Being students at UC Berkeley, exposed to the tech bubble that is the Bay Area, landing a job or internship at a tech company is a goal for many. We attend information sessions where they provide hungry students with food, free swag, and inspirational talks from employees about the company culture. This past summer, I interned at a large tech company in San Francisco, my first experience in tech. I want to provide my perspective on working in tech, some things to expect, and hopefully help other students decide if tech is the right path for them.
Now to define what tech is (for the purpose of this post): businesses revolving around the manufacturing of electronics, creation of software, computers or products and services relating to information technology. Examples: Amazon, HP, Microsoft, Salesforce, Google, Facebook, the list goes on…From my summer in tech here are some highlights that will give you a more holistic inside look:
Being comfortable with ambiguity
To work in tech, you have to be comfortable with ambiguity and be able to overcome it. Before my internship started, I met with my manager for lunch and he gave me six projects I would be working on throughout the summer, with no clear guidelines. For each project, I had a sentence description I wrote based on the desired outcomes my manager had stated. He told me upfront that he didn’t know how to tackle some of the projects. To excel in this position, I had to reach out to the right people in the right departments, starting on my second day on the job. To complete my projects successfully, it was imperative that I sought out the answers – through self-research, connecting with the right people, and sending google calendar invites like crazy. If ambiguity and the responsibility of truly “owning” your projects excites you, tech may be your calling.
The only constant is change
In tech, you are immersed in a fast-paced, ever-changing environment. For example, I woke up one morning in the third week of my internship, finding out that my company had been acquired by Microsoft! This was still surprising to many in the company, mostly in terms of how the partnership would evolve, but this kind of change is definitely not uncommon in tech. Also, you have to be okay with the fact that a project you worked on extensively could be dissolved in a matter of one meeting. Since things are changing rapidly in tech, like innovation, competitor offerings, and external factors, a project you are working on could be extremely relevant one day and obsolete the next. It should also be noted that the average time people are employed at a company now is around two years (especially relevant in tech!). Thus, changes in leadership can also quickly affect business objectives, but usually specific team goals are the most impacted.
Believing and living the company culture
A big component of any tech company are their internal values and culture. Students want to work for a company that has a vision beyond their service or products, so tech companies emphasize their values and causes to differentiate themselves against the plethora of competitors. While interning this summer, I witnessed the emphasis on values and culture, with one Friday off a month to volunteer or get involved with coworkers. Many events focused on the company values and included all-hands meetings with the CEO and other C-Suite executives.
I believe it is a great thing to work for a company that aligns with your own unique values, but it is hard to sift through every company’s values and determine what is real. I am in the process of recruiting for full-time, and I research various tech companies’ values and they are all very similar if not identical. It makes you question if it’s genuine or just babble to build their brand and get you interested in their company. To get a better understanding of a company’s culture, I urge you to reach out to employees or people you know who work there. This will give you a better view of the company than an inspirational info session.
Free food vs. free gym: The unfair battle
Most tech companies give you free meals and many other amazing perks, including a gym membership, kitchens stocked with snacks, game rooms to battle coworkers in foosball or ping pong, and happy hours with craft beer. Sounds awesome, right?! Well it is. Many people recognize the “freshman 15” but I think there is a new epidemic: “tech 15.” Although there is a gym in your building with all the equipment, personal trainers and classes you could want, you don’t seem to utilize it as much as the free breakfast, lunch, ice cream, and snacks. If you want to work in tech, be prepared to never be hungry again!
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