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Background

I am recently working as a software engineer intern at a startup company. My company helps clients achieve their financial goals. The job is quite remote and mostly I am working with my direct supervisor via emails, who is responsible for sending me any tasks that he needs my help (my supervisor is not the CEO of the company, and the CEO is not familiarized with IT and works directly with clients I suppose).


Problem

The tasks I've got from my supervisor is very little so far. Usually, I get one task weekly and depends on the difficulty of the task I may finish in 1~3 days and then it takes me about 5 days to receive any feedback from my supervisor. I am not sure if my current work is such "comfy" because the company is small and there are not too many clients and tasks recently. Another possibility I thought of is my supervisor doesn't value me much becasue I am just an intern at the moment. But I think it would be dangerous if my CEO doesn't know what I have done to the company and is not good if I am gonna ask for a full time offer later this year. I am thinking about writing an email to the CEO and shows that I am able and willing to do more tasks, however, I am not sure how I should phrase in my email. Can anyone offer any help?

  • Firstly, thanks for your suggestion. Actually I have tried to meet more often with my supervisor and exchange ideas on the tasks in person with him since I feel working together is always better than working remotely. And I showed such motivation in several past emails but he just kept writing emails to me, which made me think he doesn't prefer talking in person (after that I never mention more on having a meetup and working together). Also, I have expressed my willingness to work more in the emails but he seems to be very procrastinated and stingy on letting me know new tasks@JoeStrazzere – Nicholas May 15 '17 at 17:57
  • Should I be even more pushy on this and let my supervisor know I have quite a lot free time. And then also write an email to the CEO?@JoeStrazzere – Nicholas May 15 '17 at 17:59
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    I'm a little confused that you're an intern, yet you seem to be getting work-related tasks. You're there to be trained, not to be low or unpaid labor. – PeteCon May 15 '17 at 18:01
  • I guess it is becasue the company is really small and does not have systematic training like what a big bank could offer. The earnings of the company is all based on the clients working with my CEO (my CEO used to work in several big names and recently opened her own company). And this is an unpaid internship (at least until next month) because I just graduated and have to work paid after getting this.@PeteCon – Nicholas May 15 '17 at 18:50
  • When the time comes, if you do talk to the CEO, as far as he's concerned, your supervisor is the best person on the planet and can do no wrong. You love him and he's been so helpful and if there are any "issues" you're sure he's doing what he needs for me. The reason I say this is because if you do talk to the CEO, your boss is going to be paranoid possibly unless they've got a great relationship. You building up your boss can hopefully reassure him that you wouldn't ever try to undermine him either. – Chris E May 15 '17 at 21:00
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I am thinking about writing an email to the CEO and shows that I am able and willing to do more tasks, however, I am not sure how I should phrase in my email. Can anyone offer any help?

First off (and as said elsewhere), always talk to your supervisor about things such as this unless there's a particular, and good reason you cannot involve him - going around him will likely not put you in the best light.

As for how to phrase the email, just phrase it as a question when you complete your next assignment rather than a big issue, and preferably, if you can, say what you're doing at the moment to productively fill in time:

Hi Agnes,

I've completed my assignment for this week, as always let me know if you have any questions. As a general note, is there anything in particular that you'd like me to be doing in the gaps between completing the assignments and receiving the next assignment the following week? I'm more than happy to continue [researching x relevant technology, following online tutorials to get to grips with x new relevant framework], but also more than happy to divert my attention elsewhere if that would be preferable.

Thanks!

If you can (honestly) write something like this, it shows that you're at least acting instinctively and spending your time learning relevant stuff rather than just browsing the internet for cat videos, and it gives your manager every opportunity to say if she thinks you should be doing something else.

  • Really like this, will just use this template for my next task! – Nicholas May 15 '17 at 18:33
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Do not jump around your supervisor as an intern. This will put you in a bad light to the supervisor as well as the CEO and could jeopardize your ability to get a full time job. I would recommend you do the following:

  1. Write a detailed email to your supervisor indicating your current assessment of your work and the potential you feel you have for additional project opportunities. Stress (professionally) that you feel that you and the company are not getting the full potential benefit that having you as an intern could be and you wish to increase this benefit by doing additional work. Ask if there are any other tasks available for you to do, even if it's not helping the company out directly, but you wish to learn and grow in your internship as much as possible.
  2. After you get a response from that one and put a little distance while implementing any additional project work and/or personal growth work, send another email to the supervisor indicating your great interest in a follow up job at the company and your desire to converse with the CEO directly about a future opportunity at the company once your internship is completed.

This will ensure you are pushing your supervisor for additional work and show a written audit trail of your continued work enthusiasm as well as your ability to deliver on your promises. It will also show your willing submission to those in a supervisory position above you while also showing that you have ambition to climb above your original starting position as well as the dedication to providing additional benefit to the company.

  • Thanks, I just wonder how often (if it is necessary) do you think I should write an email to my CEO to let him know my contribution to the company. I am just a bit afraid that my CEO would never know what I have done with my supervisor and if I did my best. After all, my supervisor is just working for her and he doesn't have the authority to land me a full time job. Basically, I don't how my CEO would evaluate me in this internship. – Nicholas May 15 '17 at 18:07
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    @Nicholas The standard way for higher level managers to learn about your work is reports from your direct supervisor, including but not limited to formal performance appraisals. Communicating information about subordinates that is needed for hiring, promotions, pay raises etc. is part of any supervisor's job. Direct e-mail to the CEO implies that you do not think your supervisor is doing their job competently. That is a serious criticism of both your supervisor and whoever appointed the supervisor, probably the CEO. – Patricia Shanahan May 15 '17 at 18:21
  • I think you are both underestimating your CEO and possibly your direct report. Get your assignments done, and spend the free time making them perfect beyond reproach. If you still have free time, start working on your own education. Your CEO does not want to read your emails and will not look kindly on them. Your opinions may be valid, but you have not earned your place to be heard. Your CEO will probably know exactly what is going on, and if not, that is no concern of yours. Just do your very best at your own tasks and do what you want in your free time. Read, study, practice, apply for jobs. – PaulD May 15 '17 at 18:33
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    Best line in the whole answer Do not jump around your supervisor as an intern Egos are fragile things and if someone things an underling is going around them (regardless of how well-meaning) it's almost always very bad. – Chris E May 15 '17 at 20:55
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Start using Jira or another similar issue tracker so that your supervisor can see what tasks you have assigned and which one(s) you're working on. You should ideally usually have enough assignments in your issue tracking software such that you aren't going to ever run out of things to do, but not so many that you feel overwhelmed.

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Nicholas, you are a remote worker and an intern. How that came about, I can't say. But you're not going to be placed on the critical path for any serious work if the situation stays as-is, because there's no real opportunity for you to showcase your work or your work habits. If you disappeared today, your post seems to indicate that they wouldn't miss your efforts at all.

I'd suggest that you figure out a way to get yourself included in as many Skype meetings as possible, to help the effort of associating your name and face as someone who's ready, willing, and able to get work done. The payoff for your boss has to be higher than the burden of communicating everything to you either by e-mail or by needing to schedule phone calls; otherwise, you're going to continue to be sidelined.

If you can arrange it, show up in the office once a week. I think it'd help.

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