Why I chose Duolingo: Sammi Siegel, Senior Software Engineer

At Duolingo, we pride ourselves on hiring individuals who are passionate about our mission and want to use their expertise to change the world for the better. To help give you a peek into what it’s like working for Duolingo, we’ve asked our team members to share more about their experience at the company! Today, meet Sammi: a Senior Software Engineer working on our upcoming math app. Sammi joined Duolingo in August 2018.  


Why did you choose Duolingo?

I discovered Duolingo when I was living in Copenhagen and trying (read: struggling) to learn Danish. After mistaking cottage cheese for yogurt at the local grocery store one too many times, I downloaded the app to start learning the basics. Just a few weeks later, I learned enough to navigate more than just the dairy aisle – and I was hooked!

The app made a meaningful difference in my ability to connect with people in a new country, and I saw its potential for bridging cultures across the world. A few years later, when I was looking for my first software engineering job post-graduation, Duolingo immediately came to mind. Above all else, I felt deeply connected to the mission – to make education universally accessible through technology. I wanted to come to work every day and know that my code was having a real impact on its users.

Serendipitously, my first interviewer was an engineer who actually worked on improving how Duolingo teaches language! She talked to me about collaborating with learning scientists to add new educational features into the app – and again, I was hooked.

Fun fact: I ended up joining her team when I started!

What are three words that describe Duolingo’s culture?

Quirky, friendly, and mission-driven

What was your first project as a New Grad?

My first project was to add Hindi and Indonesian courses to the iOS app! Within my first week at Duolingo, I merged my code and watched as hundreds of thousands of people started learning those new languages. Truth is, it only took a few lines of code to read the new courses from the backend…but it was still an amazing feeling!

That was nearly four years ago, and the scale of my projects has only grown since. I've created new monolingual exercise types, integrated machine learning into our lesson generation algorithm, and added levels to Duolingo Stories. I've also co-led the Software Engineering Internship Program for the last two summers, and have participated in Engineering Working Groups focused on app accessibility. Now, I'm leading the development of a brand new app for Duolingo teaching a completely different topic – math!

How has Duolingo supported your professional growth?

As an education company, it's not surprising that Duolingo puts a lot of emphasis on growth and learning for its employees – and that's what I love most about working here. When I first joined, I had no prior experience with iOS development. But I was eager to learn, and Duolingo was willing to invest in me. Duolingo provided me with the mentorship and resources to not only learn iOS, but become proficient enough to now build a new app from the ground-up.

If you could have lunch with one Duolingo character- who would it be and why?

I would pick Bea! Bea is bisexual (like me!), and I love that many of our Stories highlight her queer experience.

Stay tuned for more Q&As with our employees, and remember to check out our careers page