Community

What’s it take to intern for a PIE startup?

A few of the PIE startups have spent the past month working with this year’s fresh batch of Epicodus interns. Since they’re wrapping up their internship this week, I got them together to find out what their experience has been like.

What’s crazy is that less than 6 months ago, this group had their hands in completely different fields than what they’re in now. From the group is a high school teacher, another who worked in air traffic control, and others who did admin work and business development. They’re a diverse group that’s pretty proud of how far they’ve come with understanding and executing code.

To start, I spoke with Christian Danielson who’s working on refactoring the front end code base for Outdoor Project and the duo Catherine Chen and Justin Spears working with Read the Docs. “I initially began working on tackling some bugs,” Catherine said. The pair is also writing a bookmarking feature for Read the Docs users to further organize their documentation.

I also had a chance to chat with interns Jennifer McCarthy and Tanner Stewart who are working with PIE alum Switchboard. “They’ve got us building an app that they can use internally for meeting communication, but they also have us working in Switchboard code—building out some smaller features for actual users.” Tanner’s been working on some of their membership premium products.

So what’s it really like to intern for a PIE startup? In a fast paced startup environment, I figured that trying to keep up with it all would be a challenge.

“The challenges aren’t in actual code building,” Jennifer chimed in. “But this is the first time I’ve actually contributed to something that wasn’t built by me. I’m working with a new dev team that’s never existed in my career before. So I’d say the challenges are just getting used to that environment and figuring out where I fit in them.” The rest of the group seemed to echo her, almost chorusing around the theme PERSISTENCE. Every single one of them admitted to facing challenges, but they’d either ask questions until they resolved the issue, or they’d “google it” until they found the answer they were looking for.

According to Eric, cofounder of Read the Docs, it was an amazing experience for them too. “Not only have [the interns] been great people to work with, but it’s also been great helping people get into the field,” he said. “Being at PIE is neat because they get to see part of the startup process. They helped give feedback on our pitches and were good at finding issues only new people can find.”

So the next time you’re facing a challenge and trying to figure out how to kick ass, remember the Epicodus interns at PIE and perseverance. Catherine said it best: “there’s always going to be challenge, but this internship experience has shown me that each challenge can be tackled individually, and by taking that approach you find that you’re able to move forward every day—this is exciting.”

Interested to learn more about Epicodus? Visit their website to learn more.
Looking for a job or internship in Portland? Have you checked here? Portland Startups Switchboard.

Catherine and Justin with Read the Docs

Catherine and Justin // Read the Docs

Jennifer and Tanner with Switchboard

Tanner and Jennifer // Switchboard

Christian with Outdoor Project

Christian // Outdoor Project

Advice, Alumni, Community

Interns; if I had any right now, I’d make them write this for me

If you’re considering taking on interns, you should seriously take a moment to consider the pros and cons.

Pros:

  • Coffee delivery service *
  • Work no one wants to do gets done
  • They have no bad habits yet, so you can teach them yours
  • You are directly responsible for teaching someone

Cons:

  • You are directly responsible for teaching someone
  • They require more direction & attention than you probably expect
  • Things get done slowly

So you’ve weighed your options and want to bring on some interns. Good luck. Here are a few things we learned from having interns at Switchboard that you should do (or avoid).

Let them get their feet wet on day one

Find a project they can work on that doesn’t require a lot of your time. We had our interns build out an internal dashboard. This was a great opportunity to see just how much they really knew and how they worked. It also allowed them to start working without the overhead of diving into our code.

Review your code with them

Since you’re molding these duckling minds, you should review your work with them. This provides a perfect opportunity for you to teach them all of your bad habits.

Check in regularly

Something I was not great at was checking in regularly. It is easy to forget where they’re at in their abilities, so check in regularly to make sure they aren’t bored or in over their heads.

Interact with your interns outside the office

You should feed them, especially if they’re unpaid interns.

Be nice to your interns

This should go without saying. I just wanted to include this gif.

Include your interns in your company culture

You may be hiring one of these ducklings down the road, so now is the perfect time to make sure they fit with your team.

* I never once made my interns get my coffee. Go ahead and ask them. That said, you totally could.