This internship has been a special one. More than an enriching learning experience, it has been a myth-busting challenge that constantly took me out of my comfort zone and made me reassess my beliefs on start-ups, people, and life. Such valuable lessons are worth pondering upon again and again, so I’ll do this once more, but this time I will briefly share some of them with other interns out there, hoping that such much-busting insights will prove helpful (or at least interesting).
- Start-ups are fun
False. Start-ups are hard, intense work, repeated day-in and day-out. While social media and movies such as The Social Network tend to present the exciting, non-conventional, and fun life of maverick entrepreneurs, what they actually do is creating false expectations. As Mark Zuckerberg used to say, “the reality is that writing code and then building a product and building a company is not a glamorous enough thing to make a movie about”. Thus, the road from an initially identified need/problem to an ideal solution that people want is long and often tedious.
- You have to do what you are told (as an intern)
When I started my internship, I did the mistake of regarding myself as an intern, one of the secondary people within the team. However, I was wrong and I soon came to realize that I was considered, as everyone else, a main member that contributed to the success of the company.
Thus, as an intern, you have to do much more than what you’re being told. If you really want to leave a legacy within the company you are working for, you must come up with new suggestions, challenge company policies that you consider harmful, think about new structures and speak up.
- Grown-ups know what’s going on
They don’t. The only difference between them and novice interns is that adults can claim to have previous experience. However, start-ups are counter-intuitive, so even though previous experience helps a lot within diverse company verticals (e.g. tech knowledge to build a product), when it comes to the overall company strategy, both experienced employees and interns have the same responsibilities of collecting data and, most importantly, generating actionable insights based on that data. Part of the insights become hypotheses that go on to be tested by the team. Unrelated to the levels of experience of the people who generated the insights, some of these hypotheses fail miserably and others succeed, beneficially impacting the lives of millions.