Waterfall Interns (cleverly) posing in front of a waterfall at the San Francisco Japanese Tea Garden.
As a member of Waterfall’s 2014 intern class, I have to say that interning in tech has been one of the most exciting and educational experiences of my life. Yes, I know that sounds cliché, but what can I say when it’s true? When I walked in the door on my first day, thoughts were spinning everywhere in my head: How am I going to keep up with the fast-paced nature of Silicon Valley (mobile, for example, is constantly changing – just take a look at Waterfall’s self-service MMS)? What kind of projects do interns work on? Am I even at the right office?
My concerns soon subsided and I now confidently say that I wouldn’t want to spend my summer any other way. Within these past few weeks, I’ve worked with passionate and inspiring people, learned the ins and outs of mobile marketing, and even participated in a world cup pool (despite not knowing anything about soccer). Starting out as a new intern can be incredibly daunting, but it doesn’t have to be. I’m still learning every day, but here’s a bit of wisdom I discovered – keep these in three thoughts mind and you’ll be set to go above and beyond as an intern at any company.
1. Stay Curious
Every Monday morning during the all staff meeting, Waterfall’s San Francisco and Austin offices go over key presentations covering topics such as platform analytics or client data insights. As much as I learn during the meeting, I never cease to be inspired by the introspective questions that the team asks afterwards; people are always intellectually curious and eager to learn more.
Curiosity in the office is a key characteristic that permeates tech companies – there’s always more to learn and room to grow. More importantly, curiosity fosters an environment where interns can truly thrive. Everyone is willing to help, emphasizing collaboration and support within the office. In the past few weeks, I asked every question I could think of, whether about general life advice (“How do you transition from college to the professional world?”) or Waterfall specific (“How do Lookbooks fit into an overall marketing funnel?”). By constantly asking questions, I set a strong foundation that I can continue to build upon for the rest of the summer. It doesn’t matter if you’re asking client services about case studies or discussing philosophy with professors at school. No matter what the context, always be curious and build your knowledge. At the end of the day, growth comes from learning as much as you can, from as many people as you can.
2. Take (smart) risks
During my first week, Waterfall VP of Marketing Kane Russell told all the interns, “Make mistakes this summer. Just don’t make the same mistake twice.” One of my favorite parts of working at Waterfall is the freedom and ownership we have over our projects. I reluctantly admit that I thought interns had to do a few coffee runs here and there, but this myth was debunked after I came to Waterfall. Here’s a word of advice to fellow interns: believe that you can make a tangible impact (even if it is your first internship!).
For example, one project I’ve been working on is a key client database analysis to interpret various correlations in financial metrics and platform use. Having ownership means my colleague and I can really be creative and insert our personality into the project deliverable – it means we can take risks. Waterfall challenges me to be innovative and thoughtful, and to explore different perspectives to come up with the best solution possible.
The tech industry is incredibly fluid and flexible; there’s freedom to experiment, especially for young people. I compare taking risks as an intern to directing a movie: there’s already a storyline, but it’s up to us to bring it to life. Every morning, I look forward to coming in the office. I have the confidence that I’ll be able to do meaningful work and, of course, overcome the inherent risks and challenges.
3. Know the Office
It’s always fun to grab lunch with someone on the team and listen to their personal perspective. I leave every conversation with another viewpoint or interesting tidbit that I can add to the arsenal of knowledge acquired throughout my internship. I’ve been able to slowly build a comprehensive view of the company by talking to everyone in the office. With each interaction, I get to see a little more about how all of the departments work together and how the puzzle pieces fit to make Waterfall whole. Regardless of whether I’m asking about features on theplatform or looking to get some office ping-pong tips, people without a doubt contribute to Waterfall’s amazing culture. It’s a good idea to get to know them – as you never know what you might learn.
I still walk through the same door every morning, thoughts spinning through my head. Now, however, I’m asking myself different questions: What are the newest trends in tech? What challenges am I tackling for my projects and how do I overcome them? How am I going to take what I learned today and use it tomorrow? That’s what it takes to be successful.