How to succeed in your tech internship


The following post was originally posted on Medium.

As internships begin, I wanted to share my learnings from two Product Design internships at Facebook. By the end of this article, I hope that you will have an action plan to succeed in your internship! 💯

Intern Manager

Your primary point of contact for your internship is your intern manager. They will identify what success looks like for your internship. They will introduce you to your Engineering, Design, Product, Data, and Research teammates. They will also be the one evaluating you at the end of your internship for a return offer and for compensation bands. Thus, it is important that you develop a great relationship with your manager.

Your very first 1:1 (one-on-one)

In your first 1:1 with your manager, you should know your strengths and weaknesses and communicate them with your manager. Discuss your summer goals (“I want to improve on X, develop skills in Y, and continue to work on Z”). This shows that you are self-aware and want to create an action plan to grow your skills.

How to do weekly 1:1's

If your manager hasn’t done so by the end of the first week, you should schedule weekly 1:1’s with your manager to get feedback on your work and discuss anything top of mind. Use this time to address any concerns you have about your project. Is there something that is unclear? Are you blocked on something? It is crucial that you bring concerns up early and often.

Your manager is your sounding board and you should look to them as a mentor, supporter, and friend. They are there to make your internship successful. If there are concerns regarding your manager, reach out to your recruiter or HR representative as soon as possible.

In addition to other topics, I always make sure to regularly ask two questions during my 1:1’s: How am I doing? How could I be doing better and exceeding expectations?

These questions are great because you get feedback on your current progress and identify areas that you could improve on. This is important because large tech companies have performance ratings that determine compensation for full-time offers (usually not return intern offers). By asking your manager these questions, you maximize the chance of achieving the highest rating.

Note that intern managers are often not allowed to discuss specific ratings with their interns.

Team & Network

Relationships matter most

As many people have said in the industry: features and products die but relationships last forever. It’s paramount to build rapport with your teammates. I recommend reaching out to the people you will be working with and scheduling calls early-on in your internships. Don’t wait, because calendars get filled up or people might be on PTO (paid-time-off). Developing good relationships will help you collaborate and launch your intern project later-on.

Rigorous collaboration is key

As you build rapport with your team, it is important to keep them in the loop about your project. Do not work in isolation on your project and hand it off at the end. There will be concerns and blockers that you did not address.

If there isn’t one already, I recommend scheduling recurring working sessions or syncs with the core team to receive feedback early-on and often from the stakeholders. Another method is to create a working communication channel and share updates about your progress. Rigorous collaboration is key to shipping features.

Build a network at the company

If you are at a large company, there are probably many talented people who may not be on your direct team. Don’t be shy and reach out to people you can learn from. Take advantage of the company network and schedule virtual coffee chats with people. Set a habit to chat with someone new at least once per week so ideally you will have connected with twelve other people at the company!

Note: Make sure to do your research and find people who are relevant to you and not just for the sake of networking. Here are some questions I’ve asked in my coffee chats:

  1. What’s the story behind joining your team/company?
  2. What challenges have you faced at the company and how did you overcome them?
  3. Do you have any advice for me regarding X situation? (If you are pondering about something, it’s always great to lead with this in the initial message to set up time!)
  4. What resources have been the most helpful for your career?
  5. Do you have any recommendations for other people I should chat with?

Additional Tips

Hopefully by now, you have gist of how to succeed at your internship! Here are some additional tips that I have found helpful.

  1. Keep a weekly progress doc that highlights what you’ve worked on. This will be valuable when you have to write a midpoint and final review about your internship or build a portfolio deck.
  2. Over-communicate with your manager and team. Often, intern managers are also individual contributors at the company and are sometimes sidetracked by their own tasks. Keep your manager informed about your accomplishments and reach out early about any feedback! At Facebook, we used Workplace which made it easy to create weekly posts around last week’s accomplishments and this week’s priorities.
  3. Understand how your performance is evaluated and find other areas that you can stand out in. This may come in passion projects, helping adjacent teams on a project, assisting virtual recruiting events, hosting intern socials, holding office hours for interns, or attending a company intern hackathon.
  4. Connect with other interns! Internships are also supposed to be social and fun. Especially if you are at a larger company, message other interns and build a community because you will cross paths with them again in the future!

I remember being anxious and worried about how to do well in my internship. The most crucial skill is communicating frequently and clearly with your manager and stakeholders of your project. If you do just that well, you will succeed!

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