Navigating a remote internship in 2020

Oct. 1, 2020
Nerdling Interns On Zoom

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

Hey! My name is Max Morales and I have had the privilege of being a Software Engineering Intern on the Security team at NerdWallet for the summer of 2020. I attend UC Santa Cruz and am majoring in Technology Information Management, minoring in Computer Science and am a proud Nerdling!

COVID-19, political unrest and devastating wildfires. One could say that the year of 2020 has not exactly been the most positive year. But, in the midst of all this turmoil, I had a wonderful experience as a remote intern at NerdWallet. Although my internship was not originally intended to be remote, I found that with the correct mindset and effort, a remote internship can still be an amazing journey. But, of course, this came with a bit of a learning curve and some valuable lessons along the way. I hope the lessons that I have learned during my time at NerdWallet may serve others who are new to remote internships and NerdWallet.

Lesson 1: Start the day right 👍

Within my first week, I quickly realized that working remotely for NerdWallet was going to be a very different experience than any of my past internships or work experiences. I could dress casually, speak to managers in a relaxed manner and take time off whenever needed. But, I also learned that I did not have to travel to work, could wear sweatpants all day, and did not even have to step foot out of my bedroom. Essentially, I could roll out of bed just before nine and begin my work if I so desired. Working remotely had its own unique set of challenges that I needed to overcome in order to be productive. I came to a startling realization: just because I am working from home, does not mean that I should neglect my usual productive morning routine. I found that starting the morning right sets a precedent for a productive and successful day. The act of getting dressed and preparing for a regular day “in the office” mentally creates a sort of expectation for yourself and the day that you want to have.

Lesson 2: Find your balance 📚

Working remotely is very much a double edged sword. Are you working from where you live? Or are you living where you work? One important lesson that took me weeks to realize is that there is a limit to how much we should work and that one needs to know when to “call it a day”. I comedically discovered this truth when I was working on a Saturday evening. Working from home can disrupt the balance between work and one’s personal life and skews the lines between the two. My philosophy is that when you are satisfied with your progress and days work, stop working. Period. It may be tempting to work long hours or continue working later in the night, but it is vital that we all clearly separate working from our personal time. This allows us to have some time to decompress and prevents ourselves from becoming “burned out” on a project and promotes us to maintain enthusiasm and a strong work ethic.

Lesson 3: Get some sunshine 🌞

Sunshine and fresh air can be the best medicine. This summer, for a period of time, I was guilty of working all day to simply lounge around and watch Netflix after work. Some days, I would never set foot outside or even breathe fresh air. Just like having a healthy morning routine, the act of venturing outdoors for fresh air, sunshine and exercise can boost productivity, health and overall happiness. I found that sitting outside for my lunch break and going for a run after work seemed to suit me best. I felt more healthy, energetic and far more productive. Between working remotely and the fact that there is an ongoing pandemic, our new work days can lack some of the usual time spent outside and this is why we need to make the time to do so ourselves.

Lesson 4: Accept that you are a nerd (and love it) 🥰

Very quickly after starting this summer, I realized that I am a nerd among nerds at NerdWallet! All other company cultures are primitive compared to that of NerdWallet. This summer, I could be my nerdy self and feel at home. I could attend tie dye parties and ice cream socials, use memes and emojis at work, participate in yoga, play virtual games at lunch, join any kind of Slack channel imaginable and so much more. I feel that the company has worked to create a culture of acceptance, understanding and support that is remarkable. When interning at NerdWallet, one should accept that they are Nerds and thrive.

I will miss my time as a Nerdling and I truly hope to see the office in-person someday. I am so appreciative that I was able to be a part of a summer internship program where I was able to have a mentor and culture buddy, attend so many intern events, participate in a hackathon and meet so many new people from all areas of the company. For those that I have worked alongside – I cannot thank you enough. I reflect on my experience with nothing but fond memories, valuable lessons and, of course, great friends.