5 Key Remote Internship Learnings

Oct. 1, 2020
Nerdling Interns On Zoom

The following article is part of a series of articles about our NerdWallet Summer Internship program. Lorraine Li shared their experience as an software engineer intern. If you are curious about joining NerdWallet as an intern or full-time employee, please apply for one of our open positions!

Internships are a great way for students to be able to explore and learn in a real industry environment. Being able to come into the office every day, collaborate with coworkers, and work in a productive environment are all integral components of adapting to the real world. However, with the changes Covid-19 has brought about, internships are now a very different experience. Remote internships can be a lot to adjust to, so here are 5 helpful key learnings that I’ve gained from my remote internship!

1. Over communicate

Since you and everyone on your team are all working remotely, it is crucial that you are communicating appropriately with your team. One piece of advice that my manager told me at the beginning of the term that definitely helped throughout the term was to over communicate. Sometimes, you might be worried about boring the other person or saying too many details. In most work related cases nowadays, this isn’t something you should be worried about. Giving extra details can help provide more context for your team on what you are working on, how you are approaching a solution, and what you might be blocked on. Remember, they can’t help you if they don’t know what’s wrong! This piece of advice can be applied to several areas: updating your team in daily scrum meetings, 1 on 1 meetings, and debugging sessions. 

2. Make an effort to reach out to your team and meet new people

If the internship was in person, you’d have a lot of time to interact with your team daily and befriend them :D Unfortunately, remote internships make meeting new people a lot harder as you have to intentionally try to reach out to people. Don’t let this stop you from reaching out though as everyone is cooped up all day and would most likely love some social interaction! This can be done by attending team bonding events, participating in donut buddy pairings, and joining in on company wide social events. Also, if you have a specific area of interest you want to find out more about, you can ask your manager/mentor/recruiters about connecting you with someone knowledgeable in that area. The more you reach out to others, the easier it gets to connect to people over webcam meetings.

3. Be prepared to work across multiple timezones

As everyone is working from home, there are bound to be instances where you are working with someone in a different timezone from you. In my case, I was in EST while the majority of my team was in PDT, which resulted in some initial confusion on my end about meeting times. To help combat having to convert between timezones, you can add a second timezone in your Google Calendar. This lets you quickly check what time meetings are in both your timezone and your coworker’s timezone, and help you better plan for meetings. This also lets you be considerate of others’ working hours when you have to schedule a meeting. You should also clarify what time zone you are referring to when deciding on meeting details, such as saying “3 pm PDT”, to avoid any confusion. Lastly, keep in mind when you might be able to reach out to others for help, and maximize the times that are shared amongst your working hours. This way you can be productive and considerate of everyone’s time.

4. Build mental models to gather context

When you are in the office and sitting beside your team everyday, you are much more immersed in the challenges your team is facing and the context behind certain problems. You can easily find out what everyone is working on, what pain points they are facing, and why certain projects work as they do. When remote, you can easily slip into your own bubble and only gather minimal understanding on the inner workings of the company. In order to make sure you can gain enough context, an easy method is to stay active on messaging channels, such as Slack, and ask clarifying questions when you don’t understand something. By making notes, you can easily build a mental model of how your team works, how different projects function, and even how your team interacts with other teams. Then you can build on this mental model throughout the term by asking more clarifying questions or gathering information on your own. No matter what, make sure you take advantage of all the knowledge at your fingertips and build mental models to gather context on how everything works. 

5. Take breaks and set a daily routine to avoid burnout

It can become really difficult to separate your working hours from your down time when working from home, putting you at risk of burnout. One way to combat this would be to take a couple stretch breaks throughout the day. Not only is this a healthy physical practice, this lets you take a quick mental break, ultimately protecting both your mind and your body. A second method is to create a daily routine for yourself. Make sure to include a regular meal schedule as this will help fuel you throughout the day, and provide more scheduled break times. With a daily routine, you can also remind yourself to stop working at a certain time, to avoid continuously working all day. These are just two tips to avoid burnout, and you should definitely ask your team and other interns on any suggestions they have. Make sure to stay safe and stay healthy!

These are 5 key learnings that I’ve made throughout my internship at Nerdwallet this summer. It has definitely been a great overall experience for me! Everyone at the company is working hard to adapt to remote work, and are all trying to support each other as best as they can. Hopefully, these tips are able to help you achieve a successful remote internship too!