Four Important Reflections On Virtual Internships

Oct. 1, 2020
Nerdling Interns On Zoom

The following article is part of a series of articles about our NerdWallet Summer Internship program. Christina Le 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!

June 1st was a day I had been anticipating for months. Rewind to November of 2019, a year and time that seems almost foreign given the nature of the year to follow, I pictured my summer a little bit differently. Instead of navigating a new, early-morning commute to the office on my first day of work, I climbed out of my bed and walked not more than 12 feet to my desk, my makeshift office for the next 12 weeks. Happy Hour Thursdays turned in biweekly team-bonding lunches and sprint demos that were followed by boba socials. Exploring the city on the weekends turned into a virtual tour of San Francisco as my culture buddy picked up her lunch.

Even though everything appeared different from the inside of my room on that first day, I soon learned that there were many parts of a remote internship that were still the same as a traditional one.

  1. There’s always something new to learn and running into technical issues of some sort from setting up the engineering packages on your laptop after orientation to spending hours fixing a bug that breaks your entire application only to find out that it just requires two extra lines of code is a part of the job. In my 12 weeks as a software engineering intern, I created a feature request template, implemented a search tool to make it easier to find records, learned the difference between raw JSON and JSON schema, and finished my project that consisted of adding support in our API for complex objects to make future changes to financial data safer for everyone at NerdWallet and our partners. At the same time, I also spent countless hours trying to understand React props and hooks only to be rescued by my mentor, destroyed and recreated my stack and local database multiple times, and thought I broke not only the master branch but also the build container in the same day. All I can say is that I stumbled across my fair share of issues during my time here as an intern, but I also learned that learning how to fix and prevent these issues is a part of developing the mindset that makes someone a better engineer.
  2. The show must go on. Intern events continued on as planned and turned into virtual painting competitions (it took me nearly the entire internship to finish the painting!), a heated tournament of codenames — all of us even hopped on the tie-dye craze. The University Recruiting team made all of us Nerdlings feel loved and appreciated every single step of the way from making sure that we got time getting to know each other and scheduling deep dives from different sectors of the organization so that could get a better understanding of what NerdWallet really is as not only a product, but also as an organization. They really went above and beyond to make sure that the interns felt integrated into the company from promoting donut buddies chats (a system that pairs you with another person in the organization from any level, field — you name it) to connecting us with anyone we wanted to talk to. All it takes is a Slack message. And speaking of Slack, I’ve never used Slack and the 👍🏼 emoji so much in my life!Tie Die Shirts plus a "Thank you" note
  3. Communication and social interaction are important, especially when we’re all working from home. If there’s one thing I’ve learned about NerdWallet, it’s that people want to get to know you. One of the benefits about working at a smaller company is that everyone is reachable and approachable from all levels. Another intern and I were welcomed with open arms when we joined a Hackathon team with members from all over the organization in content, engineering, and design. At NerdWallet, faces quickly become familiar — I actually ended up working with one of the people who interviewed me back in November! Nerdling Zoom Meeting
  4. Company culture sets the mood, even virtually. I think what makes NerdWallet truly special is its company culture. It’s easy to forget about the world when everything is happening through the screen, but everyone I’ve met at the company is extremely passionate about what they do, what they work on, and the company’s mission. Everyone is constantly seeking to grow and learn from each other, and that speaks volumes about NerdWallet’s core values to be candid and constructive and relentlessly improve.Many different nerdwallet bags and gear

Overall, the people I met along the way are the reason my internship experience at NerdWallet was absolutely amazing. I’ll miss seeing my team’s faces bright and early in the morning for our daily scrum updates, but I’m also extremely grateful for everyone who’s helped make NerdWallet a home away from home for these past couple of weeks. There are still many things I have to learn, but what I do know is that this is an internship I would do all over again.