Designing your design internship
Hi, I’m Emily! I’m a UX intern here at Shopify. The internship is digital by default, which allows me to collaborate with talented people worldwide. No joke, my core team of 8 is spread out over 5 countries, which is crazy but awesome! However, a week before starting the internship, I got REALLY nervous because I had no idea what to expect. Was I expected to come to my first day prepared? What would I even do to prepare? Am I good enough? How do I make the most of the next 4 months?
In this post, I’ll share some of my tips for before, and during your design internship. Hopefully, if you’re in the same shoes as I was, you can find some useful nuggets in this post.
Do your research beforehand to come prepared
Come prepared by researching the company and getting to know the brand, values, and product areas. Take the Polaris design system for example. We know Polaris is used by Shopify, it’s publicly available, and there are tons of Medium articles about it. Furthermore, it’s also beneficial to familiarize yourself with the software used (this could be a question to ask in coffee chats too!). There are a few staples — Google Apps, Slack, Figma, or Miro. Knowing the hotkeys makes things more convenient and efficient. Although it’s not required of you, it never hurts to familiarize yourself with the tools and software you know you’ll be encountering on a day-to-day basis.
Set and measure your goals
Before your first day, take some time to think about your ‘North Star goal’ and a handful of specific goals for the next 4 months. In your eyes, what would be the ideal outcome at the end of your internship? It could be converting to full-time, speaking at an event, learning a new skill, having 2 coffee chats a week, the list goes on and on…
Whatever your goal may be, make sure to keep track of how you’re progressing in each of them. I use the app Grid Diary to document and evaluate my progress on a bi-weekly basis. I also found that manually re-typing my goals each time helps keep me on track and causes me to reassess if my goals have changed. I found that my North Star goal remained the same, however, the secondary goals have changed a lot since January.
Communication and feedback
Building on the point above (set and measure your goals), it’s so important to communicate those goals to your manager and mentor early on. That way, they’ll know what sorts of work you’d find enticing and they will help you reach your goals. Being open to asking your manager and team members for feedback are great ways to measure how you’re progressing towards those goals. Asking specific questions (ie. was I clear in communicating my thought process in that presentation? What could’ve I done to be clearer?) allows you to receive more insightful advice while making it easier for whomever you’re asking feedback from to provide concrete feedback.
On the topic of feedback, it’s easy for the imposter syndrome to kick in and put us in a vulnerable position to take constructive criticism as… well, just criticism. However, as quoted from my mentor at Shopify, “feedback is a gift”. It’s what helps fill those gaps we might’ve missed, push us to think deeper, and ultimately grow. It’s important to remember that feedback on your projects is not them battling you. In fact, it’s them and you collaborating together towards a common goal — teamwork makes the dream work!
Schedule coffee chats ☕️
Before starting my internship, I wanted to know what it’s like to intern at Shopify and how I can best prepare myself to fit into the culture. Luckily, there was someone from my University that was interning at Shopify. I reached out to book a quick coffee chat and got some great insight. Since beginning my internship, I’ve had a few incoming Shopifolks reach out to me via LinkedIn for coffee chats too! So don’t be shy, book coffee chats!
Something I hear a lot is “coffee chats are so awkward like you’re just forcing a stranger to talk about the weather with you for 30 min”. But it doesn’t have to be that way! A few mini hacks around this:
- Be mindful of the other person’s time, sometimes I’ll schedule a 15 min coffee chat instead of 30 min. After all, follow-up coffee chats are always a thing.
- Pay attention to them. Seriously, it’s so obvious to tell when someone’s eyes are darting all over the screen.
- As creepy as this sounds, Google them! You may find something of common interest between the two of you, which can spark interesting conversations
- Have a topic in mind just in case things get quiet. Maybe it’s an interesting podcast or video, any cool hobbies you might have, or interesting places you’ve traveled to (something I always love to hear about!).
I found all of these things took my internship experience from amazing to extraordinary and I hope they can do the same for you too! I appreciate you taking the time to read this! Thank you 😊
Originally posted by Emily Liu, May 10th, 2021