Meet the New Relic Interns: Caitlin Hennessy

New Relic engineering intern Caitlin Hennessy had planned to sing for her supper as a professional opera singer. But it turns out that she also enjoys developing software, and now plans to make that her career. In this, the second in New Relic’s Meet the Interns series, find out how Caitlin created a custom chart that nabbed her the job on the spot.


Where did you grow up?

I grew up in Eugene and am double-majoring in computer science and math at the University of Oregon. I will graduate next June.

How did you get interested in technology?

I started college as a music major studying voice and classical guitar, with the goal of becoming a professional opera singer. But my voice professor would always tell me, “Don’t try to make opera your career unless you absolutely wouldn’t be happy doing anything else.” The lifestyle of an opera singer is grueling, and hardly anyone is actually successful.

I had taken a few computer science classes and won a University of Oregon programming competition, and I realized that I would be happy doing that. So I changed majors.

I have taken classes on Python, Java, and C/C++ at Oregon. For a class project last year, my team built optical character recognition software in C. Given images of the letters, our program would output the actual text. My job was to implement image preprocessing (de-skewing text and isolating characters) using the OpenCV library. It was a big project and we weren’t sure if it would come together, but in the end it worked really well.

I have also enjoyed participating in programming contests, both inter-collegiate and within the Oregon computer science department.

How did you find out about New Relic?

One of my professors had a connection with New Relic senior vice president of engineering Bjorn Freeman-Benson. She told me that Bjorn was coming to the Oregon CS department to talk about jobs at New Relic. I met with him after the talk and gave him a chart that showed how my qualifications matched those required for an internship at New Relic. He hired me on the spot!

What are you working on here?

When I first arrived, I worked on fixing some customer-reported bugs in the RPM user interface. Because finding the lines of code to change required delving to the depths of the ~28,000 code files for the New Relic APM site, I learned a lot about the construction of New Relic’s software in the process.

Next, I helped integrate the new label service into the APM site. We created wrapper classes for the models provided by the label service, and incorporated conditional behavior based on the label service feature flag into several controllers. The label service was still in development, so if we wanted changes made to the API, we could suggest these ideas to the engineering team that was creating the service. It was neat to be part of this dialog about what the API should look like.

Now I am styling a dropdown menu using the CSS extension language Sass, which is new for me. Mix-ins are pretty cool.

What have you liked best about working at New Relic?

First, my teammates are fantastic to work with. They are amazing coders and always willing to answer questions. They are also super hilarious.

Second, I have learned and improved many skills this summer: Rails, Java Script, CSS, Git, Vim, debuggers, “inspect element” … the list goes on and on.

Has anything surprised you?

I had heard that New Relic had a “good culture,” but I was still impressed. Everybody here is extremely friendly and welcoming. This morning six people greeted me heartily as I went to the coffee machines. It’s great.

On a technical level, I had thought that a degree in computer science would be sufficient preparation for any software development job. But now I see that I’ll need lots of additional skills as well.

And then there are the free snacks. It takes real willpower to not eat chips and Cheetos and M&Ms and Redvines every day.

What are your plans for the future? 

In the short term, I plan to study much differently when I go back to school, putting less emphasis on reading textbooks in detail and more emphasis on side projects and acquiring as many practical skills as possible.

Long term, I plan to either go to grad school or get a job at a software company after graduation. Either way, my experience at New Relic will be invaluable.

Meet more New Relic interns:

Natalie Schlechter'

Fredric Paul (aka The Freditor) is Editor in Chief for New Relic. He's an award-winning writer, editor, and content strategist who has held senior editorial positions at ReadWrite,, InformationWeek, CNET, Electronic Entertainment, PC World, and PC|Computing. His writing has appeared in MIT Technology Review, Omni, Conde Nast Traveler, and Newsweek, among other places. View posts by .

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