Being a marketing intern at a tech startup has been one of the most rewarding and challenging experiences I have ever had. It is important to understand how I got an internship in an industry that I had little understanding of and how I gained the skills and confidence to make it work.
Here is a little background
To start, I was not a great student. I struggled in elementary school, junior high, and high school. I underestimated my own capabilities in fear that if I tried, I would fail, and everyone would know it. In college, I worked hard to study, but I didn’t believe in myself. Finally, I found my academic passion was writing.
Time jump! I graduated college, moved back to my hometown and began bartending full-time. I was frustrated and felt stuck in the service industry. This was not supposed to be my life. I was destined to be a writer, right? Well, turns out it’s not always simple to get into the field of your choosing. I decided to enroll in graduate school to become a better writer and make waves in a field I was passionate about.
As a bartender, I was introduced to the VP of Marketing at FullContact who was interested in learning more about me. Nervously, I sent the VP of Marketing my resume and examples of my work. Soon, I was sitting in a beautiful office, waiting to be interviewed by the entire marketing team. I met content writers, data analysts, marketing automation experts, and more. I was so impressed by their knowledge and felt out of place, but hopeful to learn and be more like them in the future. I gave the team a handwritten thank you note, showing my gratitude for the experience to interview with them, and left with adrenaline and excitement surging through my body. I was one step closer to achieving one of my biggest goals.
A couple weeks went by, and I waited, interviewing with other companies but still nervous and hopeful FullContact would offer me the internship. Finally, on a Sunday around 1:00 PM, I received an email from the VP of Marketing that said, “Congratulations Lauren, we would like to offer you a contract as an intern with FullContact. After a great round of interviews, the team unanimously decided you would be a great addition to FullContact.”
The first day on the job
On my first day, I was greeted with a welcome gift on my new desk. I was re-introduced to the marketing team and then to every other department. My tour included a kitchen stocked full of endless La Croix sodas and iced tea. Candy and snacks were in abundance along with some healthy fruit, of course. I felt like I was in an episode of Silicon Valley. (If you haven’t seen the show, I would recommend watching it. It’s pretty darn accurate when it comes to working in technology.) While the snacks and office space were impressive, it was the lessons I learned along the way that made the internship worthwhile.
Here are my top 7 lessons of interning at a tech startup:
- Don’t take things personally. Working in a technology startup, emotions can run high. People are passionate about the company, brand, leadership, and product. When leadership gives you feedback, cherish it, be mindful of it, and enhance your work with it.
- When you don’t understand something at work, research it. I can’t tell you how many times I sat in a meeting and didn’t understand anything that anyone was saying. My suggestion is to keep notes in the meeting and write down any words or concepts you didn’t understand. Look it up, and research it. One good example for me was the concept of an API. While people explained it to me, the most helpful explanation was one I found on YouTube comparing API keys to the service industry.
- Try to ask people questions, not just in your department, but across the entire company. Team bonding and relationship building can be just as important as producing great work. I made sure to attend outside work events and ask questions from engineers, developers, sales, accounting, and even the CEO. By asking these questions I felt like I was closer to the team as a whole and gained more confidence in my own work.
- Move around, take a quick walk, go get coffee before you go crazy. Just to clarify, working doesn’t make me crazy, but sitting at the same desk too long does. Staring at a computer screen all day isn’t great for you. A great way to kill two birds with one stone is to get coffee with someone you don’t know as well. Build relationships while you stretch your legs and clear your brain.
- Be confident in your work. As I explained earlier, I struggled with some self-esteem issues my entire life. Being involved in a company with technological geniuses was more than intimidating. I started to realize that I was hired for a reason. The more confident you are in your work, the more it will translate into results.
- Take your time. I was on a mission to prove to my boss that I have the fastest turn around rate on the planet. One piece of feedback I received from him was to take more time with my projects. Be careful and really analyze your work. It was about quality, not quantity.
- Be open-minded to change and transformations. Working in a tech startup means that change is a guarantee. Since I’ve started, FullContact has increased their staff, changed the office layout, and continued to evolve as a company. Change is essential and getting comfortable with the concept of change can only help you in the end.
After learning so many important life lessons, I gained skills I would have never had just from going to school. I was always fearful of internships, but I now understand their value. If you have an opportunity to learn from people that you wouldn’t normally be able to learn from, take it. I will always cherish the moments I’ve had at FullContact and look forward to taking the tools they gave me and successfully using them in the future.