Keeping it Real: Our Nutanix Internship Experiences
Internships are an invaluable part of one’s education on the road to becoming a UX professional. Nutanix is a market leader in the enterprise IT space whose pioneering work in hyper-converged infrastructure changed the landscape of enterprise IT. From its inception, Nutanix’s deep cultural commitment to user experience and design has been one of its core corporate values and a key competitive differentiator. Contributing to the growth of the UX community and profession is also a key corporate cultural value at Nutanix. One of the ways Nutanix gives back is by offering internships each year to promising UX students.
This year we asked the intern class of 2021 who worked in our San Jose headquarters to summarize their experiences. Here is what they said:
Our internship journey began during the recruiting phase which included an initial application process, phone interviews and a design exercise. During this time we first met some of the people on the UX team and became acquainted with Nutanix’s University Recruiting team. Our involvement with the university recruiting team didn’t stop once we began our internship. We really appreciated Nutanix’s University Recruitment Team for all their efforts in putting together super fun special events for interns, such as a hackathon, escape room, virtual magic show and virtual cocktail parties throughout our 12-week program. These events were vital in assisting the interns to unwind, creating a sense of belonging in these Covid-induced remote working conditions, and meeting interns in other skill sets, like engineering, along the way.
Most UX and design students perform projects as part of their classroom experiences, but class projects are typically consumer focused and tailored for a more idealized educational curriculum. Enterprise and Cloud computing are domains that interns are unlikely to have encountered during their university curriculum. Thus, it may be intimidating when first becoming acquainted with Nutanix’s product portfolio. However, the Nutanix UX team provided ample resources to accelerate our understanding of complex topics like virtualization, the Nutanix design system, and the nitty-gritty of the projects on which we worked. The resources made available to us included curated presentations by the UX team members, online documentation, and a supportive network of team members who were always willing to provide the guidance we needed along the way.
Unlike companies that assign their interns conceptual projects, or rote work no one wants to do, Nutanix demonstrates full trust by allowing design interns to immediately dive into real projects that are currently underway. By working on a deadline-driven project with real-world constraints, design interns gain valuable industry-level experience. Each intern is onboarded onto a different project depending on their interests and experience, and the current stage of the work can vary. For example, an intern may enter a redesign project in its second phase and start by conducting usability testing with their mentor, while another might work on an early-stage project and do generative user research based on the product’s general problem statement. In other cases, the project team may have already collected data and the intern will need to get up to speed and immediately begin producing mockups. As a result, each intern embarked on their own unique journey, as they interacted with different stakeholders and built skills depending on the needs of their respective projects. Being a UX Design Intern at Nutanix is a sure way to quickly become acclimated to working as a professional designer working in a corporate setting where the UX craft itself is on the critical path of any feature delivery.
However, interns are not just thrown into a project where they either “sink or swim”. Interns are paired with a full-time designer who serves as their official mentor over the course of their time at Nutanix. The mentor is usually part of the project the intern is assigned to, thus the mentor doubles as a collaborator which leads interns to feel, and be seen, as full-fledged team members.
A typical day as a Nutanix UX intern will often involve a lot of time working on Figma designs and documentation. They will work closely with their mentors (shout out to Prakruthi Shetty, Monica Poddar, Krishna Vadrevu, and Navdeep Bagga!). Frequent 1:1 syncs throughout the week with mentors may consist of progress updates, professional development advice, design critiques, and/or planning the next step in the project. Similarly, interns set up times to chat with their managers about long-term career goals and current project status. Interns can also turn to their “Intern Buddy”, who is a previous member of the Campus to Career program that volunteers to help guide them through any other aspects of their time at Nutanix. Aside from these formally assigned advisers, we interns also had the rest of the design team to turn to when it came to professional mentorship and work-specific questions.
Interns are encouraged to bounce ideas back and forth, review deliverables, and work through story narratives by sharing ideas with both their mentors and the rest of the design team. Just like any designer on the team, interns regularly present at weekly local design critiques, and even global design reviews. Weekly design review sessions serve as a space for interns to exchange feedback with the entire UX team and converse about the future direction of feature designs at Nutanix. During these sessions, designers from all over the globe tune in, including the VP of Design and the entire international team of Nutanix designers primarily stationed in San Francisco Bay Area, Bangalore and Berlin. Interns can also hop on calls with other designers to learn more about their current work, gather insights about growing as a designer, and ask for advice on topics such as pursuing grad school. A resounding sentiment from our design intern class is that the fundamental dynamic of the Nutanix design team is one of trust and a down-to-earth charm that encourages everyone to be comfortable sharing their thoughts and asking for help. Given that interns work on real and impactful projects, there is much to learn from interacting with and presenting work to a variety of stakeholders such as Project Managers, Engineering, and the user base. Presenting designs and user stories is an invaluable skill that we honed throughout our time here. Interns learn how to take and act on feedback given during critiques, and how to be comfortable actively contributing to team discussions. At Nutanix, UX interns are respected and treated as fully operating designers. The autonomy that interns are given creates the opportunity for confidence building, whether that comes in the form of driving the direction of their project, or learning how to articulate design rationales when communicating with other skill sets like PM, Eng and management.
As mentioned earlier, in contrast to university projects, where there are clear cut, and often long periods of time assigned to set phases of the design process, interns will discover that they will often need to utilize their own judgment when constrained by a real-world timeline with aggressive milestones. In fact, one learns that they may have to justify to the broader team as to why a UX activity needs to be performed rather than just assume its necessity is understood by everyone. Nutanix interns are encouraged to lean into their intuition and carve out their own plans within the unique timeline constraints of each project. Interns also witness firsthand how design activities are advocated for within a company. By being given visibility into the lifecycle of features, from concept to implementation, and participating in a variety of project reviews, interns can understand where design fits into the overall puzzle and the heavy emphasis Nutanix places on sound design.
Interested in becoming an intern on the user experience design team at Nutanix? General advice from our intern class is to first review Nutanix’s design principles and vision (https://nutanix.design/). This gives you a taste of the design culture and the type of products you might be working on. Take some time to think about how you can and would like to contribute to the mission, and in what areas you’d like to grow as a UX Designer. The interviews are meant not only to review your technical chops and design thinking, but also to be a time for you to get to know the design team members, so treat it as a two-way conversation! Lastly, we encourage future interns to keep an open mind to the unique challenges that come with the enterprise domain, working with people across the world, and the plethora of growth opportunities at Nutanix.
2021 Nutanix Design Interns
Mylinh Lac (B.S. Cognitive Science — Design & Interaction, Urban Studies & Planning Minor @University of California, San Diego)
Sabrina Chuang (B.S. Cognitive Science — Design & Interaction @University of California, San Diego)
Vijayalaxmi Padmanabhan (M.S. Human-Centered Design & Engineering @University of Washington, Seattle)