3 Reasons Why I Love Interning at a Startup

Sharlene shares about her experience interning at a Startup!


Startups have been getting a bad reputation nowadays for underpaying, overworking and mistreating their interns. However, my recently completed four-month internship experience at Tinkerbox Studios was quite the opposite. In fact, I absolutely loved my experience.

I am a second-year student at Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD). I was introduced to the Python computer language at school only this year, and I discovered that I love programming. Although I had little programming experience when I first started as a web developer intern at Tinkerbox, I was determined and willing to learn as much as I could on the job.

1. The learning was incredible.

Tinkerbox does agile and full-stack web application development for businesses. This meant that I had to pick up and develop skills in a range of front-end and back-end programming languages simultaneously, which included Ruby on Rails, HTML, CSS5 and Javascript. I also had to master how to use Github, an online service that helps share code between people.

The learning curve was definitely steep, but I had so much fun. Learning in Tinkerbox is fantastic. The first four weeks of my internship was a training phase. I went through 13 online courses to learn the basics of the programming languages to be used for development work at Tinkerbox. I understand this to be a privilege that few companies offer to interns.

For the remaining twelve weeks of my internship, I worked on four different client projects, all of which came with its own set of exciting challenges. Whenever I ran into any problems, I could easily approach any senior developers for advice. People in the company are very willing to teach, and questions are very encouraged. In fact, it is through these conversations with experienced developers where I find myself learning the most. I appreciate the strong culture of learning from one another in this company.

Working at a startup, which also does business with other startups, has also given me the chance to interact with people with different backgrounds. I have met passionate developers who have previous jobs you may never have guessed at – such as being a Mediacorp producer or a restaurant manager. I have met entrepreneurs who are fearlessly pursuing their dreams – whether it is to promote local music through building a publicity site, or to build an online social network for volunteers and non-profit organizations. All of these people had rather uncommon yet inspiring perspectives on things, and it was very humbling to have met and learnt from all of them.

2. The company culture is pretty awesome.

One thing that stands out immediately about Tinkerbox is that the environment is so relaxed and flexible – it was a culture shock adjusting to it at first! To begin with, both the dress code and working hours were very flexible. A good amount of freedom was given to us to manage our own work. The company was also always very open to new ideas. For example, along the way, it was possible to help propose and establish new working collaborations (e.g. Tinkerbox giving a programming workshop to SUTD students) between Tinkerbox and SUTD, which share a similar philosophy of design and innovation.

Tinkerbox also treats its staff well – including interns. On my first day, I remembered that a fellow intern was raving over Kirei Kirei’s hand soap over lunch. When my boss was out on an errand to restock the pantry, he remembered her comment and bought the soap for the office. It might have been a small thing, but it was my first clue to the fact that interns are well valued by the company. Indeed, as an intern, I was later given opportunities to attend external events, such as RedDot Ruby Conference 2013 and Singapore Geek Girls, on the company’s time. I am grateful to be able to have had those experiences.

People in Tinkerbox also love to have fun. We hang out after work to rock-climb or to play Frisbee every other week. We recently had an electronic dartboard installed in the office. Playing pranks on one another is also quite the norm. Once, someone stuck sticky stuff under each of the bosses’ computer mouse. Another time, someone placed a Minion toy figurine in the toilet, with a creepy Post-it message attached. Pranks can even get sophisticated – a colleague coded a nyan cat to run endlessly on another colleague’s laptop while she was not looking. Only programmers can pull off such things!

3. It led me to question pre-conceived notions about working life.

I have learnt that it is thoroughly possible to enjoy working in a startup, which led me to question my pre-conceived notions about working life after university. Is a prestigious, well-paying 8-to-5 job in a corporation like an MNC or a bank truly the ultimate dream job, as what society often says? Is working at a startup truly undesirable, because of reasons such as the risk of the business failing? What should I really look for in a job?

At this point, I am still not sure what job I would pursue after graduation. However, interning at Tinkerbox has been nothing short of a right decision. Not only did my technical skills develop greatly, my view of the world has also expanded. The new perspectives that I have gained are helping me to think through my future career options in a more informed and careful manner, and I personally could not have asked for a better outcome from an internship experience.

If you are reading this article and you are thinking of doing an internship in a start-up, I strongly encourage you to go for it. While I hope that sharing my journey has been helpful, nothing beats experiencing it for yourself. Find a startup that would be a right fit for you (to the best of your discretion) and apply to work there right away! I wish you all the best, and I hope that your internship would be an amazing learning experience like mine was.

Article contributed by Sharlene Wong (Ex-intern from Tinkerbox Studios)


Read also: Thoughts on Startups


Article contributed by Startup Jobs Asia‘s Team.

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