6 Tips for Working in a Startup Incubator

by Gabrielle Chamont, Intern at 30Hands Learning (a company out of the Quincy Center for Innovation)

I worked as an intern for 30hands Learning this summer, and will be continuing into the fall. The startup was located in an incubator called the South Shore Innovation Center. I want to share some tips for anyone interested in working at an incubator and tricks to ensure a worthwhile learning experience.

  1. Collaboration — Everyone’s an expert at something, but no one knows everything. Whether it’s your coworkers or others from various companies in the incubator, people will ask for your help. You have valuable input to offer, so speak your mind. Collaboration is key to developing great ideas and creating viable solutions, so be part of the innovation!
  2. Fail fast — Maybe you’re trying a new skill and it turns out you really aren’t good at it or don’t like it. Maybe you offered what you thought was a super insightful idea, but it ended up flopping. That’s okay- now you know what doesn’t work, which is a learning experience in itself to prepare for great future ideas. Gain inspiration from failures but instead of forgetting about them, use what you learned and keep experimenting with new things.
  3. Talk — And not just to the coworkers in your likely very small start-up companies space. Talk to other people around the incubator. You never know who will spark your creativity. You may even find people are working on similar things to your or that someone needs help with areas in your skill set and could use your help. As an intern in an incubator, you are treated as an equal and your skills are valuable! I was asked to do some marketing work for another company after I talked to the founder while grabbing my morning coffee.
  4. Explore — The startup you’re working for likely has 1,000 things to do and only a few people to do them. Jump into a variety of tasks, if only to get your feet wet, so that you can see what you like and what you don’t. After all, an internship is supposed to be a learning experience, so you might as well spend it by trying new things and learning as much as you can as you go along. My days were never the same, and I found excitement being able to explore different interests.
  5. Be Comfortable. — There wasn’t a dress code where I worked, and there likely isn’t at other incubators or startup offices. Wear what makes you comfortable and able to do the best work you can. I like to get somewhat dressed up because it helps me organize my thoughts and get out of sleep mode. There were plenty of people in the building who wore jeans and sweatshirts daily, and if you’re looking to wear a suit everyday, a startup probably isn’t the place for you anyway.
  6. Ask Questions — But not every question you have. People are busy with their own work and 9/10 times you can google your question and figure out a solution. That other 1 in 10 time you really can’t figure out the solution to though, ask someone about it. If you are unsure, you don’t want to do anything detrimental to the company, or spend an entire day doing something the wrong way that you will have to re-do the next, so ask about it. No one will get mad at you for asking questions, but try to be a free thinker as well and prove you don’t have to be guided and checked on every step of the way.

Want to tell us about your internship experience? Email us at info@thetechgen.org.