2015-2016 Startup Internship Award winner, supported by the Neff Entrepreneurial Intern Fellowship fund
I spent this past summer interning as a software development engineer for a tech start-up in Manhattan, New York called Lover.ly. Lover.ly is a beautifully designed hub for all things wedding, whether it be editorial content, inspiration, or actual planning, they cover it all. It is a very female empowering company, as both the CEO and Vice President are women. In fact, the only 4 male employees are on the development team! The company is relatively small (about 15 employees) and has been through both its seed round and series A funding stages. I absolutely loved my experience and learned more than I ever expected to.
How did you find the position?
Funny enough, I found the position on Internships.com! It was a simple posting on the website that looked interesting. I did a bit of research into the company and immediately knew it would be a great experience. One bit of advice is to definitely not write off some old-fashioned googling and looking into companies you have never heard of before! Take advantage of all of the resources that are out there.
What was your motivation for working at a start-up this summer?
I am a systems engineering student minoring in Engineering Entrepreneurship. It is my dream to start my own business someday, so I thought, what better way to learn how to run a business than to work at one that is still learning! Start-ups are constantly growing and changing, and it is crucial to see this firsthand if you have any interest in entrepreneurship as a career path.
In my personal opinion it is hard to know what you want out of a career if you haven’t experienced all types of them! It is easy to say that you want to work at a Google or a Goldman, because those are the names that everyone knows, and those are the places that will pay well and provide security. However, I saw great value in the need to experience both big company life and start-up life if I was going to truly be able to figure out where I want to be after graduating. I think this is a really important factor to keep in mind when deciding what to do over the summer.
What advice would you give to students interested in working at a start-up this summer?
If you are interested in start-ups, in my opinion, they are definitely the way to go. I particularly support this statement if you are an undergraduate student doing a summer internship with nothing to lose! Rather than simply give advice, I think it would be beneficial to list out some pros and cons of working at a start-up, and how to deal with the negatives.
Financially, a start-up can generally not pay as much as a major company. It is simply a fact. On top of that, city life is expensive! It is important to be smart about this, as you don’t want to be spending more than you make over the summer unless you have the
resources to do so. Keep in mind though that it is always possible to discuss this matter with the recruiter and make sure that at least your costs will be covered.
Startups are notoriously unstable. While your position for the summer will never be in jeopardy (unless of course the whole company fails) funding and personnel are always changing. In my own experience, the start-up I was at was facing a lot of financial challenges about half way through the summer. They had to lay-off two amazing members of the team and a few others left. It is important to remember that working at a start-up is real life and there is a good chance you could witness those sorts of things. While it is difficult to stomach, it is also key to view it as an incredible learning opportunity and to note what went wrong or what could’ve been done better.
The people! One of the best parts of working at a start-up is the access to incredible people. You will generally find yourself surrounded by very interesting and intelligent individuals with big aspirations and a wide range of previous experiences. Do not under value the connections that can be made as they are just as, if not more valuable than money.
The culture! Start-ups are often fun and fast paced. While the work is taken seriously and often inundating, there is rarely a moment when people are not chatting about something random, grabbing coffee, or planning outside of the office excursions. One of my favorite moments from my summer was attending Escape the Room with my team and then grabbing Korean BBQ afterwards. It was an incredible experience that simply doesn’t happen at larger firms.
The learning! Every day at a start-up something new is happening. This creates a truly unique environment where everyone must be quick and flexible. At the same time, it provides the chance to constantly learn something new. As the company grows, you will grow and in ways you had not even planned. At a start-up everyone is accessible. You can grab lunch with the CEO and pick their brains about managing or fundraising, or ask the head of marketing or PR what to do in an on air interview. You could spend a day, if not more, learning something completely different than what you were brought on to do, a quality special to startups. The possibilities for learning are truly endless.
The list goes on…
I would not have traded my summer experience for anything else. I made some amazing connections and learned skills, both technical and not, that I will carry forward with me throughout my life. One last piece of advice. If you are unsure about whether you would rather intern with a big company or a start-up, consider this: if you are a rising sophomore or junior, now is the time to work at a start-up. As a rising senior you will be more concerned about job recruitment and therefore it will be key to get that return offer at a major company where competition will be fierce during the year. As a lower classman, there is no better time to work at a start-up, and you will not regret your choice to do so.