Linda Zhong ’15, AppNexus

Everything you hear about start-up work spaces is true. And for a Princetonian, the orange-and-black AppNexus office makes you feel right at home. The office has almost no walls, mirroring the casual relationships between employees and managers. Some of the cooler highlights were the office basketball course, the candy bar, the wall of working nooks called the “Cheese Wall” and the hilarious meeting room names (ranging from Bigfoot to Batman).

My day started off with an introduction to the online advertising industry by Zach Kwartler ‘11 of Global Services. AppNexus is yet another layer in the complicated web of publishers and advertisers, but because of its intuitive advertising control platforms and excellent positioning, it has been able to grow immensely since its founding in 2007 by two Princeton alumni. Then I shadowed Zach in the morning and sat in on a conference call. It was interesting to see how professionals representing different parties negotiate and come to effective solutions.

After lunch with AppNexus Princeton alumni (including the CEOs Brian O’Kelly ‘99), I got to shadow a member of the Sales team. In a conference call I sat in on, different members for various parts of the company debated how to address client concerns while keeping AppNexus interests alive, and came to an incredibly thoughtful and nuanced position. This was an incredibly interesting experience

Finally, I concluded the day with a third shadowing session, again with a member of Global Services. This individual was much more senior and really explained the online advertising industry in a way that made it so understandable and interesting to me.

My final impression of AppNexus is that it is full of intelligent, thoughtful people who do not take themselves too seriously. Integrating fun with work creates a relaxed atmosphere where everyone is productive, but also happy. I loved my day at AppNexus and thank Princeton Career Services for organizing such a great program.

James Wang ’16, AppNexus

James-WangI woke up early the morning of March 10th, the Friday of reading period, feeling groggy and disoriented. As my phone continued to shake, I began to realize what was happening: I was about to miss the train to my Princeternship. The night before, I was preparing hard for the Princeternship opportunity, eager to impress the alumni that I would interact with and impress them with HOURS of knowledge on Ad Tech and the AppNexus platform. After some early-morning sprints and going off and on many modes of transportation, I eventually walked into the AppNexus’ office ready for an eye-opening day.

The other four Princeterns and I began our day with a welcome meeting with Zach Kwartler ‘11, a senior member of AppNexus’ Global Services team.  After our respective introductions, Zach explained what the Global Services team does, which was, in an abstract sense, to connect customers to the technology and “keeping lubricated a lot of moving parts” that comprised of the operations at AppNexus. Then, he began to explain AppNexus as a whole. He explained to us that AppNexus was one of the largest ad platforms on the Internet, and its main selling point is that it operates completely on real-time. In the past, ads were bought and sold in a very manual fashion, in which bundles of ad space were sold by publishers with open areas on multiple websites ready to be plastered with ads. In a way, AppNexus’ role in the market is to make the advertising technology industry more and more efficient, to the point where buyers are able to buy ad space more effectively and steadily increase their return on investment in clear, measurable ways, all in milliseconds time.

Throughout the day, I was passed20140110_125902 around to different alumni in the company so that I could see multiple aspects of daily operations. I first had an appointment with Damjan Korac, a software engineer working in User Interface (UI). We connected immediately in that he was an ORFE major as well, and we began talking about the state of the ORFE department, his past independent work at Princeton, and some of his work experiences leading up to his tenure at AppNexus. After an hour flew by, we had lunch with a group of Princeton alumni, where they got to catch up on Princetonian affairs while they filled us in on their lives after Princeton and their experiences at AppNexus. Overall, I felt a shared enthusiasm and camaraderie between the alumni, who all seemed like they not only enjoyed the place they worked, but were fully committed to the larger mission of AppNexus. Most surprisingly, Brian O’Kelly ‘99, the CEO of the company, dropped by at lunch to say hi to us and welcomed us to the company for the day.

The rest of the day flew by. After lunch, I shadowed Peter Yu, who worked in DevOps and was a COS major at Princeton. As I shadowed him, he was coding a program in Python that would instantaneously install current versions of Python on other computers to avoid the hassle of every employee from having to configure their own computer. This work was part of a larger project to better optimize the configuration process of machines for new hires. Being able to see a coder in action in a larger, industrial context was very cool, and it made me more appreciative of how much code really envelops the operations at any modern tech company like AppNexus.

