What it Means to Intern at a Startup

I am Hila Friman, a first year student at The University of Texas at Austin, double majoring in business (undeclared, but probably marketing) and Sustainability Studies. Even as a freshman, the pressure from UT to already have lots of work experience is high, and that’s what motivated me to reach out to OwnYourSpot. OwnYourSpot is a startup founded in Austin, Texas, and is a social media app that focuses on sharing and community building to bring people together through shared passions. At first I thought my internship would just be an easy way for me to gain experience and boost my resume, but I quickly realized that I put myself into something much more special. While most students seek internships in large, well known corporations, I know that my decision to intern for a small (for now!) startup will help me the most in the long run.

What does it mean to work in a startup? First of all, definition of “work” is much different. My job as an intern is not so concrete. It’s different every day, according to whatever needs to get done. This flexibility allows me to really immerse myself into the company. What I find amazing is how I am able to contribute first hand to the development and growth of a business, even as just an intern. Due to the small nature, every move I make is valued and is important. Working with a company that consists of 6 dedicated workers, it means that everything you do makes a difference. It means that your ideas are heard and implemented. There aren’t many companies I know where a brand new intern gets to make big decisions, share their ideas directly with the CEO, and be valued.

Beyond the nature of work, my internship at OwnYourSpot provides me with first hand experience and knowledge of what it’s really like to run a business. I am able to witness the stages and processes of app development, brand design, marketing, management, and so much more. Whether that means participating in Skype calls with software developers, or constructing posts for social media, I get to be involved. In addition, I am able to contribute to these processes. By taking the skills I’m observing and putting them into action, I can truly own what I’m doing for OwnYourSpot. The learning experience is endless, I am there for every step of the way.

Finally, through my internship with OwnYourSpot I learned a lot about what distinguishes startups from more traditional businesses. I compiled a list of my experiences, along with the experiences of my coworkers, to showcase startup culture that I find makes this internship special.

1.Get ready to work LONG hours

In my first three days of the internship, I spent an average of 10 hours a day working. The other team members of OwnYourSpot had already been working for about a week straight, sleeping at most a few hours a night before getting right back to work. What needs to get done, gets done, and the time of day doesn't matter. Working “overtime” doesn't even exist in a startup. But in the end, you get what you put in, so the long hours slaving away is completely worth it.

2. Work is home and home is work

This is less applicable to me, since I am interning part time as a student, but for the rest of the team members, work really becomes home. Being a relatively fresh startup, there is not yet an “office” which distinguishes work and home, so home is the office. When work is home, coworkers become family, and that is huge factor that makes the 20 hour work days not only bearable, but enjoyable.

3. Your voice matters

When the team consists of 6 people, your voice is heard. When you make a suggestion or a comment, your team listens. If there’s something you want to add, you speak up, and there’s a big chance it'll happen. If there's something you disagree with, it’s noted. This really lets you make a difference in the company and own your contributions.

4. You are surrounded by motivation

Working in a startup means that you're surrounded by people who really believe in the company. When others around you are passionate and enthusiastic in what they’re doing, it’s very motivating and inspiring. It also becomes very easy to work when you're surrounded by people who care and are so invested.

5. You work hard, and party harder

In startups, it's true you can spend 20 hours a day working, but with that comes celebration. After weeks of long hours, it’s necessary to relax, and also necessary to party. Whether that means taking the day off to watch the Superbowl together, or celebrating a day’s hard work. You may be slaving away, but your accomplishments will definitely be acknowledged.

6. You are free to do your thing

As long as you get done what needs to get done, there’s a lot of freedom in a startup. Want to take a walk in the middle of the day? Okay! Need a taco break at 3 PM? Yeah! Want to lock yourself in your room and not come out until you finished? That works too! You are much less restricted, and are able to get your work done how you want.

It is these reasons and more that makes me love being an intern at OwnYourSpot. With the freedom and abilities that I have at OwnYourSpot, I’m able to make a difference.