Diversity Equity & Inclusion

How One Intern is Expanding Her Career From Healthcare to Ecommerce

Rachel Chen, eBay News Team

Sarika Kondra shares the unique perspective she brings to the Structured Data team as a Ph.D candidate with eight years of work experience.

eBay’s robust, virtual internship program brings together students from 70 different universities and colleges this summer, fostering the future of ecommerce amongst our business, technology and marketing teams. Our Intern Spotlight Series features interviews with this latest class of eBay interns as they explore their future career paths. 

Sarika Kondra is not the typical intern. 

When Sarika joined eBay this summer, she already had eight years of work experience under her belt at healthcare companies like Boston Scientific and Philips Healthcare. She was also working toward her Ph.D in bioinformatics and natural language processing (NLP) at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. But what made Sarika want to join eBay’s Structured Data team as an intern was something altogether different — the opportunity to take her passion for NLP from healthcare into ecommerce. 

This summer, she has taken the lead on using NLP to analyze eBay item descriptions — an underexplored source for data extraction at eBay. 

Sarika recently sat down with us to discuss her internship experience and her most valuable takeaways from the summer. 

How has your internship with eBay differed from your previous work experiences? 
I previously worked at large corporations, consultancies and startups. The difference with eBay is that while everyone is deeply involved in their projects, there isn’t a lot of unnecessary oversight that delays progress. The University Recruiting and Programs team has dedicated “No Meeting Tuesdays,” which are really helpful for both increasing workplace productivity and encouraging employees to prioritize their mental health. The work-life balance at eBay is something that stands out and has redefined my understanding of an ideal work environment. 

How have you managed the transition from the healthcare industry into ecommerce? 
This internship and my Ph.D have helped me transition into this new space. During my early career, I was a very fast thinker: given a problem, I would immediately jump into potential solutions. But pursuing a Ph.D has helped me to slow down and dive into the problem first rather than the solution. Only when you get a full, in-depth picture of the problem will the solutions follow. That shift in thinking has helped me manage my transition into ecommerce, an industry that beautifully marries fast-paced technology with the detail-oriented nature of research. 

How have you grown professionally since joining eBay? 
My team — especially my mentors Ethan and Steven — has encouraged me to prioritize shaking off the imposter syndrome of my early career days and building confidence in my leadership and higher-level thinking skills. Their regular feedback during our one-on-one meetings and their willingness to answer all of my questions serve as reminders that I am capable of doing my job well and that I am worth the mentorship and support from the Structured Data team. One example that stands out is when, at the beginning of my internship, Ethan introduced me to the projects that every team member was working on, which made me feel incredibly valued as a new addition to the team and gave me the confidence to lead my summer project. 

How have you built a community for yourself as an intern at eBay? 
At eBay, I’ve reconnected with a lot of old colleagues from previous jobs. It’s been amazing to catch up with old friends and reminisce about the past, and I’ve loved seeing how they’ve grown since we last crossed paths. I also love meeting new people, and the University Recruiting and Programs team has helped facilitate connections with people from diverse backgrounds and experiences. Their speaker series features executive leaders and intern community events, including terrarium building and baking classes. I especially love chatting with the other Ph.D interns, because we each work on different teams and have different projects to discuss, so I always come away from our meetings having learned a lot. 

What is the most meaningful lesson you have learned while at eBay this summer? 
If you need something, ask. Whenever I’m struggling to overcome a roadblock, I have to remind myself to ask my team members for help. Once I do, we can almost always solve the issue immediately. Collaboration is huge at eBay, but in order to break down silos between people and teams, it is critical to make the leap and ask for help. You won’t know if you have a stupid question unless you ask it.