From January to June, I had the privilege of doing an internship with a relatively small company in Pacific Beach. During my internship, I had the freedom of learning about the ins and outs of WordPress, and how to write a WordPress Plugin from scratch.
Working at a smaller company with somewhat of a startup culture in which everything is not completely organized gave me a lot of freedom to explore and learn about company culture, work mindsets, etc.
At my internship, I worked alone for the most part, with someone that directed and helped me whenever I needed help. The following are things that I realized in my 5 months interning.
Being able to work with and ask questions to a human being is priceless – During my internship, being able to ask questions to my mentor helped clarify things on many occasions. Yes, you can look anything up on Google, but having an actual human to help explain things to you makes things a lot easier. Humans are optimized for human interaction, not digital interaction.
Your work is what you make of it – I had the freedom of going to the office and working on my project whenever I wanted to, but I decided to maintain a regular schedule of twice a week for ten hours each week. Spending a couple months with that routine really exposes your motivation after a while, and that motivation and passion will explain the results that you get. If you just want money, work won’t mean much to you, if you want to learn, money won’t mean much to you.
Read the documentation – During my time there, I found myself Googling many of my questions and browsing sites like StackOverflow. While sites like StackOverflow have a lot of questions and people answering questions, reading the documentation is often much more complete and more conducive to producing quality code. The answers on StackOverflow may be outdated, written for another version, or addressing a different type of problem. Instead of blindly following the answer someone else gives, reading documentation is much better practice for developing your own code and learning.
It’s better to be an expert at one thing than mediocre at everything – I realized that having a reputation for doing one thing really well is infinitely more helpful in leveraging work than simply being mediocre at everything. The jack of all trades is usually the one working tirelessly for small startup companies their whole lives while the focused server-side-database guru has the freedom to leverage careers at many different types of companies.
Writing clean, commented code makes life easier – Toward the end of my internship, having to go back and revise code that I wrote months ago became a painful process when I realized that my code was poorly commented. In school, I never enjoyed writing comments for my code, but after some time in a corporate environment, commenting code helps your project progress smoothly, especially in later stages. Producing clean commented code also helped tremendously when asking for help from a fellow programmer.
Know what you want, and aim higher – Plan for growth and always be learning, because people who are moving forward have an idea of where they are headed, while being flexible enough to change under the right circumstances. Know when to move on, and when to persevere.
Communicate what you can do instead of asking what to do – The mediocre employee is told what to do and monitored in order to ensure productivity. The top performer communicates his abilities and guarantees quality work in his area of expertise, going above and beyond basic requirements. That means that top performers look for good fits instead of trying to fit in everywhere.
Ask questions – Ask questions, and listen to the people who have helpful answers. The people who are willing to take time to answer questions are the people who want to see you succeed and the people that will make a difference in the world.
Write down what you learned – and post it on a blog for everyone to see.