Shopify Intern Retreat 2016

What happens when you send 70 new tech interns on a weekend getaway?

I left for Shopify’s annual intern retreat expecting to feel old and boring during a weekend of partying, and wondering how this getaway could possibly add value to the company at large (not that I was complaining). But over the course of the weekend, and as I spent more time with my intern peers, I started to realize how invaluable this experience was — for us, and for Shopify.

My first surprising experience was in the lodge — we were each randomly grouped to room with three other interns from different departments across our four Canadian offices (Ottawa, Toronto, Waterloo and Montreal). Instead of a drunken night of revelry, we shared a couple of bottles of wine and had an amazing conversation about systems engineering, genre-defying narrative games, LARPing, team dynamics, diversity, and women in tech. It was pretty awesome, and just the start of many interesting conversations I had over the next two days.

Our conversations were pretty great…

We were also fortunate enough to be in Quebec’s Mont Tremblant, where we had multiple options for fun outdoor activities. Naturally, while we were out burning energy with kayaking, hiking, biking, luging — or even when we were re-fuelling at cafés and restaurants — we were constantly building relationships with our peers. For example, over dinner I heard many conversations about mistakes that us interns had made (botched pull requests, broken lines of code etc.), but the conversation always ended with a comment on how the problem was eventually resolved and how supportive their team was during the process. I think this candid sharing also helped other interns (including myself) feel better about the challenges we’ve faced and mistakes we may have made so far. It was a wonderful reminder that we’re all here to learn — and that we can also help each other on that journey.

For other students applying for internships, and for those of you working for companies that also hire interns, I encourage you to consider the value of these group experiences. From the outside, it may seem like we spent a weekend playing and eating in the sunshine (which we did), but there was a lot more to it. Here are just a few of my personal take-aways from this weekend:

  • I feel a renewed sense of gratitude towards Shopify for this experience, and am so proud to work here. As a result I’m even more excited to come in to work tomorrow, and equally determined to do my best to add value to the entire team.
  • I am infinitely more curious about programming languages and other disciplines within UX– I’ve been inspired to enhance my own skill-set through a new personal development plan and commitment to online tutorials and peer mentorship.
  • I feel that I have a much broader understanding of Shopify as a whole, including the objectives of various departments such as data analytics, shipping, theme support, and HR.
  • This weekend, I met some of the most intelligent, creative, hardworking, and caring people in my life. I now have a stronger support network at work, and hope that some of these new relationships will last throughout my professional career, and my personal life.

Alas, it turns out that my preconceptions for this weekend were pretty misguided. From Shopify’s perspective, I’d say this weekend was invaluable in fostering pride, community, and passion in it’s bright new recruits. And for me, I feel like I’ve left this weekend with incredible new relationships and an enhanced sense of curiosity, motivation, and humility that makes me want to grow and learn with these awesome people, and this amazing company.

(For any other Shopify interns reading this, you’re a big fat nerd and I love you). ❤

Like what you read? Give Vivienne Kay a round of applause.

From a quick cheer to a standing ovation, clap to show how much you enjoyed this story.