Blog > Intern Guide

How To Start & Crush Your First Real Project

Posted by Rod Danan | Jul 08, 2020

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Last week must have been a whirlwind. Getting acclimated to a new team and learning their systems is always a bit much. That's the fun of an internship though!

Next up you will be getting your hands dirty on a project that real customers will be using. There's definitely a little pressure but with this guide and your mindset, you will excel.

Before Starting

Just like with any project, start with a plan. If you are working with a product manager, it is likely that your project will be pretty fleshed out. If you are not, you will most likely have to fill in some gaps. Take a deep breath. You're in the startup world now.

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First, if you have not gotten fully set up with the necessary tools yet, speak up and fast. Once that's out of the way, confirm the flow of work with your mentor. Something like "Okay, to confirm, I should submit daily push requests in Gitlab and then update my status in Trello?". Organization from the get-go will make you look like a superstar and allow you to work on bigger projects sooner.

If you are coding or designing a feature without context, seek that context. That search can be internal by reviewing notes or talking it over with your mentor. That search can also be external by seeing how the feature works in similar products. Don't start work until you are clear on this.

Being a recent bootcamp grad, you might be more tuned in to new tools and frameworks that make work easier. Bring them up. Your mentor might not be as in the loop as you and you could potentially save a lot of time and money (this is good!). If you get shot down, do not be discouraged. They might consider your suggestion for the next project. 

Working on Your Project

Equipped with a plan of attack, this first project will be much easier. However, things will pop up that you either can't fix or don't know. It's normal and here's what to do over the next 2-4 weeks as you work.

Just because week 1 is over does not mean you can't ask questions anymore. In fact, this is probably the time you ask the most questions since most questions pop up while working on problems. The big differentiator is the type of question.

For technical questions, always try to solve it yourself first. Hit the Google, try a few different solutions, and troubleshoot. Part of working in tech is figuring stuff out yourself. On the flip side, you don't want to spend 10 hours trying to fix one thing when there are only 20 hours per week for your internship.

For non-technical issues or those bugs that you can't solve after 15 minutes, ask for help. No shame in it. Hit the messaging app your company is using or post your issue in our community. Your internship is meant for you to learn and a tough bug builds character. In addition, your mentor understands you don't have all the answers yet - especially about the business specifics.

No Reply?

In the rare case that your mentor is not answering for over 24 hours or any sort of communication issues pop up, be clear and direct about it. Email your mentor or another person in the company expressing your feelings. If you are dedicating 3 months of your time to them, they owe you communication. 

Hopefully, any communication issues can be squashed quickly as both sides learn to work with each other. If all else fails though, remember: Prentus has your back. Message Rod directly in the community chats or email us at support@prentus.co so we can get your internship back on track.

Finishing Up

As you wrap up your first project, it is important for you and your mentor to learn from it.

Your mentor will be analyzing throughout to see what you enjoy most and how to maximize your abilities. At the end of this first round, they are sure to have feedback. Extract as much as you can from them to improve yourself. Be open to hearing the worst so that you can eventually be your best.

You should also analyze yourself. When did you perform best? What tripped you up? How can you be even better? Try to be self-aware about these things and even vocalize it in your weekly mentor meetings. This is sure to impress your mentor and increase the chances they want to keep you long-term.


Summary

Next up, you'll be further integrated into the company. We will talk about that in the next part of the Internship Handbook.

  1. Make a Plan
    1. Confirm processes
    2. Seek context - both internally and externally
    3. Suggest tips and tools to your mentor
  2. Working on Your Project
    1. Try to solve technical questions yourself with Google
    2. Message mentor for non-technical or difficult technical questions
    3. Don't feel pressure to exceed 20 hours per week
    4. Email Prentus support if things become untenable
  3. Wrapping Up
    1. Get feedback from mentor to improve
    2. Self-analyze to find where you can improve
    3. Be transparent about where you can improve

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How to Start an Internship Off On The Right Foot

It's time to prepare to make the most of the next 3 months and that starts with week 1 of your internship. If you nail the first week, you can get up to speed and learn a ton of new things that will prepare you for a career in tech.

Posted by Rod Danan | Jun 05, 2020