Takeaways from an intern’s summer in Silicon Valley

Over the past three months, I have had the incredible opportunity to work as a mechanical engineering intern at Fetch Robotics, a fast-growing logistics automation company in San Jose, CA. Moving across the country and spending a summer in the Bay Area gave me some fresh perspective and provided one of the densest learning experiences of my young twenty-year-old life.

Let me share with you a few takeaways from my summer:

5. Although Silicon Valley is expensive, the quality of life here is world-class

While I had a notion that the Bay Area would be a step up in terms of cost of living, coming from Wisconsin and Alabama to one of the most expensive areas of the country still provided a good shock as I watched rent and gas multiply. On the flip side, salaries in the tech sector seem to make up for the hike and as I discovered, the quality of life is phenomenal with consistently beautiful weather, endless food options, and quick access to San Francisco, Santa Cruz, Yosemite, Lake Tahoe, and plus much else.

4. Building a successful company takes a long time

Glancing around, especially in Silicon Valley, it seems as though overnight successes are popping up constantly. However behind each of these headlines is an individual or more likely a team that went through years of sacrifice and learning to be in a position to finally strike gold. From Brian Chesky selling Obama O’s and Cap’n McCain’s cereal to raise money for airbnb to Ben Silbermann planting the Pinterest homepage on computers at the Apple store, “overnight successes” are built through years of friction. As I learned, the team and story behind Fetch Robotics (profiled here) is a great example of the time, patience, and experience that goes into building a company.

3. Failure is to be embraced

As an intern, it is expected that you will run into obstacles and likely fail at your work in some way. In fact, that’s kind of the point of an internship, and you’re merely a college student with limited experience and three months to orient yourself, plan, and execute your project anyways. If you’re not failing, you are probably not working on a hard enough problem. What’s important is that you fail fast, learn from your mistakes, pick up your pieces and carry on.

2. Don’t rush into launching your own startup

Mainstream media has painted the vivid image of this twenty-something-college-dropout-turned-world-changing-startup-founder, however when you look and ask around it is clear that this is a misrepresented route to success. As a student or fresh graduate few of us have enough understanding of the problems and structure of the real world to be truly effective startup founders. As explained by Blake Robbins, rather than rushing to launch a startup and all of the extra stress and responsibility that comes with it, a wise path to entrepreneurship would be to spend time working under the mentorship of someone else and gain skills, understand how businesses are run, observe problems and pain points, and build a network of contacts before embarking on a full-fledged journey of entrepreneurship. Developing a side hustle and working towards a lifestyle business is likely a better approach, especially for a college student.

1. Your health comes before everything else

A rather glorified part of the startup scene and lifestyle seems to be the idea of cramming a career’s worth of work into a much shorter period of time, often at the expense of sleep, exercise, and healthy eating habits. This theme has surfaced recently in response to an article about the intense work culture at Amazon and the tech industry in general. Not only does overworking reduce your productivity in the short term, it also has disastrous effects on your long term health. I am frightened at the thought of trading the best years of my life for endless nights and weekends of stress trying to please investors and chase valuations. Although you may think your work is ultra important and worth every extra hour you can sacrifice for it, it probably isn’t.

At the end of the day, without good health literally nothing else matters.

Orginally posted at botsnbikes.com.

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