First 9 Things to do When Starting An Internship

I have noticed there are some things that we can do early on when joining an internship that set us up for success later on.

I interned at Belong most recently, earlier at Zostel, and much earlier at BISAG. I have had the fortune of being with different organisations at different growth stages. I think some simple (and obvious steps) can help us do a lot better. Inspired from Punit Soni, I finally wrote this down.

Most of this will work for startup and small businesses, but I think it should work for more conventional setups as well.

So without further ado, here are my 9 things to do when starting a new internship:

  • Share your dreams and skills with your point of contact. Do you want to work in Machine Learning ? Tell this to your team. Most companies are accommodating if we request in early days
  • Find your deliverable(s). Do they expect speed, scale or high quality product? Not knowing their expectations is surest way to set up for failure. If you get ambiguous response, try and get them to rank different expectations by importance
  • Get context … and a little more. Go crazy on every documentation, codebase, design docs, you can lay your hands on. Read everything. Idea is to understand why is this company doing what it is doing, and how. Avoid forming opinions immediately (this is hard)
  • Meet everyone necessary. Get to know as many folks as needed. Depending on the size of the company, take walks in the corridor, invite people for lunch with you. Whatever it takes
  • Hire a mentor. Find someone to help you guide through the organisation and get your things done quick. This person can change with time and necessity. But always have someone senior to guide you. Try to get people who can guide you for long time when deciding career moves.
  • Assign yourself manager(s). Usually company assigns one, in case you do not have — ask for atleast one. Managers can be technical, product and from several other perspectives. Get yourself informally a few managers. I suggest two.
  • Talk to your manager — often. If your manager expects monthly reports, talk to him in person every week. Take his opinion on whatever he is good at. You can casually update him on what you are doing and if you are stuck somewhere. Relationships die in the valley of communication gaps.
  • Record everything. When a manager shares a decision with you, send her an email with the discussion summary. She will be happy for the pro-active action. Maintain your diary with sincerity, it will tell you if you are slacking off and if you can afford to.
  • Grow your network outside your niche domain. If you are a software engineer, go to RubyCon, PyCon, data science meetups and the like. If you are in non-tech roles, find excuses to run into people from your field. Say Sales folks at a Salesforce themed meetup. Go to hobby meetups e.g. cycling, cooking, painting. Step out of the damn room.

I will add the usual caveat: These are just pointers and ideas. This is not a rulebook. That is all for now.

Wish you all the very best for your internship!

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