Undergraduate Blog / Career Development

The Unconventional Internship Hunt: Tech Start-ups for the Non-Techies

If you are anything like me, you’re more of a thinker than a doer. You fight against conventional systems and are often the person who asks “Why?” or “Why not?” when told things. Therefore, it is only natural that you find yourself seeking out an internship where your personality can thrive and your skillset and goals are aligned with the company mission. You want to land a job at a tech start-up but… you lack any technical abilities!

That was my story!

I remember overhearing the very tech savvy kids with their conversations regarding Ruby on Rails and Javascript and finding myself very confused and even more confused after a few Google searches. My research led me to realize that the non-technical roles in these companies are just as important as the technical ones. But where can you break in? How do you come across one of these roles? The first step is realizing what kind of role that you’re looking for. Do you want to be challenged in a quantitative fashion and crunch numbers and run analysis? Are you more of a people person and an influencer who prefers debating ideas and entertaining clients? Are you somewhere in between?

Realizing that there are roles for all of these skillsets and personalities at a tech start-up is important and finding the perfect role for you can be a challenge. One resource that I leveraged was Jeremy Schifeling’s blog Break Into Tech (https://www.breakinto.tech/), where he outlines his journey of shifting from the education industry into the tech industry and the different roles that people can occupy.

The next step is knowing where to find these internships. While larger companies may have a significant presence on your campus and provide various information sessions and may have a plethora of postings on your school’s career website, small early stage start-ups are not going to have this reach. They advertise through a small number of outlets when looking for interns. AngelList is a great resource to find an internship with a start-up and is how I found my role as Business Development Intern for Verst! (https://www.verst.co/).

Do not just apply to positions blindly that have the description you want because finding the perfect internship is a two-way system. You need to be a great match for them and they need to be a great match for you. Is the location of the internship in your desired city? Do you recognize that many tech start-ups may not have the funding to compensate interns competitively? Is the culture something you would like to be a part of? Are you truly passionate behind the product and think it will disrupt the industry in the right ways? The best advice I can give is try to look for a company where you think you can fit well into the culture but you will be challenged and will learn a lot. Minutes into my interview with Verst I knew that it was a company that I wanted to work for and I would have plenty of opportunities for growth and exploration in my career.

But the best way is to show passion. Especially for a start-up who has a small team, the culture fit is the perfect thing that they are looking for. Expect interview questions to stray away from the typical “What is your biggest weakness?” but expect them to really try to get to know you and how you can fit into the team and do realize that they are trying to build a team and forage a company culture that will be profitable, efficient and effective. One thing I cannot stress enough is to get behind the product. If it is something that you can easily download and use, do that and try it out. Test it out and provide feedback and show that you are passionate about learning about it and developing the product.

So what is stopping you? Start-ups are hiring interns for the summer, fall and spring and the process can be quick and informal! Go find your next learning experience! To hear more about mine at Verst this summer, be sure to follow my blogs and follow me on Instagram and Twitter @itsaidandee!