How I Made the Most of my Avvo Internship

Presenting findings from affinity mapping // Photo by Puja Parakh

After graduating with a bachelor’s degree in Human Centered Design & Engineering from the University of Washington, I interned at Avvo as a UX Designer. During my first week, I shadowed two teams — Limited Scope (LTD) and Full Scope to decide which team I wanted to work on. Immediately, I felt a sense of autonomy because I got to choose my pathway in the company. I ultimately joined the LTD team because there was more business need and they won me over by openly persuading me to join their team.

In my scrum team, I worked with designers, developers, content strategists, QA tester, and a PM. I had daily scrum meetings that set the stage for my day, but my day-to-day was unpredictable. On any given day, I could be creating wireframes, observing my prototype in a usability test study, working with a developer to implement designs, assessing metrics in Google Analytics, and going on coffee chats. The variance in my day-to-day as a UX Design intern validated my passion for this field — I was never bored, constantly challenged, and always moving. To occasionally break away from my typical UX work, I had 1:1s with people outside of my team and participated in internal learning opportunities to learn about the organization and how different roles contribute to the organization.

Since I was a part of Avvo’s first class of UX interns, there was less structured programming for the internship. To make the most of my Avvo experience, I sought out opportunities to learn, meet people, and get involved. Here’s a list of 7 actions I took:

1. Come prepared actionable goals and share them with your manager.

I came prepared with a list of questions for my first 1:1 with my manager, Puja Parakh. The questions varied from learning objectives, far-out career dreams, to housekeeping essentials. Showing up to your first meeting or day with curiosity demonstrates excitement for the opportunity, thoughtfulness, and good organization, which can help develop trust. Starting a job opportunity with mutual understanding of your goals can also help your manager keep an eye out for opportunities that will fulfill your objectives.

2. Be patient with yourself and the onboarding process.

Starting any job takes time to adjust to the culture, organization, and people. While it may feel concerning to not immediately contribute impactful work, accept that a part of the internship experience is to observe and absorb as much as you can. I’ve been told by many working professionals that it took them up to 6 months to feel like they finally got a hang of the system. Considering that internships are 3–4 months, there is no way for interns to feel like they “get it.” Avoid putting pressure on yourself, but be flexible and adaptable in the journey. If you ever have downtime, go to a coworker and make conversation. Not only will this kill time, but it’ll help you learn more about the company and cultivate stronger relationships, which makes all the difference if you ever need help later down the road.

3. Ask questions and take notes.

Asking questions and taking notes demonstrates attentiveness, curiosity, and engagement. You may have heard that others in a room likely shares the same question as you, so be proactive by being the one to speak up! One of the best advice I was recently given is if you ever find yourself in a slow meeting, takes notes (even if it means writing down everything) because you will appear engaged, and your hands will have something to do to make time go by faster.

4. Make it an effort to walk around the office and introduce yourself.

The best time to meet people is during your first few weeks of starting a job because everyone knows you’re new, so they don’t expect you to know everyone, and you have more downtime to get to know the space. Ideally, your manager or mentor will take time to walk you around the office during your first week and introduce you to folks. However, in the case that this doesn’t happen, take initiative and walk around! People generally love interns because they are bright and energetic. You’ll probably be making someone’s day by walking up to them. They’ll also be more likely to remember you because you took time to get to know them.

5. Try to not eat lunch alone all the time.

With meetings going on all the time, it may be hard to get to know colleagues on a professionally personal level. But everyone takes time to eat, so why not use this to your advantage by meeting people in a low-risk environment? Some of the best conversations, memories, and laughter come out of lunch dates. At Avvo, I would set up lunch with people from all departments — HR, engineering, product, etc. I would also randomly join individuals or groups in the kitchens. People were always very inviting at Avvo.

6. Go on a coffee chat with a someone not in your team each week.

Like tip #4 and 5, making an effort to take someone new to coffee each week is a good networking tactic that allows you to dig deep into someone’s role in the company, learn about their past experiences, and make a personal connection. Getting to know people should be an ongoing, mindless activity that you do even if you’ve secured a position because you never know what someone could help you with in the future. And who doesn’t like finding an excuse to take a coffee break from work?

7. Accept failures as lessons learned.

While at Avvo, I ran two A/B tests that both failed. Neither of the tests supported my hypotheses. At first, I was embarrassed that this happened and I didn’t not how to respond to it. I was afraid that my performance as an intern was jeopardized. But Puja and my Avvo mentor and co-worker, Kaitlyn Schirmer, flipped the scenario around 180 by asking me, “Ok, so the test didn’t go as plan. Now what are you going to do?” In the end, I used the lessons I learned from the failed tests to improve on the subsequent round and made recommendations by looking for patterns and missed opportunities. Till this day, I take the “so what?” mentality with me to my day-to-day as a technique to think more forwardly.

There are numerous ways to make the most out of an internship. Above are some of the actions that worked for me at Avvo, and I hope that they work for you, regardless of what company you intern or work at. I’d like to send gratitude to the UX family at @Avvo for providing me the opportunity to experience an awesome internship experience. And a HUGE thanks to Kaitlyn Schirmer and Puja Parakh for always mentoring and pushing me above and beyond.

If you have any questions about my Avvo internship, applying for UXD internships and jobs, or the bachelor’s program @HCDEUW, feel free to reach out!