are changing the way lenders process mortgages.

What lies ahead

I returned as a full-time employee to continue building a game-changing product, collaborating with the amazing people around me, and learning to do both better and faster. Blend has reached a size that is no longer “small,” but the size is nothing compared to where we’ll be in five years. We’ve been growing aggressively, but we’re making sure our opportunities are growing even more quickly.

If you’re passionate about the work we do, we’d love to talk to you. Get in touch by applying to any job listed on our careers page.