Drawing Power from Your Own Inexperience

A month into my summer internship, I booted up my work PC for the first time.

No computer for a month at a software engineering internship? At the time, the company was hiring new employees faster than the support team could set up computers. Days passed, weeks passed, as I waited for a PC to magically appear in my office. I twiddled my thumbs, edited the development wiki, and sat in on meetings. The first month of my internship was wasting away as I waited.

Only once did I go downstairs and meekly ask. “When is my PC going to be ready?” The overworked tech support team told me to be patient.

Now, I take full responsibility for this wasted month.

I ought to have explained I was there for a three month internship, and I needed a PC immediately in order to even get started. But in my head, I had a voice telling me the actual employees had priority. They could produce real work, and I couldn’t. So why should I care if my computer arrived on time? They had more important things to worry about.

I thought being an intern meant I had to accept the wait. In reality, being an intern was one of my greatest assets. People will go out of their way to help the intern. All you have to do is ask.

My poor communication continued into the rest of the internship.

I sent out vague mass emails when trying to get hold of needed files. I journeyed the high-rise, searching through cubicles instead of setting up meetings. I had agreed to a project that was way above my skill level; using statistical analysis to categorize information. But I never made that fact clear to my managers. I was lost.

With my mindset, I couldn’t ask for help without feeling like I was interrupting the real engineers. They were in crunch mode, trying to get their product completed by the holiday season. My little problems couldn’t possibly be worth their time. Going back to my desk and working alone became preferable.

It’s not a surprise the summer ended without a finished project. But I did leave with a lesson. If you feel inexperienced at your job, you can use that to your advantage. Put your inexperience out there like you’re proud of it. You deserve extra help because of it.

Plains Guard

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