Things I wish I had known before my first internship

Learnings as I transitioned from college graduate to a working professional.

Things I wish I had known before my first internship
Photo by Gabriella Clare Marino / Unsplash

In July 2016, I completed my internship at Amazon. By the end of my internship, I had a full-time offer. I cannot describe the amount of relief it was.

It's already been six years since that day. Time is running fast as a working professional.

I can't reduce the speed, but I can spend some time recollecting things I wish I know before starting my internship.

Here’s some of them.

Day one is boring

In college, I was one of those personalities who thought I could change the world through code and I should not waste my time. There are reasons for it.

  • At that time, the startup ecosystem in India had a positive outlook.
  • A lot of companies were actively hiring.
  • I was watching the 'Silicon Valley' series.
  • Most importantly, I was reading Steve Jobs book by Walter Isaacson.

Because of this, I was under the impression that I would start writing code as soon as I joined. But to my surprise, it was full of presentations on the company and legal stuff.

I don't recall if the presenters used PPT or not. My team had a (strict?) no PPT policy for project presentations but Day one presentations, I'm not sure.

A few hours before the evening, representatives from various banks visited the conference hall. They were pressuring us to use their bank to create the salary account. They were not interested in helping us with our questions but took all the signatures they wanted and left for the day.

I think bank account opening was the final tedious task of the day.

After that, a manager of my neighbouring team introduced us to my new team. My manager was on leave, and it was a fun experience to interact with my first team on the first day.

Recently I learnt from a friend who joined a startup about their day one experience; not surprisingly, it was similar to mine

People move on

Coming from a college, I was surprised to see when people were celebrating farewells almost every month (and sometimes every week) in the Office.

In college, a student you meet will continue to stay for four years unless an external force is applied (Newton's Law :P). Farewell happens only once a year, and it's pretty emotional.

But in Office, that's not the case. Only some farewells are emotional, and most of them, in my opinion, fall into the category of uncomfortable interviews or regular neutral events.

In summary, people move on quickly(compared to college). (This is true for many companies I have known so far)

One of the odd moments was, when I learnt that the person who took my interview was leaving two weeks into my internship. I was like, mister, you brought me in here; why are you leaving? You shouldn't go. Stay back! But I didn't dare to say so. Later, I learned that he changed teams, and I was happy to hear that.

Clothing Brands can bankrupt you if you are not careful

During my college days, I visited local stores to purchase pretty comfortable clothes, but deep down, I wanted to shop in big shopping malls. When my first month's salary was credited, I went to a store in a big shopping mall to purchase but only to return empty-handed as they were costly for my salary.

I thought purchasing clothes would be cheaper if I made money, but then I realised that there's always an expensive brand at every stage of your life, and that's the brand you would like to purchase, secretly.

That's true even today. I recently visited a shopping mall store, and they quoted a t-shirt price as six thousand INR, the quality of t-shirt suggested that it might not last six months; I thanked them and came out empty handed.

Saving Money

I learnt about the value of saving money the hard way.

My internship salary was not excellent, but I spent money like a full-time employee. I was giving, taking parties, and visiting movie theatres and events that burned money. By the end of the month, I almost had no money. I only had Sodexo coupons for morning lemon tea and lunch at the Office for a few days. (As an intern, I had a free cab facility and I was staying in a PG which provided breakfast and dinner.

It was difficult to manage when there’s no money.

One day I faced a challenging situation. When I reached the Office, my habit was to stand in a queue near the cafeteria to get my favourite lemon tea (They made the best lemon tea). One day, I was standing in line, browsing my phone, when my teammate saw me and asked me to get a lemon tea for them; then they disappeared to get their breakfast, and I only had enough to buy one tea. It was so awkward I didn't know what to do.

This incident took play before online transactions were a thing. No familiar face nearby to help me. So, I purchased the tea for my teammate alone and went and sat along with my team,  offering the only available tea to my teammate. They inquired about my tea, to which I responded, I'm waiting for my friend, and I'll have it later. My teammates thought I was waiting for my girlfriend. Such a terrible situation I was in, I thought.

During this challenging time, some friends helped me out. But asking for money felt so bad, and it felt terrible to know that I could not manage my expenses. After a couple of such incidents, I started working on managing money in a better way.

Today, I'm far away from the credit card debt hell. All thanks to my internship.

Making friends is so difficult

One of the things people don't tell you about getting a job in a new city is it's tough to make new friends. In software engineering roles, you hardly meet people. Most probably,  you’ll interact with your team and nearby teams. Hence, I felt like my team was my friends. I'll leave it up to you whether it's good or bad thing to have your teammates as friends.

I worked on weekdays, but what to do on weekends?

Initially, I visited both technical and non-technical Meet-ups.

For some reason, technical Meet-ups, I felt, were structured around fame. Everyone will talk to you if you are an experienced person working in a famous company. Otherwise, you'll have to push yourself to speak to everyone and not get the same amicable response.

After visiting many meetings over a couple of months, I finally decided it was not for me.

Talking about the non-technical Meet-ups I have visited, they were in a remote location, deep inside streets, very difficult to access as I didn't have my vehicle yet. So, I stopped going to all the meet-ups.

I don't exactly remember what I did afterwards over the weekends. Mostly it's exploring city or window shopping. I  must say, window shopping saved me from boredom.

I think we have deviated from the topic slightly; let's conclude.

Making friends is hard after your college


Why am I saying all these? I don't know. I hope it will help future interns.

I also hope you had fun reading through the article.

I know I didn't talk much about the technical side of things. I also learned a lot on that segment, but the non-technical side is fun to discuss.

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