This series of posts was originally published on the Duke SIP Blog.
You might be reading this blog post because you are interested in Duke’s Summer Innovation Program (SIP). Or you might be a student wondering how to maximize their summer internship. In either case, you’ll find survival tips for getting the most out of your summer experience.
What is this series?
I am writing a series of blog posts detailing specific examples of what I learn over the course of my internship. My experiences are particular, so they may not apply to your situation.
What’s more, these posts are partial. I’m learning so much I can’t possibly cover it all in a handful of posts.
What is my internship?
I am working with ReverbNation for 8 weeks as a Jr Product Manager Intern. I report to the VP of Product (a Duke Fuqua alum, fyi). My day to day tasks include creating specifications for development tasks, assisting in coordinating the team (~4 developers and 1 QA person) around the weekly build cycle, solving specific strategy questions related to product, and conducting experiments to create data-fueled decisions.
In broad strokes I am learning about: agile development, kanban workflow, rapid iteration, usage of a suite of tools to quickly and accurately spec tasks (omnigraffle, skitch, and trello chief among them), people management/team dynamics, product strategy, business strategy.
Is it worth it?
Absolutely. ReverbNation is a rapidly scaling software as a service (SaaS) company that provides promotional tools to musicians. It currently has ~80 employees. I have plenty of exposure to C-suite executives, other Product Managers, and amazing dev talent and leadership.
I feel like I am learning a year’s worth of business school in two months. What’s even better, what I am learning is application-focused (of course, this does mean some generality is sacrificed compared to a b-school education).
How do you get so much out of it?
Ask questions. It is your job as an intern to maximize your time at the company. You will be given tasks to do, some of which will be tedious, some of which will be awesome. Be a total badass at all of them, and ask everyone every question you have. This is how you learn.
What’s more, everyone at Reverb is super friendly. Despite being insanely busy, they take time to answer your questions and make the experience very positive. I feel like this company has great core values.
How do I know if my company will be as cool as yours?
I’m a bit of a Reverb fanboy by now so I may be a bit biased 😉
However, I think keeping some simple things in mind will help you make a good decision regarding who to work for.
1. The interview process is bi-directional. It’s a chance for you to asses the company’s core competencies, scale, amount and type of work available for you, and educational opportunity the internship presents. Again, ask questions.
2. Specific things you want to know about your experience. Who will I be reporting to? How often will I report to him or her? How often and what kind of feedback will I get? What will my daily responsibilities be? What core business areas/skills (e.g. product strategy, financial analysis, advanced Photoshop skills) should I expect high exposure to? How easy is it to talk to other executives?
3. Specific things you want to know about the company. How many employees are there? How many employees were there last year? Why do they want an intern/how many interns do they have? Does the startup have traction? (How they measure traction when they respond to this will be telling too – is it a vanity metric or solid stuff?) What are the founders’ histories (have they founded successful companies before?)? What goals for my development does the person-I-am-reporting-to have? Can I speak with the person I would be reporting to? (Huge red flag if you don’t get a chance to do that / get interviewed by that person anyways).
4. If you can afford it, don’t worry about pay. I would expect something in the $15-$25/hr range in Durham, NC. This is including the (generous!) stipend Duke provides. However, since the company is effectively getting you for much less (since Duke is paying a stipend), ensure that your educational benefit is really worth it.
What Does Continuous Innovation Look Like?
The 90-10 Rule – Product Launch Mayhem
The Value of a Daily Standup
Adjusting to Constant Iteration
Startup Management and Labor Psychology
Reverb, This is My Goodbye
Abhishek Bose-Kolanu, Summer 2013