Every College Student Should Do One Startup Internship

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So I’m Aydin, a summer intern at Paraşüt. If you called Paraşüt and talked to a guy with goofy Turkish over the phone, you can be sure that was me. Though my Turkish language skills did not make me the perfect intern candidate, all in all, working at Paraşüt has been an eye-opening experience for me. After interning at both a startup and a large organisation, I wanted to share my thoughts on the differences.

As a rule of thumb, a large company will give you a reputable name on your CV and teach you how corporations work. You’ll get some nice perks too. On the other hand, working at a startup will give you more broad-based skills and better perspective of how (small) companies work. Fundamentally, your position won’t restrict what you can learn or do.

1. Learn Skills that are Actually Useful

Startups are, by design, highly dynamic and willing to try all the newest technologies. This means that rather than having to learn an antiquated or hyper-specialised system (I’m looking at you, AMPL), you’ll play around with the latest and greatest apps available. This directly translates into skills you can use in the workforce. Before I joined Paraşüt, I had never used Google Analytics or AdWords, and didn’t even know apps like Zendesk or Slack existed. I leave having used these tools daily, much more comfortable with cost per acquisition and conversion metrics. But don’t just trust my word. Ben Ridgway, a tech entrepreneur, claims that “experience with this stuff [i.e. various new tech tools] is hard currency in today’s digital workplace.” At a big corporations, you spend a lot of time learning how their unique processes work. At a startup, you learn things much more easily applied elsewhere.

2. Understand Business Holistically

When you work at a larger corporation or organisation, you’re only going to have direct contact with the specific department you work in. Last summer I worked at a medium sized (~200 employees) company. I can count on one hand the number of times I ventured to other departments or met someone on another floor. As a result, it was hard to see how the company worked as a whole. Conversely, at startups you’re forced into viewing the big picture. When engineering is the next table over and the CEO a meter away, you naturally overhear everything from the design process to accounting. Most startups also place great value on communication. For example, at Paraşüt, there are quick meetings every Monday morning and Friday afternoon so the whole team is kept up to date on the progression and challenges of the company. I was also added to the company-wide Slack and Google Drive network, making me privy to the same information the employees had access to. You also get a living, breathing example of the newest business methodologies. Part of my training here was reading The Lean Startup, and it was great having Paraşüt as a real-life example next to the theory.

So yeah, startups can be pretty awesome. And while I wouldn’t say they’re the only path in front of us undergrads, I can’t suggest the experience highly enough. Give it a shot – I’m sure you’ll be impressed.

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