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Two Questions Every Intern Needs to Answer


On my first day at raw engineering as an intern, I walked into an office full of 9 smiling faces excited to be a part of an awesome team. In a startup environment, I’ve learned it is extremely important that each member of the team contributes. When I started I knew that getting help and helping others would be important to my contributions to the team. After working at raw engineering for several months, I’ve figured out when I should ask for help, and when I should offer it.

When should I ask for help?

One of the most important aspects of being an intern is balancing being self-sufficient and knowing when to ask another team member for help. In a small, busy office, every minute of everybody’s time is valuable. The team is always working on a lot of projects and doing its best to stay on top of the constant flow of new work. So, when I am given a new project and need some clarification, I have to figure out if I can do it on my own, or if I need to ask for help.

There are three ways to go about working on a project that I am unclear about: immediately ask another team member for help, schedule a meeting with someone who can help at a time that’s convenient for him/her, or attempt to figure it out totally on my own. I try to think about asking for help in terms of ROI. If I’m going to just sit at my desk and be unable to start the task at hand, it is a waste of my time and the company’s investment in me. It is also a waste of investment if I am taking up someone else’s time to ask them questions that I can answer on my own.

If I believe that I need help with a project, I first take a step back and make sure that I understand the big picture. If I can’t explain the big picture of the project, then I know I need some immediate clarification. If I can explain the big picture but don’t have an understanding of the specifics of the project, then I schedule a meeting and try to figure out the specifics in the mean time. If I am unclear about a few details of the project, I can usually figure it out on my own with a Google search and some critical thinking. Through implementing these three rules for myself about asking for help, I have learned to work independently while still getting the help I need to be the most efficient intern I can be.

When should I offer help?

For my first project at raw engineering, I analyzed the onboarding experience on our built.io platform and constructed a presentation with recommendations to improve the experience. While I don’t have very many years of experience in the tech world yet, my fresh set of eyes on the product allowed me to objectively and critically analyze the onboarding experience of built.io. I was actually able to do this project more effectively due to my lack of experience because I didn’t have any preconceived notions of what the onboarding experience was supposed to be like. After completing this project and getting a positive response from the rest of the team on my recommendations, I realized that my own, unique perspective is sometimes just what the team needs. My previous shyness about offering help was all in my head and there are plenty of times when I have the right tools for the task at hand – even as an intern. When I can tell that a coworker is in need of something I can help with, I should never hesitate to offer.

I have found these answers to my initial questions to be very helpful as I am now comfortable and confident in the office. I can definitely say that while I have learned a great deal about technology this summer, I have also learned a lot about navigating a busy, tech startup workplace environment.

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