In my final session, I shadowed Richard Andrews of Global Services, a former economics major. In addition to being the “lubrication” in the technical cogs of AppNexus, he also provided the human connection between the sellers and buyers and the AppNexus ecosystem. As such, he described his day fairly evenly divided between client calls, desk work/parsing tickets and internal meetings. As he was telling me about his life experiences, he worked on client tickets on queries and proposed improvements made involving the AppNexus console and API. Most of the time, he was able to answer customer tickets through an online system, but at times he needed to call in co-workers and other  clients in order to resolve issues that arose. All in all, he gave me a great view of the non-coding side of AppNexus looked like, one in which the constant push-and-pull of the human interaction with the technical machinery comprised much of his workload.

Looking back, I am still astounded by the enormous advertising ecosystem created by the team at AppNexus. In incrementally exploring every facet of AppNexus’ ad platform, it gave me a great view of their entire business model and the current state of the advertising industry. I think one of the best takeaways from the experience was being able to see a side of tech that didn’t just involve coding, but also being able to see where each line of code fits in in the larger context of the company from the people that do have their hands in the software. In the end, I can’t help but be grateful to the many people at AppNexus and Career Services that made this opportunity possible. This trip made me even more excited to see where my education takes me after graduation.


Shuyang Li ’16, AppNexus

Shayang-LiI walked into the AppNexus office in New York unsure of what to expect. I left it with a sense of wonder and excitement about the online advertising industry.

Before this Princeternship, I knew precious little about advertising online, save that Google was involved, pop-ups were annoying, and Youtube ads even more so. On January 6, I couldn’t help but feel a little nervous as I sat on the train to New York: would I really be able learn what I wanted about the company given my lack of background knowledge? I fiddled with my phone, scrambling to read just a few more articles on ad networks, as I waited with my fellow Princeterns Martina, Linda, James, Paco, and Michael.

AppNexus’ office temporarily blew away my doubts. The two floors taken up by the company were brightly colored, the top floor entirely in black and orange. It didn’t feel like a stereotypical startup warehouse—rather, it was a beautifully designed, spacious workspace. In one turn of my head my eyes could sweep across a cafeteria, glass-walled conference rooms named after board games, rows of desks with no separators, and a wall dotted with alcoves. Dale Levine, University Recruiter at AppNexus, told us the wall was still under construction. Nonetheless, it took a conscious effort not to climb into a recess to see what working there would feel like.

My prior misgivings were dispelled for good by Zach Kwartler ’11. Zach introduced AppNexus’ business model and its place in the modern advertising infrastructure. I learned how ad networks developed from the impracticality of an advertiser maintaining dozens of relationships with each publisher hosting his ads, and the logistical problems of updating advertisements that were spread over several servers. Ad exchanges were born as a way to bypass financially inefficient daisy chains of ad networks. Leaving the introduction presentation, I felt ready to start my shadowing.

First, I shadowed Rob Hazan ’06, a manager in the Technical Services branch of Global Services. He didn’t have any client calls or meetings for me to sit-in on, but I was able to sit down with Rob and his team and really explore the responsibilities of Technical Services. Rob was extraordinarily accommodating, answering a lot of questions I had about the basic organization of AppNexus services and the industry as a whole. I learned about the API that clients could use to build their own apps on the AppNexus platform, and got an introduction to the complicated console that clients use to bid and utilize AppNexus’ services.

At our Princetern lunch with the Princeton alums, we were able to discuss the changes at Princeton and hear the alums talk about their work and lives. Work seemed for them not to be a chore or a task, but more of another enjoyable environment in which they spent time pursuing their interests. Indeed, the conversation drifted from how Princeton has changed to their favorite listservs at AppNexus. Toward the end, AppNexus CEO Brain O’Kelley ’99 dropped by to meet all of the Princeterns!

