Why every undergrad should intern for a startup at least once.

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My first post here =D

So, I wrote a post here on my blog, and yep, was asked to blog about it here as well.

So, why should you, as an undergrad intern at a startup?

The truth is, it may not be for everyone. Those who have already decided that they want to work in an investment bank and climb his/her way up the corporate ladder, well, working at a startup is definitely not for them. I’m serious. Now that I’ve gotten that out of the way, this is what my boss has to say on working in a startup.

If you want to be an employee and want a nine to five internship, don't join a startup. You should only join if you want to learn something and enjoy the process of being challenged and being put in the forefront of things.

And I think that is damn true. So, despite what the title says, working in a startup is NOT for everyone. So why should people who don’t fall in the ‘corporate’ category give the startup route at least a try some time in their uni life? (Note: by startup route, i don’t mean starting a company. it can be just working at a startup)

Very simple. 3 reasons.

  1. You learn alot.
  2. I'm currently working at Chalkboard, and heck, I'm learning ALOT of stuff, and getting exposure to alot of stuff as well, from the basic stuff like tech, where I learn python/django, and write more javascript than I've ever written, to sales and marketing, where they actually let me interact with the clients. Yes. They let me interact with the clients. How cool is that? Now, will you get that at an MNC? Will they even let you touch major clients with a ten foot pole?
  3. You think alot
  4. They actually give you quite abit of freedom to do stuff, often with little oversight. What this means is that you don't get to report to some pointy-haired boss what you have been doing once every 2 hours. And what this actually results in, is that you have to think about how are you going to go about doing your job, because NO ONE is going to tell you,
    • step 1, do this
    • step 2, do that
    • ...
    Now, there will be people who don't like this, that's why I said, working at a startup is not for everyone.
  5. You don't have fixed work timings
  6. When there are things to rush, you stay on and work. When there's an emergency, you stay on and help to fix it. At a big company, you're not expected to do that. After all, you're just an intern. But at a startup, you are expected to help respond to emergencies. And as a result, you often get off work late =P. But you have fun in the process. Really. I go home after 6:30pm everyday, even if there is nothing serious that needs my attention going on.

To summarize, you(ok, I) have so much fun and freedom working, that I voluntarily stay on extra to do abit more work. But on a more serious note, there is more benefits to working at a startup, than just the fun and freedom.

Now, startups have limited budgets(other than Color), so generally, if you are not up to standard, there’s a very low chance they’ll let you stay on or even work there the next year. What this means, is that if they want you to go back, or if you manage to get back the next year, there’s a high chance you fall under the Smart and Get Things Done category. Guess what that will do for your resume?

On the other hand, in an MNC, there’s more noise lying around, so your contributions won’t be that obvious. And that’s IF you get to do work at all.

So, what has Chalkboard been letting me do that makes me so damn happy working for them? They let me do the stuff that I find important, such as improving usability, and making the lives of developers and content publishers using Chalkboard products easier. And my stuff get pushed out there into the real world. (Check out the beautiful widget on the top right corner of my blog. I did that.) My ideas get heard. And we are working on helping developers get the data they need. In fact, we have some exciting news coming up in a couple of weeks to empower developers to do what they do best. Follow me @laurenceputra to get the news =D

So, what next? Now you’re convinced to go join a startup next summer, where do you start? There is an awesome program called StartupRoots that matches students to the top startups. They organise talks for their fellows to attend, and these talks are by people like Jeff Jonas & Ian McFarland, chief scientist at IBM and ex-CTO of Pivotal Labs respectively. In fact, this program is so awesome that I’m in it. They managed to get me out of my self-imposed 3 month retirement.

So, what do you think? Should most students try interning at a startup at least once in their uni life?

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