Three Things that Make or Break Your Remote Internship

August 17th 2022

When interviewing with NerdWallet, I dreaded knowing what remote work would be like. I thought I wouldn’t know my coworkers' faces, be on my own in my project, or leave the internship without genuine relationships with my peers.

Over the last few months interning at NerdWallet, I’ve learned that wasn’t the case, and I encourage other companies to create a similar environment for their interns. What stood out to me about my experience working here was my mentor, my team, and my culture buddy. They created a space where I felt welcomed, comfortable, and appreciated.

Mentorship: The most important part of an internship is assigning a mentor who cares about their intern’s success, not only in terms of their project but in their life and career. Our first meeting was an hour of us talking and getting to know one another, and it was relieving to see my mentor wanting to get to know me as a person. We continued our partnership with daily check-in calls and working sessions where we would work through any project blockers, discuss career questions, or talk about life in general. This went a long way in building a strong mentor-mentee relationship and made me feel comfortable asking for help and pitching ideas.

Additionally, one thing that stood out to me was how mindful my mentor was of the fact that I am an intern and a woman in engineering. For example, I have a bad habit of apologizing or undervaluing my work. However, whenever my mentor caught me doing this, he would bring it to my attention and encouraged me to be more confident in the work I had done. My mentor consistently calling out these instances gradually made me more confident and helped address my self-doubts.

Here are my suggestions for first-time mentors:

  • Get to know your intern as a person and invest in building a mentor-mentee relationship.

  • Check in with your intern several times a week.

  • Work through the project alongside your intern.

  • Share your career wisdom with your intern. We’re new to all of this! An internship is about more than technical skills.

  • Be mindful of your intern’s circumstances and encourage them to take pride in their work.

Team: As an intern, you can sometimes feel like an afterthought and might be unsure where to reach out for help. During my first weeks at NerdWallet, almost every member of the Production Engineering team took the time to present a topic relevant to my project. This was a great opportunity to get introduced to my team and know my peers. My manager and mentor clarified that if I ever got stuck, I could reach out to anyone on my team for help.

Another thing I appreciated about our team is our culture! During our office hours, we all hop on zoom and try to help each other with whatever problems we are having. These problems can range from collectively debugging code, asking for feedback on a presentation, or discussing whether a hot dog is a sandwich. This created a really strong sense of community and made remote work feel less isolating. Here are my suggestions for teams:

  • Create opportunities for interns to get to know their team members one-on-one, even if they have nothing to do with the intern’s project.

  • Be explicit that asking for help is encouraged, and follow through. You might need to make it clear more than once.

  • Consider adding Office Hours to your week or another form of a team meeting that encourages collaboration.

Culture Buddy: Each intern is assigned a “buddy” to meet with bi-weekly. This is typically a recent college graduate who is there to talk about whatever the intern wants to. My culture buddy was a previous intern at NerdWallet, and it was really helpful to hear their valuable wisdom. They were there when I needed to vent about my project, talk about fun things on the weekend, and offered an additional layer of support during my time here. Here are my suggestions:

  • Assign a culture buddy to your intern (someone unrelated to their project and on a different team) to give them an extra layer of support.

  • A past intern or someone recently out of school is best.

When I think about my time at NerdWallet, I never realized how pivotal my mentor, team, and culture buddy could be. They showed me what is out there and gave me numerous opportunities to learn about foundational concepts and relevant technologies in our field. They listened to my internship goals and gave me a space to figure out what I wanted to do straight out of school.

At NerdWallet, they have created a workplace where everyone, including interns, want to learn, grow, and do their best. The culture at NerdWallet has made my time here a thoroughly enjoyable experience. I am eager to return for a second term this summer and maybe someday grow from a Nerdling (that’s what we call our interns) into a Nerd.