After lunch, I shadowed Mark Ha ’13, a software engineer. I learned about his experience with Android and iOS programming, and I was able to watch him work in Objective C. He explained the AppNexus SDK and the MRAID standard for mobile rich media advertisements. We discussed different programming languages and his usual tasks as an engineer. Mark also taught me about stability and testing in apps, and gave me advice on picking up programming and various languages.

Finally, I shadowed Peter Yu ’13, a software developer with the Development and Operations team, who managed AppNexus apps and their deployment. We talked about app deployment efficiency and how his team was switching deployment schemes. Peter taught me about Xen and Linux Containers, methods for virtualizing computer hardware, and their differences.

As I walked back out of the AppNexus lobby, I could not help but look back fondly and wish the Princeternship lasted for more than a day. The people I met were incredibly friendly and eager to teach me about their jobs and the field, and the company operated with all the confidence and poise of an industry leader.

I would like to thank Dale Levine for coordinating the Princeternship experience, as well as Zach, Rob, Mark, Peter, and all the other alums and AppNexus employees for making the Princeternship a fantastic experience.


Martina Fouquet ’16, AppNexus

Martina-FouquetFrom the moment I walked in I knew there was a large Princeton influence in the building. Decorated in orange and black, the AppNexus office reflected founding members Brian O’Kelly ‘99 and Mike Nolet ‘04 love for their alma mater. The building was filled with young people who appeared to not be stressed and to be whole-heartedly productive. With basketball courts, open snack bars and a “cheese wall”, the office was the Disney World of firms, a place where ideas and goals came to life.

First, we were given a presentation by Zack ’11 on the organization. We were given material to read before the Princeternship, but as soon as soon as the presentation started I realized how truly limited my knowledge was. Throughout the day, the graphs and anecdotes Zach shared started to make sense as I experienced the work firsthand with the multiple employees I got to interact with throughout the day.

I first shadowed Erik. What most Erik and Martinasurprised me about the experience with Erik was how customer focused the firm ultimately is. Erik works with the sell side coordinating coding mistakes and fixing the consumers’ problems. I was mesmerized by the intricacy of the relationship AppNexus has with its customers. I recognized the collaborative efforts made within the business led to a very efficient workflow that allowed issues to be solved comprehensively.

Later, we had lunch where I was able to see how AppNexus fostered a community through Friday Family Lunch.  Every Friday, lunch is provided by AppNexus so that all employees have the opportunity to interact with one another. During lunch we conversed about how AppNexus uses the listerv system to communicate between groups within the business. For example, there is a listserv for a variety of topics, from one called “Dumb Questions,” where employees can ask colleagues seemingly “dumb” questions about how the business functions to a a listerv where individuals can plan pick-up basketball games.

Sitting on the innovation couch

Next I shadowed Berhe, who revisited the business model and once again I learned more new materials from what I had learned with Zach and had read in the articles. Working in Global Services, Berhe seemed to know everyone on the floor, which was expected considering how long he has been with the organization. He showed how employees were not confined to their seats and had the freedom to work where they felt most productive. Once recognizing my interest in things outside of the technology part of the business, Berhe was willing to introduce me to the individuals that were involved in teams outside of Global Services, which was a really nice way to see the other side of AppNexus.

I ended the day with Tommi ’08. Our hour started with sitting in a sales meeting. Tommi then gave me a completely different perspective of the business by showing me his influence on the business management side. The job reminded me more of sales operations I was familiar with, but it was unique because Tommi communicated with members of the other teams. I was surprised how his job so integrally coincided with the other teams despite their seemingly polar functions. The whole experience was very enlightening and enjoyable. I’d recommend anyone to try experience AppNexus for themselves!

Matthew Daigger ’17, AppNexus

Matthew-DaiggerWhen I was making my way through Manhattan from Penn Station at 9:00 in the morning, I was not sure what to expect from AppNexus. Prior to this experience I thought tech start-ups were just small companies with not that many employees and not too big of an office. When I got off of the elevator and entered the AppNexus office, I was thoroughly impressed. I was faced with a welcome desk and seating area with glass doors leading to the work area. Through those doors I could see a wide open room filled with tables with people’s computers and work on them. I was surprised by the openness of the room, but then again, AppNexus doesn’t believe in isolated work or cubicles. I was also greeted with a very familiar shade of orange on many of the walls and furniture.

