“From the Desk of…” is a blog series that details the work of individual REX team members.
These are first-person posts created to pull back the curtain on what it’s like to work at REX.
Today’s post is from Ryan Blankemeier who is a Dartmouth College student and Engineering Intern at REX.
I didn’t know what to expect when I showed up for my first day interning at REX. I got lost while looking for the office, which in retrospect should’ve been really easy to find.
When I finally found the office, I didn’t realize that I was at the back door. I stood there jiggling the locked glass door for a minute as people looked at me, until a confused employee let me in.
I mentioned, somewhat obviously, that I was a new intern.
Fortunately, I quickly learned that failure is not only encouraged at REX, but necessary.
My mistake was okay, but only because the next day I found the right door. The motto at REX is “fast, fast, fast,” which in practice means developing solutions, testing, and iterating as fast as possible, while learning where the solutions succeed and fail.
This environment has given me unbelievable experiences with real-world problem solving and adaptability.
The engineers have given me license to do real work and given me projects that I probably wouldn’t have thought I could have done.
In my first week at the company, I started working with various artificial intelligence platforms. I transitioned to helping the engineering team build a chat bot to answer questions on REX’s Facebook page.
I learned how to use technology and AI to make the chat bot more accurate. The team let me own the project while they moved to more immediate problems.
By the end of my second week, I had the chat bot trained and internally tested, and we deployed it to Facebook. After a week, we took the bot off of Facebook after realizing that some assumptions that we had made were wrong.
The chat bot was designed for answering general FAQ questions, and was more seller focused. We learned that the questions we receive on Facebook are much more buyer focused.
We also learned that message traffic increases with the chat bot, because it responds instantly. Right now I am working on retraining the bot to tailor to the questions that we were actually receiving, and then we will redeploy the bot, and learn again.
Also in my first week, I had been tasked with leveraging Amazon’s Alexa to write a program to answer questions about a house during a house showing. The knowledge I picked up from this first project was critical for helping develop a fully functional prototype a few weeks later.
First, for a week, we sat in a room with people from marketing, sales, and others across the company to figure out what the exact problem was that we wanted to solve. Then our team of three spent a week collaborating and coding to develop the prototype.
We made the robot in the form of a kiosk, which through touch screen, keyword search, or voice activation, could answer questions at a home showing or open house.
We went and performed a real home showing with our prototype, and actually sold a home. A week later, the New York Post wrote an article about our robot, and how REX could change real estate with artificial intelligence.
At REX, I have been thrown into an innovative environment that is moving as fast as possible to change the real estate industry.
I have been working side-by-side with engineers that have PhDs and vast experience at places like Google and Facebook. Even so, I have always felt like I could voice my opinion, take risks, and generate ideas.
Because of this freedom, I have learned about not only computer science but working and innovating in the real world.