This summer, I decided to try something different: I’ve been interning as a software engineer for Vistaprint, an e-commerce company dedicated to helping micro-businesses and individuals. Having never interned before, it has been a very memorable and exciting experience for me. I’d say that it has probably been one of the most exciting summers of my life, and my experience interning has definitely exceeded my expectations.
In my head, I pictured myself having immediate impact, finishing my work in impeccable time. I realized that that wasn’t exactly possible though, because starting work at a new company means that I have to, first of all, get acquainted with an entirely new (and enormous) codebase, get to know the place, and most importantly, get to know the people who work there. After all, no matter how fun your work is, it won’t really matter if you don’t like the people you work with. I think that’s one of the important pieces of career advice I got this summer: the company culture matters a lot. Thankfully, Vistaprint has a really transparent and open-minded culture, and I really respect that. Not to mention the fact that my coworkers were incredibly kind and helpful.
Keep Learning and Asking Questions
Looking back at my 10 weeks, I realize that the first half of my internship had more of a ‘learn new things and get acquainted’ kind of vibe. I really started out not knowing a single thing, and I would feel really dumb sometimes for asking really basic and trivial questions. But you know, it’s much better to ask the questions now rather than later. I’m the type of person who would much rather suffer for other people than have other people suffer for me though, and I think that’s one of the reasons I try to avoid having to bother people too often with questions. My buddy recently reminded me though, that it’s completely fine to ask questions. And I think that’s important to remember that asking questions is not a sign of weakness, it’s just a sign that you’re new here, and that’s totally fine.
Fortunately, during the second half of my internship, I finally managed to settle down, and I definitely feel that I became much more effective in my work.
Experience is Key
I realized that, although the courses I took in college have helped give me the basic foundation to the world of software, you still learn a lot more through actually implementing that knowledge in real life. There were numerous times during my internship where I had to create certain functionalities, and in my head, I’d thought I already understood how certain things work. However, it’s when I actually implement it in real life that it finally clicks in my head, and I go, aaah, so that’s how that works!
Network As Much As You Can
If there is one thing I regret not doing much of, it would be networking. I think it’s the shy part of me that keeps holding me back. This internship has been such a valuable experience since I get to work with people who are way more experienced than I am. And I love getting feedback from them regarding the work I’m doing, and advice about life and career in general is always very useful. I keep thinking that, if only I had known more people, I would have gotten even more feedback and advice.
American Work Culture
This is probably different across industries, and also across companies, but it was pretty surprising to me how relaxed and chill the workplace is. Your work hours are completely up to you, although it would be slightly unreasonable to work when everyone else isn’t in the office, since it’s important to keep up-to-date with what everyone else on your team is working on and vice versa. It’s also completely normal to go to work in a t-shirt and shorts. I remember during the time the World Cup was on, I’d go to work wearing my Brazil jersey. I even had a coworker who wore a referee outfit one day. That was pretty incredible. Also, coming from a country with a pretty hierarchical work culture, it feels very weird to call people who have been in the industry for longer than I’ve been alive by their first names. After calling my professors by their first names, I thought I got used to it, but you know what, I think this one will take a slightly longer time to get used to.
If I had to summarize my summer experience in three words, I would say fun, learning, and experience. I have no doubt that the experience and knowledge I have gained through this internship will assist me in my future. I am very proud and happy with the way my summer turned out, and I would encourage every single one of you to do an internship if possible. Trust me, it will be one of the best and most memorable experiences of your life.
Indira Pranabudi is an international student alumna of Green River Community College. She is currently studying computer science at Brown University. Indira is also a Student Contributor at U.S. News & World Report.