Dear intern, please be a dumb legacy maker
Few months ago I became a product design intern in a computer vision start-up from Silicon Valley. I started my internship with a clear goal – give my best and leave a legacy inside the company. I was very confident that all my previous experience as a start-up founder would help a lot in the customer development and product design process. Thus, I had no doubt that I could nail it and impress everybody.
My internship started and I had a shock. I was surrounded by incredibly smart people, ranging from quantum computing experts to top universities graduates – intelligent, proficient, and driven colleagues. I felt incredibly lucky to work with such amazing people, yet horrified to realize how little I knew. First of all, I got to understand, once again, that start-ups are counter-intuitive and that while high-level processes might be similar across multiple companies, the actual frameworks and actions widely differ. Second of all, being constantly surrounded by top engineers made me realize how little I actually knew about computer science and technology in general.
Therefore, I had to choose – should I be the apparently proficient, know-it-all legacy maker or should I be the dumb yet curious legacy maker? Please notice that my goal to significantly contribute remained constant.
I was honest with myself, so I went with the second option, which ended up being the best decision I could have made. Sure, it was not always comfortable to acknowledge my dumbness, but that ended up being the best way to learn loads, while working on my legacy.
Overall, this is my advice to all the interns out there: first, be aware that there is so much you don’t know; second, allow this belief to guide your behavior and ask countless questions, without fearing that your coworkers will think you are dumb (they may actually admire your curiosity); third, build your legacy within the company.