What’s it like being an intern at Owler? Here are a few tips from our most recent (and amazing!) undergrad intern, David Cordero (Dartmouth ‘16).
(Owler is looking for a summer marketing intern! Are you a driven self-starter who wants to know what it’s like working for a startup? Email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.)
Today wraps up my winter internship at Owler. While I knew that ten weeks would fly by, I’m writing this blog post sooner than I was anticipating. Of the many things that I learned, it’s hard to narrow down what I want to be remembered by, and pass on to future interns. Throughout it I have written myself several notes for me to look back at once my time is over.
Here are my musings and personal reminders that I think are worthwhile to pass on.
Yes, working at Owler is real life.
Often times while at Owler, it was easy to forget that I was working. Owler is such a fun place — where board meetings may include inflatable pirate swords and Fridays are musically themed “Country Friday” — partly because of the value placed on a work-life balance. I was at first shy to the idea of shooting coworkers with Nerf guns or building Lego sets for an afternoon or two. In due time, however, Owler’s lightheartedness made it easy to forget I was employed 9 to 5.
I had to be mindful of keeping myself accountable of my projects and tasks, even when having fun felt like a good way to give myself a break. Despite all the perks that Owler provides its employees (and believe me, there are several) this is still work. Like many startups, Owler is a magical place to be because at times it really pays to enjoy oneself. As hard as it is to believe, people at startups really do work, but it requires discipline and self-motivation.
Check your work twice.
Interning at Owler I was humbly reminded that I still have so much to learn. On the projects I was assigned, I made a few mistakes on the first try. From the bigger bumps (like sending our newsletter to the wrong recipients) to the smaller ones (like misaligning objects on an infographic), I learned to never underestimate my tasks. Had I taken an extra five to ten minutes each time, I would have avoided several errors. The idiom goes “measure twice, cut once,” but for working at a startup I revised it to “place twice, execute once.”
If there is one thing that I am now certain of it’s that time is our most valuable resource. Time spent revising previous work is time not spent working on the current task (plus it gets tedious to have to clean up after oneself multiple times). Again: plan twice, execute once.
Startups aren’t for everyone, and that’s okay.
My time at Owler was phenomenal. I really enjoyed working with everyone, I found the projects I took on challenging, and I learned more than I can share. But as the past week and a half has passed by, I realized that working at a startup just wasn’t the right fit for me. Not because my experience at Owler was awful — quite the contrary — but because I wasn’t growing exclusively in one area, which I now realize I needed more than anything. I found my work exciting and worthwhile, but it all felt, for one reason or another, like having my fingers in too many pies. Startups thrive when employees perform multiple roles and, yes, it is what I wanted to try when I decided to intern at Owler. Yet, I’ve realized that it is the last thing I needed. Some people enjoy working on different projects that require multiple skillsets, but I’ve realized that the multi-faceted aspect of startup work isn’t the career development I need right now.
Just because I don’t see myself working at a startup this summer doesn’t mean that I won’t ever return to the startup world. One of the most valuable lessons I take away is learning about where I’d like to go professionally. Which, for me, means getting a bit more experience in other fields and polishing niche skills before returning later. Perhaps a few years from now, once I have more experience in one domain, like marketing, business development, or UX design, I’ll feel that my contributions are directed and meaningful. Until then, I’ll probably spread myself too thin again by working on various tasks that split my attention.
This is what it’s all about.
My time here was definitely time well spent. The one thing I always have in mind when applying to internships is: “Try this out and see if it’s what you imagined it to be. If things don’t work out long term, then at least you know.” As I leave Owler, I have a better sense of the kind of work that I enjoy and am good at. I’ve learned, for example, that I like creative work, like content writing and UX design, and I don’t like staring at Excel sheets or managing AdWords (though I have gotten better at both of them). Although performing multiple jobs felt sporadic at times, it helped me narrow down what I want to do next. I’m excited to take these lessons and try my hand at something else.
And that’s what Owler is about, after all — making more informed professional decisions.
I feel incredibly fortunate for the opportunity I had to intern at such a lively, outgoing, and hardworking place. Thanks, Owler, for the laughter, lessons, and work experience. I leave with a better sense of humor, an appreciation for Excel, improved rock climbing skills, an admiration for constant and relentless improvement, and much more.
David S. Cordero