Toasting to experiential learning

July 26, 2017

Whether you’ve had breakfast at Paris Creperie in Brookline, grabbed some Asian-American cuisine from the Mei Mei food truck that hops around the city, or curled up with a novel and a late night coffee at Trident Booksellers & Café on Newbury Street, you most likely paid for your order using Toast.

No, Toast is not a primitive, grain-based form of currency, but a restaurant software company located in Fenway that uses a combination of POS hardware and software to provide a better service experience to both restaurateurs and their customers.

Those tasked with the upkeep and improvement of those systems include third-year Yue Fung and senior Junhao Dong, both computer science majors at Northeastern, who are spending their current co-op cycle with Toast, Inc., working as software engineering co-ops.

toast co-ops

“I actually started out as a health sciences major in Bouvé, on track as a pre-med student but switched into computer science roughly a year and a half in with one co op’s worth of experience as a medical assistant,” said Fung. “The problem solving aspect of computer science and the testing of applications is what I really enjoy learning about,” he said.

Working around 50 hours a week and sometimes during weekends, Fung spends the bulk of his time on the development-tools team where he helps to develop improvements in the management and accessibility of Toast’s software and services for all of the other engineers at the company.

Fung also helps with the important job of handling a code framework, the Toast Automation Framework (TAF). “This is the framework that teams at Toast write their integration tests against to clear releases. If TAF does not pass, there can be no release,” he said. “As such, the management of keeping the framework functional and up-to-date for teams to use is under the development-tools team in conjunction with management of the nodes and their reliability and connection to Jenkins,” said Fung.

Dong says that as a full-stack software engineer co-op on a small team, he shares almost the same amount of responsibilities as the other engineers at Toast. He says that the tasks he is able to work on are both interesting and intricate.

“The most significant project has been the Saved User Accounts project, which allows restaurant customers the opportunity to create a Toast account that can be reused across all restaurants that use Toast as their online ordering provider,” said Dong. “The project lasted two or three months, and was worked on by myself and three other developers. It was a big milestone for us,” he said.

Dong is certain he would like to work as a software engineer in Boston or New York after graduating, and he hopes to determine the specific field of technology he’d like to work in through his next co-op experiences.

“I particularly enjoyed the typical startup tech culture and I absolutely loved working on a small team where I’ve been able to work on the same projects as the other full time engineers,” he said.

Fung is still not sure exactly what path he wants to go down just yet, although he said he has a general idea.

“Through this co-op experience, I’ve had a world of opportunities open up to me, and in having all of these opportunities, I feel that rushing to a decision would lead to something I’m not quite happy with, seeing as I still have one more semester of classes left, I’d like to take my time in making such a large decision, especially after cramming a full computer science degree in to a two-year span,” said Fung.

Putting in the extra effort in both academics and co-op experiences has a great deal of effect on how students are able to achieve success, Fung said, citing his own experiences as an example.

“Results don’t always come right away, but any amount of time you devote to your passion and goals will come back. For any students looking toward the future—wherever you go, be sure to make your mark. If you’re working a nine to five job, stay the extra hour. Ask questions, even if it’s clear. Interact frequently with others. Leave nothing to chance and take on responsibility if you can handle it,” said Fung.