10 Tips for a Tech Intern

So you’ve landed a sweet little internship with the awesomely fun Sundog, or maybe some other web development internship elsewhere. It’s going to be a blast, but there are always a few things to keep in mind. They’ll probably tell you all this but I’ll tell you again anyway because you might’ve forgotten and I really like making lists. So here are 10 tips to keep in mind going in to your internship.

  1. Talk to people.
    Talk to everyone! I asked someone to have lunch just once and they asked me if I wanted to use them as a reference in the future. I also got a sweet list of places to look for work, what I can expect from an entry-level position, and much more. That was one lunch. I only wish I reached out more because who knows how many places I could go with all those connections. If reaching out is hard to do in person, send them an email. Emails are great because you can think about what you want to say and there’s no awkward moment where you walk up to them out of the blue.
  2. Speak out.
    If you and your fellow interns are doing a website project, speak out about what you think needs to be done with the website and how some things should happen earlier or later. You and the tech department are the ones who know how a website works, not the designer or the project manager or the copy writer. They need your help and they might not realize it. They won’t realize it until you say something, so say something! Even if end up being wrong, it’s better to get it out there than just say nothing at all.
  3. There’s no one way to write code.
    You could make your website responsive by setting all your boxes to be certain percentages of a screen, or you could set everything to be a certain width at certain screen sizes, or you could use Bootstrap and it does everything for you. You’ll notice some ways are easier, some ways lighten your code, and some ways are just awful but still get the job done. This applies to everything in the world of coding, and web development is no exception. Open your mind and just try and find the solution that works best for the client, the users, and for yourself.
  4. Log your hours as specifically as you can.
    It’s tough (and admittedly kind of annoying) to write down everything you do in a certain task, especially when you’re jumping around a site doing a bunch of tiny things here and there, but it can get very messy later on if your hours end up inconsistent. Also, during the project estimation session, be just as specific. They’re going to ask what are all the things you need to do for the website and you might not have all the answers, so talk to your advisor and get the answers. If you find out later that the website needs something else you hadn’t mentioned or the amount of time for a specific task isn’t even close to what was estimated, you’re really messing up the project manager’s work and that’s bad. In the real world you would also be messing with the budget and that’s REALLY bad!
  5. Organize your code.
    If you’re doing a project with Sundog, you’re going to end up writing a fairly large amount of code. Probably more than you’ve done for any school project. So if your code starts to get messy and you run into problems like a tag isn’t closed somewhere or something isn’t in the right order, it’s going to be very hard to tell where the problem is happening if you don’t organize everything as you go. Try to leave comments behind to remind you what something does, and try and keep your CSS selectors in categories that are relevant to each other so it’s easier to find something specific when you need to come back to it.
  6. Ask your advisors for help.
    They’re here to help you and they might be busy sometimes but they signed on to do this because they wanted to. If you have a question that you can’t figure out from searching around online, it’s likely that your advisor will have further insight on ways you can solve it. They’ve been doing this a long time and what may seem like a big problem to you could be an easy fix to them.
  7. Communicate concerns to the design intern.
    If you notice that all of the images they’re sending you are way too big or small, let them know. If you know of a better way they should crop certain elements to keep the margins consistent on the website, let them know. The designer may have never worked on a website before and might not realize that every pixel counts on a website. They might not know that the image dimensions, the image file size, or the way an image is cropped can affect that layout. Also, if there’s something the designer wants to incorporate that you don’t think would work well or if there’s something you think should be added, talk it over and try to come to an agreement.
  8. Communicate concerns to the writing intern.
    The amount of text you put on a website can also change the layout dramatically. If you notice there’s too much or too little content given to you for a section, let the writer know so it can stay consistent with your and the designer’s layout.
  9. Be an active participant in brainstorming sessions.
    Your input matters as much as everyone else’s and that input can ultimately lead to how the website will be designed in the end. The butterfly effect very much applies in the timeline of putting together a marketing plan and website. One thing will definitely lead into another so if there’s something you think the website should have, try and see the marketing equivalent of that element and raise awareness about it early on. Discuss among one another and you’ll put together something awesome!
  10. Have fun!
    More importantly, find out if this is something that you have fun doing. I happen to love this work more than anything and Sundog is one of the greatest places to be for doing it. An internship is a great opportunity to realize what you do and don’t like. If you start to realize that you like the wireframing part more than the actual coding, maybe you’d do better in user experience design or UX design. Reach out to other UX designers at Sundog and see what you can learn. You might just surprise yourself with how many directions you can go from web development.

So there are the top 10 tips I can think of for going into the tech internship. If it was too much to take in at once, then just remember to THINK BIG, keep an open mind and an open ear, work hard, and have fun and by the end, you’ll have a lot to show for it!