This is the third installment of our Intern Diaries series, wherein each week our lovely interns give you the inside scoop on what being a programming intern at a high-tech startup is really like. Read the first and second post of the series or listen to this group’s first podcast.
Hello! My name is Madalyn Coryea and I am in intern this summer at Riparian Data in Watertown, MA. I am heading into my senior year at Worcester Polytechnic Institute as a Computer Science major & Digital Art minor, and this is my second technical internship.
One of the best parts about having a computer science internship is that you get to experience working at a real company on a real team of software developers. At both of my internships I’ve been able to work at companies where I write real code that directly influences the product. This is something I especially look for when I apply for an internship. If you’re like me, and want to be a key player in “the big picture” at your company, make sure you get to know what you’ll be doing at your interviews. If you don’t ask, you won’t know what the company expects from its interns.
Key phrases to look out for are: “We have a summer project that we put the interns on,” or “We have an exciting program planned for you!” Usually this means that the company doesn’t have interns working with their real product. Sometimes these companies are just trying to establish relations with interns to make them full-time employees when they’re done with college. Other times, they are just trying to fill an “intern-quota” to make the company look better. Personally, I would feel like this is wasted time. I want to be treated like a developer, and I want to be a contributor to the software. To avoid getting stuck with a gimmicky internship, I usually want to hear, “We need developers to work on our product.” It’s worked out for me so far! And a great part about being a Computer Science intern is that we are in high demand. This is good news for us! It means we can have our selection of companies to work for. So there’s no reason to go to a boring company at an internship you think you’ll hate.
Once you have your internship, you will really learn if this is what you want to do. Is this the type of code you want to write? Is this the kind of software you want to develop? Do you like front-end or back-end or something else? With the Computer Science industry as huge as it is, there are so many areas where you can find yourself happy with your work. And since internships are a short-term commitment it’s okay to experiment with different types of jobs in software.
So how do you get this wonderful internship?
Step 1: Apply early
You can start looking for an internship as soon as the summer is over, but you should plan on making a decision by or before the spring (the end of spring break is when the majority of companies have already picked their first round of intern candidates). This doesn’t mean companies aren’t still looking for interns come summer-time (they are); but to get your first pick as well, look early.
Step 2: Keep your resume awesome
You’re a Computer Science major (or something tech-related)—you’re already awesome! So make sure your resume shows that. Let companies know you have the skills they want and need. And make sure they know if you don’t have those skills yet, you can learn them on the job (something a lot of people worry they can’t do, but end up surprising themselves—myself included!). It’s a good idea to beef up your resume with past experience and examples of projects you’ve done at school. If you can show that you’ve worked on a team before, companies will see that as a huge plus.
Step 3: Get the interview
Go to career fairs (where I’ve snagged both my internships). It’s like speed-dating for companies. You meet a lot of people, hand out a ton of resumes, and learn a bunch about the different places where you could work. Tell employers what kind of internship you’re looking for, your major, your skill set, and what you’re passionate about. And don’t forget to ask questions about them too! A good standby is, “What do you like about working at your company?” Make sure to follow up with emails and online applications. Reach out—it’s the only way to get something back. And if you really hit it off at the face-to-face career fair meeting, chances are that’s all you’ll need for a call-back to an interview.
Stay tuned for part 2 in this 2-part series, where Madalyn reveals the last 4 steps and what to do after you’ve sealed that interview.