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What Does It Mean to be Earnest? [Intern Edition]

Over the summer the Earnest team was spilling out of our San Francisco office.

For the last 3 months, interns from all over the country joined our ranks, completing huge projects on nearly every team: Data Science, Underwriting, Design, Legal, Engineering, Marketing, and Biz Dev. These hard-working students came from all over the country, including Harvard Business School, Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth, Stanford, Berkeley, and beyond.

Our interns become life-long Earnest alumni. Dustin Tran, a Data Science intern, wrote an entire blog post about his experience, saying that “One of the best aspects about the internship is that you’re treated as a full-time employee.” Not only are interns helping to build the culture at Earnest itself, but their effort is helping to build the modern lender for the next generation. At the same time, we know that they are working to build their futures through education and real-life experience, so we’ve even created an actual Earnest Alumni Network, which we’ll use to connect new and old Earnest interns and employees together to answer questions about the Earnest experience.

With that in mind, we wanted to kick off the alumni program by asking each of our interns two questions – What did you learn in your time here? And to you, what does it mean to be Earnest?

May all future Earnest (and other) interns find their experiences as mutually rewarding as those who joined us for Summer 2014.

intern blog

What does it mean to be Earnest?

Duncan Kauffman – MBA Candidate, Harvard Business School

Using the newest technologies to bank in the oldest way.

Jonathan Manalus – UC Berkeley, 2014

Putting the user first by delivering the best financial experience possible.

Siggi Hindrichs – J.D. Candidate, Stanford

Our mission and values align with those of the rigorous consumer protection laws of the industry. Because banking and lending is a regulated industry, it’s unsurprising that there are a ton of, well, regulations to comply with to be able to lend to consumers. From a legal perspective, it’s been refreshing to see that we are not only fully compliant, but happily so.

Matt Gertler – JD/MBA Candidate, USC

The definition of the word earnest, “showing sincere and intense conviction,” says it well. This definition, along with the video Austen sent around that spoke about people caring about why you do something and not what you do is what it means to be Earnest. To me, being Earnest means going above and beyond the call of duty to ensure that those that deserve better than what they can achieve on their own are able to do so and maximize their well-being.

Daniel Liem – Stanford, 2015

Being able to use my skills in tech and business to create a real impact. When I signed on for a BD summer internship at Earnest in April, there were only 12-15 people. By the time it was August, there were ~30. It was my first ever experience at a real, scalable and high-impact startup where growth numbers exceeded my expectations and people worked at their finest. While I was working, I was fortunate enough to witness the team here help individuals relocate to their new job, improve their home, and even buy a wedding ring.

Dustin Tran – Harvard Teaching Fellow

Being Earnest means not to optimize for short term returns but for long term value.

Ben Scharfstein – Harvard, 2016

Aligning the incentives of the borrower and lender to create a wonderful experience on both ends. Every decision Earnest makes is with clients’ best interest in mind.

Jesse Lampert – MBA Candidate, Tuck School of Business

Being Earnest means placing our clients’ needs above all else – their happiness and success is what guides our decisions as a company.

What’s one important thing you learned at your time at Earnest?


Stay up to speed on every ongoing project, go to networking events, take advantage of the open-endedness of your work, don’t be afraid of attempting novel approaches (It could lead to more interesting problems to solve!), and spend time finding precisely what you’d like out of the period you’ll be working, and voice your opinions regarding them.


In general during my time at Earnest I learned how to be a well rounded designer from Kyle. During my internship, Kyle had me work on a wide range of projects to fully grasp what it means to be a product designer. I worked on projects designing the UI/UX for the client facing website, and our internal system which gave me experience working with different stakeholders from legal, and underwriting. Along with the UI/UX design aspect of my internship I spent a significant amount of time researching how we can add more persuasion, emotion, & trust to our website to give our users a better experience. All my work during the summer with help from Kyle has taught me to be a well rounded designer.


I’ve learned the importance of incredible flexibility and priority assessment.  Legal itself has a long list of “legal” priorities to move forward on, but the company has other priorities. Every day is like triage in an emergency room. If marketing wants to use AdWords, we move on that. If engineering wants to change how it protects user data, we move on that.


Jokingly: the state regulations and regulators governing financial institutions are awful  (I guess I already knew this but my time at Earnest was a wonderful reminder). Seriously: How difficult it is to successfully create a business partnership. I helped out trying to establish partnerships with two companies, and despite the fact I thought the partnership would be valuable to both Earnest and the others involved, neither company showed much interest in a partnership.


The whole engineering team was extremely helpful in getting me up to speed on the codebase and how we develop at Earnest. Probably the most important thing I learned however was not how to use work as an engineer in a bubble, but how to work with other teams —design, data science, risk and more — to help solve engineering problems across the company. Everyone was open to teaching and collaborating, listening and learning. The whole team worked as one unit and communication was open and flowing.


Coming from a company (Google) with high internal transparency, I was pleased to see this culture at Earnest as well.  The marketing function at a startup is often nebulous and undefined as the company seeks to establish its voice, hence transparency is especially important if marketers are to successfully understand and convey the company’s mission.


As a Business Development intern, I helped build relationships for Earnest with various companies. However, the internship was more than just my role here; being at Earnest I learned about the problems in America we’re facing, where individuals are categorized into numerical FICO sets and loans aren’t being distributed properly to everyone, especially really qualified and financially responsible people. A flaw with the original lending business is the lack of datapoints to understand / underwrite an applicant, which Earnest addresses and solves using data science – gathering info from Linkedin, employment, achievements, credit history and more. Additionally, it is long lasting relationships with clients and commitment to diversity that will allow any lending business to win out, and that’s exactly what Earnest is doing – by being an in-house lender (directly communicates) as opposed to a P2P (connecting investors to individuals).

I learned that tech has the power to disrupt old traditional business practices in all sectors, and one of them is in the lending fintech space. Earnest has the ability to cut down APR costs to a minimum, reach out to qualified candidates, and democratize existing banks.

An enormous thanks to all the Summer 2014 interns for their contributions over the last three months, and for their thoughts about the experience. We are excited to have each of them in the Earnest alumni network, and are confident that they will each go on to do great things – and potentially return to Earnest in the future!

If you are interested in joining the Earnest team now or next summer, please send us a message. We’d love to chat!

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Earnest is a technology company using software automation, smart design, and exceptional service to restore trust in the lending industry and help clients take control of their finances.