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So I started my internship 2 days ago. The company is a multi-billion dollar corporation and I got an internship there with a $30/hr rate. It sounds great on paper and everything, but I haven't enjoyed it so far. The first 2 days have been very hands off and slow. I feel lost and don't feel like I'm getting enough training or mentorship in the beginning so that I can get a clue on what to do. They didn't have a project defined for me yet to start working on and I'm not sure what kind of path I'm headed towards. I feel like I could've hypothetically go the entire day without doing a single productive thing if I didn't ask my manager/mentors multiple times throughout the about what tasks I should work on as I complete each of them. I thought they would have a more proactive training approach, but it looks like I have to initiate everything.

On the contrary, a college course with a project tends to be very structured and clear-cut. There are pre-defined deadlines and the material I'm supposed to learn is all defined and source of the learning material is in a cohesive location (ex: textbook, slides, etc). This follows a "being told what to do" system while working at a company seems more like "volunteering to do whatever I can to be a valuable member of this company", which I'm not used to doing at all. This internship has been very different so far because there is no clear plan and path to follow like for the courses. It makes me wish I was back in school.

I didn't know what to expect from an internship, so I was hoping someone could tell me how tech companies handle their interns and what I can expect from them in terms of help/guidance and what I'm expected to do and figure out on my own. Are intern projects isolated from the company's real operations/goals? I just want to make sure I don't expect the wrong things and be disappointed when I don't get what I expected.

  • When I started my apprenticeship (which is a little bit like an internship) to become a developer, I had technical knowledge already, and they threw me heads-first into it. I wrote code on the first day, and those maybe 20 lines of code went into production on the second day. Fast-forward eight years. I switched jobs and was an experienced developer. I moved to a different city, different company, and for the first three weeks I sat around doing nothing but figure out how to get access to the code and read it. No-one gave me a task, no-one even included me in going for lunch. It's normal. – simbabque Jun 1 '17 at 11:42
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Sometimes a company will just throw ducklings into the deep end to teach them how to swim, those that swim survive, those that don't well, you know what happens. While I don't necessarily like this strategy, I can understand legitimate circumstances that lead to this. Firstly keep in mind 30 dollars an hour, whilst is still money, it's all relative, and you can consider that 30 dollars to them may be like 30 cents to you.

This can happen if a company is overworked and doesn't have time to invest in people, but have a deadline which has already passed and all resources are directly devoted to meeting that overdue deadline as quick as possible. Another reason is if the company has a low number of grads they might not see the point in investing time in creating an induction program as well as training.

If this is something that is very important to you then you should either speak to your supervisor about your expectations for training and inductions or make this a priority when looking for a company. It's a good thing if you find a job like this which you don't really like but find out that training is very important to you for your job, then you can go about finding training in your job, or potentially outside of your job with online courses or meetups etc.

As an intern though you are at the bottom, and from a manager's perspective you rather give the guy making 30 bucks and hour the project which has a high risk of going no where and doesn't need much skill. But from your prospective this is a bad project to be on. I encourage you to find out what the deal is at your company, think about the reasons they might have for working with you in the way they do, once you understand them it will all make sense, its just learning agendas, politics, welcome to the workplace etc hahaha.

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I'm about to finish my (unpaid) internship at a multi-billon dollar company tomorrow and I feel like you're in the same boat as me in the beginning. The first 1-2 weeks usually are bit weird. Most of the time it's all about reading documentation to get a firm grasp of the project you're in (once you end up in a project) and the company itself.

When it comes to mentorship, it really depends from company to company and project to project. My mentor for example only provided me with tasks and answers to my question. But then again, what more should he do? Your mentors will probably be a project lead or team lead.

Asking your mentor for stuff to do or what you have to do is one of the things you learn from your internship. Being assertive enough and taking the initiative to keep asking for work. When they get annoyed, they'll tell you, but I highly doubt they will get annoyed.

For previous 2 paragraphs, don't worry, you'll end up finding the path you have to go down.

Now, for your questions.

what I'm expected to do and figure out on my own

Getting to know what you're expected to do can only be known through asking, asking and asking. You're an intern with 2 days, no one expects you to suddenly start doing something without asking anyone.

WHEN you receive the task, figuring out on your own is a challenge you have to accept, finding solutions to problems is one of the key things you learn on an internship. When it comes to it, asking seniors is better than searching for a solution for 5 hours.

Are intern projects isolated from the company's real operations/goals?

From our college out, most interns do their internship inside their own country with a separate project. I, however, went abroad and ended up in real project. This is in my opinion way better to learn the workflow and atmosphere in a real professional environment. Considering you don't know yet what you have to do, I'm assuming your college didn't give you an assignment to do during the internship, so you'll probably be working in one of their projects and real operations/goals. You'll hopefully get to meet the clients, join meetings, etc.

The beginning is always a bit vague, and usually interns aren't top priority. However, as long as you show initiative, you won't have no work. If you do however, study technologies/concepts the project/company focusses on.

Conclusion: asking is key

Good luck during your internship!

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First of all, you're only two days in! It's normal for the first few weeks to be a blur of orientation, jargon, project meetings where everybody except you seems to know what's going on, etc. Hang in there, nibble the elephant a bite at a time and it'll get better.

What exactly should I expect out of a tech internship?

You should expect to get some exposure to how the real world works. The primary point of an internship, though, is that it's an extended job interview both for you and the company: the company will decide if they want you working there in the future, and if the answer is "yes", you can decide whether you want to work there.

Are intern projects isolated from the company's real operations/goals?

"Isolated" is a bit of a strong word, but yes, in many companies, projects given to interns are required not to be mission-critical.

"volunteering to do whatever I can to be a valuable member of this company"

Yup, some companies are like that. (Valve takes this to an extreme.) And in any company, it's not the worker drones who do what they're told who are rewarded, but the self-driven people who figure out on their own what they should be doing to maximize their impact.

As an intern who has not been assigned a project yet, you now have a golden opportunity to practice this in a low-risk environment! Talk to your manager and coworkers, find the niggling little things that they'd like to fix but can't because it's not on their priority stack, and fix them. It will be slow at first and you'll need to ask lots of questions, but people will generally be happy to help, because your work will help them. As you make yourself useful and show your skills, people will trust you and you'll get bigger things to work on.

  • My previous role at a company had a much smoother first week, but it was a repetitive job. The supervisor took me to a conference room and sketched out the tasks and decision-making techniques I need to apply in 1 day and I started some brief hands-on work my first day. Here, it was 1 day orientation and few hours of sitting around and trying to understand the company policies, resources, portals, etc. Next day was just setting up environment. So definitely went a lot slower and no hands-on supervision – btramisetty Jun 1 '17 at 5:11

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