From the classroom to cloud computing

Christopher Marvelle landed an internship as a software development engineer at Expedia in June 2022. The internship ended in August — but he made such an impact on the team that he was offered a full-time position at the Seattle-based online travel company.

Now graduating from the University of Washington Bothell this autumn quarter, Marvelle credits his education in the School of STEM for this timely career accomplishment, especially given that some tech companies have recently slowed their hiring.

Poster of the capstone project at Expedia
Christopher Marvelle’s capstone project at Expedia

The path to career success

Marvelle started at UW Bothell in 2020 and said he chose the campus for its small class sizes and its convenient proximity to his home. The 33-year-old, who retired from the Navy after 10 years, will this month complete the Bachelor of Science in Computer Science & Software Engineering in just over two years, half the time it takes most students.

“I did a speed run,” Marvelle said, noting that he was able to do so by applying the discipline and focus he gained from being in the military to his education, taking 10 to 25 credits each quarter all year-round.

The CSSE major emphasizes learning inside and outside of the classroom so that students can build the real-world skills needed to develop software that is both useful and intuitive to use.

To graduate, for example, all students are required to do a capstone project that involves 300 hours of research with faculty, individual or group student projects or an industry internship. Marvelle chose the latter after a UW Bothell alumnus told him about Expedia’s software development engineer internship program.

“One of the UW Bothell alums I know is a senior engineer there,” Marvelle said, “and he encouraged me to apply.”

After getting through the multi-interview application process, Marvelle was accepted into the Expedia internship. Right away, he and other interns were put to work revamping Expedia Rewards, a customer loyalty program designed to incentivize existing customers to continue using the company for their travel needs.

A complex program rebuild

The interns’ work involved full stack software development, and as part of that, Marvelle was tasked with rebuilding the program and its user-facing online hub from the ground up.

He and his team were also responsible for unifying all the data on loyal users and their points, which are accrued when users buy products from Expedia or one of its subsidiary brands. The goal was to make the data easier to track and to help customers earn loyalty points for travel more quickly.

“When I started my internship, I didn’t know Expedia had such a huge platform,” Marvelle said. “It actually has 13 different name brands associated with it. For example, when you plan travel through Alaska Airlines, you’re actually booking on Expedia.”

Before he could even begin the rebuild work, Marvelle spent six weeks getting up to speed with how the old loyalty program worked, while also getting acquainted with unfamiliar aspects of office life — such as how intraoffice communications worked at a global company.

“Most of our team was in India or Rome, and I was here in Seattle,” he said. “I was having to do a lot of time zone jumping, and that was a little challenging to get used to.”

From there, he noted, the actual work resembled putting together a complex puzzle, involving skills such as database management, proficiency with Amazon Web Services and various kinds of coding.

High-impact learning and mentorships

Marvelle said his entire UW Bothell education served him well during the challenging internship. The CSSE program in particular armed him with an understanding of cloud computing, working with servers or distributed systems, and data management that helped him succeed.

“CSS 475, our database class — I can’t begin to describe how useful that class has been,” he said. “It taught us how to form databases, what data we need to store and how to infer from data we already have.

“Having that background gave me a solid foundation to succeed in my internship.”

Marvelle also credits his professors for helping him manage the rigors of the internship and carrying a full class load. This includes the moral support he received from Dr. Kelvin Sung, a lecturer in the School of STEM who served as his “upbeat” faculty adviser.

“Just in general, Dr. Sung’s attitude made it really easy to stay enthusiastic about this degree program,” he said. “I can’t stress enough how invaluable it’s been to have such supportive faculty who not only teach but who also care.”

His manager at Expedia was understanding of the demands of his school schedule as well and encouraged Marvelle to take time off when he had classes to attend or classwork to do. She was fun and encouraging, Marvell said, even at one point taking all the interns out on her boat for a day of crabbing. “It was great for team-building,” he said.

Intern to full-time tech employee

After his 13-week capstone internship, Marvelle was thrilled to get an offer to join the company full time as a software development engineer — so saying yes was an easy decision.

“When I started the internship, I looked at it as just a requirement for graduation,” Marvelle said. “As I got into the work, I found it was so much more than that. It was really rewarding to apply my learning to real-world challenges.

“I worked hard to stay on this team, and now I get to do exactly what I came to school for.”

Marvelle has continued working on improving the loyalty program for Expedia while completing his UW Bothell studies. Once he graduates, he looks forward to taking on even more responsibility and becoming a loyal user himself. In fact, he’s already using some bonus points for a much-needed vacation in Palm Springs this winter and is starting to plan a trip to Iceland with his wife next year.

“I loved traveling while I was in the military, and now I’ll be able to take advantage of the company’s generous discount on travel,” he said. “While doing so, I’ll see first-hand just how my work is affecting the user experience.”

Read more recent news

See all news