How to have a successful internship

Posted by Quang Nguyen on 2022-07-29
Estimated Reading Time 9 Minutes
Words 1.6k In Total

Hey everyone, I am back in my blog. I have just finished a 12-week Software Engineer Internship at Meta. I feel sad to leave everything in the Bay Area to get back to Houston where I will continue my junior year at Rice University. I learnt a lot of new things about the tech industry and practiced many valuable skills. At the end of my internship, my intern manager told me I did really well and my whole team loved working with me. This compliment meant a lot for me and I want to share to you guys how to have a successful internship


For me preparation is a good step to take (not necessary though) before the internship. I would reach out to people who worked as interns or employees at the company and ask them how was their experience. For software engineer intern, I would try to ask about the tech stacks and what were their projects and what challenges they faced during their time working there. I think having this knowledge beforehand definitely better prepares you mentally of what the work will be like.

After knowing what other people did for their internships, you would have a sense of what to learn and prepare for your internship. If it is a SWE job like mine, you can practice using the tech stack that the company is using. For example, my projects involve in using PHP which I have never used before. I decided to go on Youtube, learned about PHP, and did a small project using PHP. This helped me familiarize with the syntax and the use cases of the language during my internship.

I also posted in some tech community groups on Facebook asking for helpful advice for experienced people on my first internship. I got a lot of help and I knew more things about the industry even before I started including how to write code effectively, how to keep work-life balance, how to network with other people, and what should I do to go over challenges.


Taking Notes

This is a very important thing that I always try to do whenever I work on anything. Taking notes is crucial to your development and success during the internship because:

  • It helps you remember all the new things you will learn at your internship. After my orientation, I am blasted with a ton of information. It is really hard to remember and understand all the new technologies, work cultures, policies at a completely new place that you have just got in. Thus, I kept a Notion doc of all of my notes from the beginning of my internship, documenting everything I think is important. These things could include
    • Orientation details: company policies, new hire training, tech stacks material
    • Meeting notes: with my recruiter, my teammates and my intern manager
    • My current project progress: I keep track of the stacks that I am using for my project, my code for different ongoing tasks and screenshots of some challenging problems or bugs I am facing to be able to resolve later
    • My past errors: when working as a SWE intern, you are sure to make many mistakes. It is important to document these mistakes and make sure you don’t make those mistakes again in the future
  • It provides you with a self-reflection of your skills and thoughts. You can see what were you thinking, what challenges you were facing or what solutions you came up with when you solve this problem. This can help you further develop your skills and help you go through problems in the future



Making Connections and Networking

Obviously, an internship is not all about doing projects and working 24/7. It is a time that you are able to meet and connect with other peers, interns and employees. You will also get a chance to talk with very experienced people in the industry so you should make good use of this time.

  • Making new friends. For me, I am very lucky to stay in a corporate housing along with many other interns. I have a group of friends that I usually hang out with and we got to many places together in the Bay Area such as San Francisco, Santa Cruz and a State park. With a group of friends, you will not feel left out and it is easier to share stories and work experiences with people are doing the same thing with you
  • Connect with your teammates. Your team members are the people that will work with you for the entire internship so it is usually helpful to connect them. I always had lunch or dinner with my teammates and listened to them when they shared about the work experience as a full-time employee and some advice they gave to interns. I also asked about how were they able to work well in their project and how did they keep the work-life balance.
  • Networking. The people around you are very experienced people in the industry and it would be a great idea to ask them about career advice and job progression.

Proactive in your work and show your impact

In order to make the most out of the experience as an interns at Meta, I always try to be proactive in my work. This will show that you are dedicated to your work and you want to be successful in your internship. There are a lot of ways to show that you want to develop your skills and contribute to your work

  • I keep a weekly update Google document of the things that I have learnt in the week, what I have done for my tasks, what questions that I have during the week either general questions or technical questions and what I plan to do next week. I always tried to keep up this document for all of 12 weeks in my internship and my team was really happy about this clear and concise document. It helped them understand exactly what was my progress and helped me resolve the questions I have
  • I document everything that I do in my code. It is really important to understand and reproduce the problems and bugs you have faced, and how you solved those problems. I think that this also applies to all other internship. 1-2 months from now, you would find it difficult to remember what you have done with this task and how were you able to go through this problem. That’s why documenting your thought process while you are doing your task is crucial.
  • To show my impact, I proactively created biweekly update posts for the team so that they could see what I have done for my project and how could I improve myself after that. In addition to showcase your results and impact, these posts can help you review your progress and improve on your weaknesses. This is a post that I made after launching my product

Focus while in the zone

This is my personal thought on how to productively work in an internship. I believe that we should concentrate 100% on working while we are “in the zone”. This means that when you are feeling comfortable and your mind is processing information really efficiently, you should focus on your work to get as much things done as possible. Don’t be distracted by your phone, other people or any other tabs on your browser. This “wired up” state usually helps a person accomplish a lot of tasks and deadlines in a short amount of time and many people use this in their daily work as well. So just remember, it is difficult to get into this concentrating state but it is quite easy to get out of it so make sure you make use of this time to be as productive as you can

Recently, internships are mostly hybrid. They contain both in person and remote experiences and it is common to alternate between the two. Personally, I did my internship 4 days in person in the office and 1 day remotely from home. At the office, there would be a lot of people so you should put a headphone in to focus on your work. Schedule your meetings such that you can have the longest segment of time without any meetings or events just to concentrate on getting as much done as possible. There would be days that you will have a lot of meetings and activities in between so make sure you finish your work prior or after to those events. Don’t work for 30 minutes and then jump to a meeting because you will lose your concentration

Have Fun

Working in an internship is definitely important but it is also crucial to have fun and enjoy your life. Work-life balance is definitely an important thing you want to keep in mind. It is easy to lose track of this and you become addicted to working and don’t care about your physical and mental health. Have fun during your working by talking to your friends, family or peers about your work life, going out to different places to explore and getting sufficient rest and entertainment.

That is all for this post and I hope you learn something valuable to apply in your own internship or work. Thank you so much for reading and I will see you in the next post!

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