Intern Insights in San Francisco: Week 1
Experiences and advice from a tech intern in the Bay Area
A quick look at my watch reminds me that I have just 5 minutes to spare.
It’s crunch time.
I decide to commit to a half-jog through the airport that yields some weird stares from onlookers. In hindsight, this was probably due to my pace falling somewhere in between “guy that passes people on the escalator going up” and “get this guy a half-assed apology and a seat near an outlet because he’s definitely not making his flight”.
Short of breath, I finally arrive at my gate and find my window seat, seemingly with seconds to spare.
After just five and a half not-so-short hours, I finally look out of the window to my right and see the Bay for the first time.
Not so fast though, let’s back things up for a second.
Why I’m Here
A few months ago, I accepted a summer internship offer as a Data Scientist for a well-known tech company in San Francisco.
Author’s Note: I don’t really know what I can and can’t say at this point, so I’ll just keep it vague and mysterious for now.
I had never been to nor experienced San Francisco prior to this. I’ve lived in Virginia my whole life. Hell, I can’t say I’ve spent more than 24 cumulative hours on the west coast before this.
Needless to say, I’m incredibly excited for what this summer has to offer.
Spending time in a new place while doing new things is one of the most effective ways to grow, both intellectually and personally. With this in mind, I’m going to be documenting my experiences and learnings throughout the next few months in weekly posts much like this.
These posts will serve as a synapsis of anything and everything worth noting that I run into during my time interning in San Francisco.
Seeing as I just got here and started work this past Monday, this is Week 1.
“Day 2 is stasis. Followed by irrelevance. Followed by excruciating, painful decline. Followed by death. And that is why is it always Day 1.” — Jeff Bezos
Author’s Note: If you’re not interested in my journey or background, the backend of the post starting with ‘Getting Comfortable’ is where you’ll find some actionable takeaways
It all didn’t hit me until I got off the plane. After a few moments of finding my way around SFO, I successfully managed to get a Lyft into the city, because apparently you do that out here instead of Uber. #DeleteUber, right?
During the drive into the city, there was lots of traffic, minimal interesting conversation with the driver, some tall buildings, and plenty of water.
Nothing too unexpected, but still riding the high of being over 2,500 miles from where I’ve spent the majority of my life, I still had to take it all in.
Once I arrived at my studio apartment, I was able to successfully unlock the gate to the lobby after several tries. I was pleasantly surprised by my overpriced apartment. I can walk to the office, the gym, and Trader Joes (no Wegmans out here though, unfortunately).
What more could I ask for… aside from cheaper rent, more square footage, and a better neighborhood. All this taken into consideration, it hits on all the key things I need for my 3 months here — I love it.
Once I got settled in, I walked a couple blocks over and treated myself to a burrito, seemed fitting since SF is apparently home to some of the best burritos around. Overall, I was pretty impressed. Then again, it was hard to tell if it was actually good or if I was just famished due to the questionable decision to not eat before my flight.
Author’s Note: if you’re interested in data or burritos or both, check out Nate Silver’s Search for America’s Best Burrito.
First Day on the Job
After a few more days of errands and exploration, the first day of work finally arrived. I was excited to see the office and more importantly, meet my team and the other interns.
Arriving at the office was somewhat overwhelming, as it was pretty incredible. All the perks that have grown to be associated with large tech companies were there in spades, including but not limited to: company swag, game rooms ranging from billiards to virtual reality, fridges stocked with your beverage or snack of choice, meals catered daily, and even a rooftop lounge overlooking the city.
After the tour, I got to meet the rest of my team. I’ll be working on a small data science team within a much larger product-specific team that covers just about our whole floor. Exciting stuff!
All in all, I was pretty taken back by everything.
Now that the stage is set, let’s get into what I learned or noticed throughout my first week on the west coast.
Adjusting to a new environment takes time. Comfortability isn’t black and white. It isn’t a switch that turns instantaneously, but rather something that is developed over time. The reality is that being truly comfortable in certain situations doesn’t come naturally to most of us.
It certainly doesn’t come naturally to me.
However, as the week went on and the onboarding process continued, I began to meet new people and learn more in-depth about the work being done. I can already feel a sense of belonging beginning to develop along with my excitement for the work and experiences that lie ahead.
This says a lot about the role that your environment plays in adaptability or aversion to change. Note that environment includes all the people that you surround yourself with as well as the surroundings themselves. This is important to remember when looking at jobs or opportunities in new places.
When starting a new job, you’re typically bombarded by information regarding everything from organizational structure to best coding practices.
This isn’t even mentioning the act of memorizing all the miscellaneous acronyms of which I think every company would agree — there’s too many.
While this can be overwhelming, I’ve grown to love this part of the journey. Total immersion has a way of bringing you up to speed in a fast and exciting way, even if you don’t retain 100% of what’s being thrown at you.
It’s rare that you’re expected to retain everything in one go. Learn to embrace the onslaught of information and simply do your best.
This undoubtedly plays off the last point a bit, but is important enough to merit it’s own section. Walking into a new company or starting a new position, it’s likely that you won’t really know what’s going on at first.
Many people will view this as a weakness, however there is a different, more effective way to frame it.
Think of starting out as an excuse to be curious and ask tons of questions. Nobody expects you to walk in and know exactly what’s going on from the get-go, so your coworkers should gladly help you out.
It’s essentially a free pass to ask any question, from the seemingly obvious to the completely abstract.
By capitalizing on your position as a beginner, you will not only learn more effectively, but you’ll also bring fresh eyes to see things that more experienced employees couldn’t.
I sought out an internship out here in the city because I wanted to be surrounded by super smart people who are interested in making an impact with technology. Over my first week here, I can confidently say that I made the right decision.
I’ll cut myself off for now, but I plan on posting a new addition to this series weekly with any new insights and experiences from my time interning in the Bay Area.