10 Tips to Surviving an Internship in Silicon Valley
This article was originally featured on Buzzfeed and written by Vera’s summer intern Julie Kuhrt.
The land known to many as Silicon Valley is an exotic and fascinating place. With exuberant amounts of money, lack of water, and the official birthplace of the Internet, ‘the Valley’ can be a new and scary place; especially to a Midwest native, such as myself. Coming to this land as an intern meant that I would be placed at the bottom of the food chain, and I was determined to stay alive in my new surroundings. As I have been living among the people and becoming part of tech nerddom, I have learned a few tricks of the trade that can help any intern starting out survive.
Make friends with the smart people – that’s everyone
In most cases, you will not be the smartest individual amongst your peers. For those of you that claim to be the smartest, just keep to your 140 IQ and skip this part. By surrounding yourself with intelligent people you allow yourself to constantly learn. In addition, smart people usually make for better conversation and by association you will be smarter, right?
Keep the CEO close and the rest of the exec team closer
The CEO and the rest of the executive team are the most important people in the company, and you should strive to be their best friend. But if this is an unachievable goal than do your best just not to be on their bad side. If they say something that is intended to be funny, laugh. If they look at you don’t avoid eye contact, give them a smile. If they say something you don’t understand “smile and nod guys, smile and nod.” And lastly, if they seem to be angry, run away.
Be the jester of the kingdom
As an intern you are the lowest on the totem pole, but there are many jobs that you as a peasant can choose from. As an intern, you should strive to be the jester of the kingdom. The jester may get a lot of crap from the higher-ups of the kingdom, but they are also entertaining and skilled jugglers. When interning at a startup you will find that you’ll have a variety of tasks, so it’s important to be able to juggle between them. Being entertaining can also help you stand out and differentiate yourself as a personable person.
Don’t be a jerk
Communication and respect are key when working in a diverse, multi-cultural, fast-paced company so it’s important to get along with everyone. The more people that dislike you, the shorter your time at that company will be, and the less likely individuals will be to recommend you in the future. The easiest and simplest way to get along with people is to not be a prick.
Take advantage of everything, especially the free snacks
Companies in Silicon Valley have come to have certain expectations. They are expected to produce the next big thing, hire the brightest individuals, and also offer a wide variety, endless amount, and of the best quality snacks. You are not living in your college dorm forced to survive on ramen noodles right now, so enjoy this time and eat as much as possible. Just remember to not overdo it or you’ll end up gaining the “snacker seventeen” (a newly coined term for gaining a ridiculous amount of weight due to your uncontrollable snacking addiction).
Don’t be afraid to ask questions (but don’t ask too many)
It’s important to ask questions, but at the same point there should be a limit. Remember your bosses and coworkers have jobs too. Also, in 1990 a beautiful thing was created, the internet. So use it. A little research is always fun and Google has also done a pretty good job of making it a little easier. So don’t be afraid to dive in yourself, and if after a while you still can’t find your answer, ask away.
Capitalize on the company swag
Free things are the best, doesn’t matter if it’s a simple pen or sick headphones, free stuff is awesome. Your goal should be to rally up as much of it as possible. If by the time you go home, and you have noticed that all your belongings consist only of items with the company’s logo on it then you are doing it right.
Take it easy, relax
As the famous song from the Eagles goes “take it easy, take it easy don’t let the sound of your own wheels make you crazy.” Or maybe in this case “don’t let the site of your computer pixels make you crazy.” Go for a walk, play some ping pong, chat with some coworkers, just step away from the computer. It helps most people get their minds moving again. And if it doesn’t help, at least you took a break from staring at your computer screen for a bit.
As an intern it’s important to take in every second. In most cases internships only last a couple of months, and it’s important to enjoy yourself. For some lucky few the opportunity will turn into a full time job, but for others it will be a time in your life you discuss during your first ‘real-world’ interview. . Either way, it’s nice to be able to look back on it with happy thoughts.
Keep in touch with co-workers – it’s all about who you know!
It’s finally time to put your favorite social media platform, LinkedIn, to use. Connect with everyone at the company because there is no saying where any of them will be in a few years. One of them could be the next Bill Gates for all you know. And how cool would it be to have Bill Gates as an ex-coworker and LinkedIn connection? (Answer: Pretty fricken awesome)
If you follow these few tips I can ensure that you will make it through your internship in Silicon Valley, and survive with a lasting memory of your time. If it does neither for you, then I hope it made for an entertaining read.
Julie is a senior at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater studying marketing and graphic design. She is spending her summer interning at Vera, a tech security startup in Palo Alto.