Internships: KPCB Fellowship places Perez with Uber
When Ethan Perez began his internship with Uber as a KPCB Fellow, he knew he wanted to explore a career in software design. By the time his summer session was over, he’d discovered something else:
“I am definitely considering working for a startup, even looking into starting my own,” he said.
One of the most prestigious and highly competitive programs in the country, the Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers Fellowship places high-performing college students with computing and engineering backgrounds with Silicon Valley startups for summer internships. Additionally, interns have access to networking events, talks, and social opportunities with venture capitalists and startup CEO’s, and the chance to work with companies that are quickly becoming—or already are—household names, such as Pinterest, Uber and Airbnb.
“I loved it!” said Perez, a junior computer science major, about the experience.
He spent the summer working in the ride-sharing company’s fraud detection division, developing software to detect when riders’ accounts were being used without their knowledge or consent.
“We used the information coming in on a trip request to figure out if it was fraudulent or not,” said Perez. “For example, if someone’s account is calling an Uber Black in Europe when it usually calls an UberX in the U.S., that might be an indicator that something’s not right.” Perez built machine-learned models on Uber’s past trip data to find these indicators and use them to estimate the odds that a current trip is fraudulent.
Perez took COMP 540, Statistical Machine Learning, with Devika Subramanian last spring, which he said prepared him tremendously for his internship. The course taught him how to create statistical, predictive models, knowledge which was indispensable for his work at Uber.
“It’s a fast-paced, really active environment,” he said about the startup. “You can feel this excitement in the company. They’ve grown so much and they are set to grow even more in the coming months and years.”
Perez said he also appreciated the opportunities to network with the movers and shakers in Silicon Valley. He heard venture capitalist and Rice alumnus John Doerr, ’73, ’74 speak, met the CEO of Venmo, a digital wallet company, and talked with Uber’s chief product officer.
“I could give you eight other examples as well,” he said. “And the other Fellows are really talented. I felt like I was plugged into Silicon Valley. So, if I want to start a company, I know who I can call or email—and who I’d like to work with.”
The Uber internship helped Perez realize how much he enjoyed working with machine learning applications, something he hopes to continue in his career, likely as he pursues a graduate degree. In fact, his fall course load is mostly comprised of such classes. He also discovered that he wanted a career where the work he did had a significant impact on people and society.
“Rice students should definitely consider apply for the KPCB Fellowship program,” he said. “It connects you deeply with Silicon Valley, and the takeaways and experience you’ll get will be invaluable.”
Ethan is not sure where he’ll end up next, but he’s more excited than ever to be a part of the things happening in Silicon Valley and the tech industry.