Lessons learnt from interning at a startup while studying

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Trying to build your resume during this pandemic is hard. Whenever I search anything about self-improvement or keys to success, often results like “get out of your comfort zone”, or “do the uncomfortable” pop up. I always thought they were so cliché but little did I know…

Since I opted for distance learning during the Michaelmas term, classes were only in the late afternoons due to the time difference. I had time in the day so I decided to throw myself out of my comfort zone and into a new environment: a start-up environment.

Spoiler alert: Startups are not my thing.

if you are too comfortable in your sweatpants behind the screen, “you are doing university wrong”

I started to work part-time in a less-than-ten-employees company. It was mostly remote work and we would go to the co-working office every Thursdays. I, a non-engineering undergraduate, soon realised that the field-specific knowledge I needed to know was very technical. Not knowing a single term in the tech world, I called up a friendly geek to give me a quick rundown. The next day we met up for lunch where I received a 2-hour crash course in exchange for a good bowl of Pho.

Fun fact: I realised Java and Javascript are different languages!

In the following weeks, my mornings were packed with “sales calls”, reading articles articles articles (how Billie Eilish would put it) on software engineers’ behaviours, drafting cold emails and figuring out how to increase sales for a company that I did not fully comprehend.

Working in a highly volatile startup environment was not helpful either. At the same time, I had to juggle stacks of readings to do before lectures in the evening, without the luxury of popping into the tutors office hours to ask for help.

spoiler alert: Startups are not my thing.

Both interning at a startup and online studying led to a whole lot of uncertainty. There were many days where I’d drown in confusion, wondering if I was learning anything at all. But according to my Philosophy lecturer “if you are not questioning ‘what am I even doing here’, you are doing university wrong!”

Nevertheless, balancing full-time school and part-time work has been a fulfilling experience, albeit all the hectic days of work. I had the pleasure of indulging myself with a new knowledge of AI, API, IDE and other abbreviations that techies use. Having the ease of clicking pause, rewind or 1.25x speed for lecture videos also helped me to understand content better.

Be it working in an all-male programmers startup or changing up my study routine completely, it was all worth learning from. So, if you are too comfortable in your sweatpants behind the screen, “you are doing university wrong!”

Image: Andrew Neel via Unsplash

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