I started my day by meeting my host, Tommi Hurme ’08. I was given a tour around the office and introduced to some of his coworkers. I then got an overview explaining what the company actually does. I learned that AppNexus deals with both ends of online advertising. I was told that AppNexus essentially holds auctions that take place in milliseconds to determine what ads show up on what webpages, using contextual and browsing history data. I then was able to sit in on a Sales Team meeting. It was very interesting to see how the team collaborated and figured out steps that needed to be taken to progress forwards. On the second day, I was able to attend a Product Team meeting. During this meeting, eight of the team members reported to everyone in the conference room on what they had been working on that week and how much progress they had made. It was really interesting to hear some of the things that they actually did on a daily basis. It was also cool to be able to see a young company growing as some of the projects were near completion or completed.

I also had a chance to meet with a few other Princeton alums. First I met with Michael, a member of the Products Team. He described to me the daily functions of his position and some of the stuff he was currently working on. He also explained how the interface that all employees and clients worked on was operated. I also met with a recent graduate who worked on the more technical side. We discussed what it was like working at AppNexus and some of what he did for the company. I found it very interesting how comfortable he felt at the office, having only been there a few months. I also met with quite a few other Princetonians who all gave me the same impression that AppNexus was an innovative company and a great place to work.

I really appreciated everyone taking time out of their day to give me a better understanding of what AppNexus does and what each of their roles were within the company. I think one of the best things about AppNexus was just how friendly and open to collaboration all of the employees were. Thanks to everyone involved for helping me make the most of the two days I spent at AppNexus.

Paco Avila ’16, AppNexus

As I rode the train into New York City with my fellow Princeterns, I was excited for the day to come and unsure of what to expect.  After a quick subway ride from Penn Station, we had already arrived at AppNexus.  We passed though the glass doors and entered the lobby, and the orange and black color scheme made Princeton’s presence immediately apparent.  We were greeted by the University Recruiters, Stephanie Manning and Dale Levine, who then brought us on a tour of the office.  After only a few minutes, I could tell that AppNexus is an amazing place to work.  Paco Avila AppNexus Princeton AlumnThe entire office incorporates glass doors and lots of open space to ensure that it is a highly collaborative and comfortable workspace.  There are numerous kitchens filled with great snacks, high quality espresso makers, and even orange and black mugs.  AppNexus also has many quirky features that make it fun and exciting.  Rather than organizing their conference rooms by room number, AppNexus names their rooms after video games, famous scientists, and fictional characters.  Nearly every wall in the office also doubles as a white board, featuring anything from intricate charts to fun doodles.  After walking past the couch that the AppNexus founders sat on when they first thought of the idea for the company, we met in “Einstein,” where we received a crash course on AppNexus and the online advertising industry.  Zach Kwartler ‘11 got us up to speed on how AppNexus facilitates high-speed ad space bidding and handles terabytes of data daily, and then we split off into our first shadowing shifts of the day.

During my first shift, I shadowed Peter Yu ’13, a recent Princeton grad and a member of the DevOps team.  For the following hour, I watched as Peter helped his group build the foundation of AppNexus’ applications, which is an immense task requiring several different levels of coding teams.  Afterwards, we had lunch with the AppNexus Princeton alumni in “Battleship” where we met co-founder Brian O’Kelly ‘99, ate catered food with AppNexus’ own hot sauce, and laughed about all the Princeton antics that have taken place during our collective years as undergrads.  After lunch I got a chance to shadow Richard Andrews and Rob Hazan, two members of the AppNexus Global Services team.  During my final hours at AppNexus, I sat in on a phone meeting with AppNexians across the U.S., and then discussed with Richard and Rob their roles working with various big company clients.

Although my day at AppNexus was brief, it was an eye opening experience that gave me a glimpse into the workings of an amazing tech company.  AppNexus is a truly special place with a strong Princeton presence on top of that.  This opportunity was unforgettable, and I am extremely thankful for everyone who made it possible.