What it's really like to intern in tech in NYC

by Wellesley Daniels
July 19, 2016

There was a time in the not-so-distant past when the most competitive and sought-after jobs in New York City were offered by the world’s largest banks, headquartered in the luxury high-rises of Wall Street and Midtown Manhattan. But New York’s bourgeoning tech scene is giving finance a run for its money — and its employees. More autonomy, flexible hours and dress codes, cool offices and an overarching appreciation for the relationship between happy employees and better products provide a stark contrast to banking’s long days and stuffy cubicle farms. New York’s youngest and brightest are taking note, and taking off.

Here’s what they have to say about interning in New York City tech, from HR to engineering:

 

Megan Enright, PR Intern

What’s been your favorite part of your internship?

Hands-on takes a whole new meaning at a growing company like Betterment and the experiences that come out of this have definitely been my favorite part. On just the second day of my internship, I was able to join my mentor to staff an interview at NASDAQ’s headquarters in Times Square. Attending conferences, sitting-in on interviews, and hearing the daily conversations that take place has allowed me to better understand the work at Betterment. The willingness to bring an intern along for these experiences, especially so early on, is definitely unique to Betterment.

Any funny or particular telling stories to share?

Despite growing up only 45 minutes outside the city, I'd never taken the subway much before starting my internship at Betterment. Just last week, I was on my way to Bloomberg West with Arielle, the Senior PR Associate, and Jon, Betterment’s CEO (another incredible hands-on experience!). I looked up after swiping my MetroCard to the two of them squeezed in between the subway doors to hold it open for me as I was moving a little slower than your typical 'New Yorker.' Whether it's taking the time and effort in the office to include, teach, and get to know interns or throwing oneself in the middle of a subway door, everyone at Betterment has been incredibly helpful.

Katherine Lee, Software Engineer Intern

How would you describe the company culture? How do you feel you fit in as an intern?

I really enjoy Betterment's company culture. The word I think best describes it is 'open.' Everything from the layout of desks and conference rooms on each floor, to the welcoming attitude of full-time employees, to the accessibility of my mentor and the clear expectations for me as an intern, contribute to Betterment's very open and positive work environment. I am spending my summer as a member of the Mobile Team, focusing specifically on Betterment's Android app. Since the very first week I have been treated like a full member of the team. None of my team members or other full-time employees have treated me like 'just an intern.' Instead, I have been welcomed onto the team and entrusted with real projects.

Any funny or particular telling stories to share?

Recently, Betterment sent its interns on a really interesting and engaging tour of The Met. We had a great time learning about art and listening to stories we would probably never have otherwise heard. I think the fact that Betterment organized a trip like this for us is very telling when it comes to what we are expected to take away from this internship. Obviously we are here for the summer to learn and gain real world experience, as well as make a real contribution to our team and Betterment as a whole. However, Betterment recognizes that this is also an opportunity to learn about things other than our direct work, to have fun, and for many of us the chance to explore an exciting new city.

 

 

Jennifer Wang, Online Marketing Intern

What’s been your favorite part?

A unique experience about interning with Outbrain is seeing the impact of my efforts and knowing that I really contribute to the success of the team. Even though the company has been growing rapidly, I appreciate that my manager trusts the quality and accuracy of my work on a larger scale.

Any funny or particular telling stories to share?

I wasn’t kidding earlier when I mentioned how fun and inclusive the culture is at Outbrain. Recently, my team had a half day retreat, and one of the venues was playing bubble soccer. To the uninitiated, bubble soccer is basically a game of traditional soccer, except each player is strapped in a giant plastic ball that reaches above one’s head to just below the knees. If a team can have fun, be comfortable, and collaborate in that setting, the team can do anything.

 

 

 

Kevin Tran, HR Intern

What has surprised you about working here?

The most surprising thing about working here was probably the benefits that I think a lot of people take for granted. Having worked at a mid-sized investment bank last year, the contrast was huge. The HR team is always seeking innovative ways to improve employee retention and add value to the organization, whether it be gamification, wellness programs or social events.

Have you ever picked up coffee or are you learning hard skills? What are the most useful skills you’ve picked up?

The funny thing is I actually did a lot of coffee runs last year working at the investment bank. At Fareportal, the most useful skills I've picked up have probably been becoming adept at using Excel. Despite having taken technical classes for an entire year to learn Excel and Access, I probably learned a lot more on the job than I did in class. The data manipulation and analytical skills I've gained in the past month will be crucial in my professional endeavors. In addition to these analytical skills, the knowledge I've learned of the Human Resources industry is pretty interesting and will definitely aid me as I pursue a career in management consulting.

 

 

Shyam Raghavan, Interface/Platform Intern 

What has surprised you about working here?

I always heard that Squarespace took an interest in well-maintained, beautiful code, but I’ve really been blown away by the sheer effort the engineers here put into developing workable, beautiful software. It’s amazing how much the people here take the values of the company to heart and really believe in them. The beautiful thing about Squarespace is that team members are intelligent and passionate about the core values, which I haven’t found to be a common occurrence elsewhere.

Have you ever picked up coffee or are you learning hard skills? What are the most useful skills you’ve picked up?

When I first read this question, I was honestly confused — picking up coffee isn’t even in the realm of possibility here at Squarespace, and that’s a great thing! I’m treated like a full-time employee, and I’m learning more than I ever knew there was to learn about front-end engineering. I’m enjoying every minute of it.

While I’ve really appreciated the technical skills I’ve picked up at Squarespace, I’ve also acquired meta-skills that I think are just as, if not more, important. In other words, I’ve learned how to pick up new skills, how to interact with new technologies, and how to quickly get up to speed with a new company’s operating procedures; all of these new skills came completely organically out of the personal relationships I forged with colleagues here.

 

 

Have a news tip for us or know of a company that deserves coverage? Let us know or tweet us @builtinnewyork

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