I was fortunate to be one of two interns at Optimizely this summer, working as a front-end developer in their San Francisco office.
As the summer comes to an end and I start my final year of college, I want to share some advice for underclassmen looking to intern at a startup.
- Choose companies you actually like - I started the internship hunt by making a list of companies I’d want to work for. Some, like Optimizely, weren’t even offering internships. Companies want to know that you enjoy their product and share their vision.
- Work on side projects - You’re competing with thousands of students for internships. Your work outside of class will set you apart. Recruiters want to see code on GitHub, designs on Dribble, and links to side projects.
- Your GPA isn’t as important as you think - I applied to tons of internships and only a few asked for a college transcript. Do well in class, but save time for side projects, extracurriculars, and friends. A lot of learning should happen outside the classroom.
- Learn to hustle - Reach out to people at the company. Don’t be shy! Optimizely wasn’t listing internships, but I guessed a few email addresses and heard back from Sonesh, the Sr. Director of Engineering. Kasra, the other intern, applied through the full-time job posting. It doesn’t hurt to try.
My three months at Optimizely flew by. Yours will too. Here’s some advice to make the most out of it.
- Work on a large project - Ask to work on a large project that will take up most of your summer, but also contribute to smaller projects. I created much of their mobile website (launching soon), but also implemented the blog redesign and created an events page, among other things.
- Be curious - Ask questions and learn from other teams. If you’re an engineer, spend a day shadowing the sales team. If you’re a marketer, learn how the designers bring your projects to life.
- Participate in intern events - Interning in San Francisco? Join the massive Bay Area intern groups on Facebook. Go to the events, meet people, and have fun. You’ll always leave with, at the very least, a free shirt.
With the right company and attitude, you’ll learn more in three months of summer than nine months of classes. I know I did.
I’m headed back to school with lots of experience, ping-pong bragging rights (sorry Kasra!), and many new friends.
Update: I’m back at Optimizely as a full-time employee. Reach out at firstname.lastname@example.org if you’d like to learn more.