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To the reader...

I decided to write up this article once my internship was done — but I procrastinated a little due to various reasons which I would not utter here. This procrastination actually lead me to talk with my peers who had been in internships in different organizations (even abroad), so that I could fuse their own ideas and experiences to this article, and make this article more fruitful! Procrastination does not always lead to vague outcomes — sometimes it is needed in life to carry on. (Take a look at this TED talk by Tim Urban)

Lessons from Industry…

Structuring this article was a huge problem for me. I often like to write creatively, but creative writing is not the goal of this article — it is to convey messages. Therefore, I would list down and explain the lessons I have learned in an ordinary and a simple manner.

Lesson #1 — Realize your goal

Before attempting to get any task done, make sure that you know what you are up to. That is, always keep a very clear idea on what are you going to accomplish. If the line between the present, that is before the internship and the future, that is after the internship is blurry, you may not be able to pluck the fruits of an internship. There’s a prominent interview question which is asked in several organizations that I know; the question is “Where would you see yourself in five years time?”. Apply the question to your circumstance — where would you see yourself after your internship? Do you see yourself as a person who is more technically savvy, a person who is more confident in his soft-skills or both?

Lesson #2 — Adapt to the culture of the company

Terry Eagleton is a pioneer in research on different cultures. In his book Ideology — an Introduction, Eagleton explains culture in a creative manner, depicting that the mailboxes are a result of civilization and the fact that they all are painted green (In Ireland) is a fact of culture.

“ While it seems unfair, I realize now, that is how the workplace is designed. I came to understand that my manager may not know everything I may know about the project. However, if I am working for a successful company, chances are that the selection of my manager was a deliberate decision. I may not agree with the decision but I have to live with it.” — Rajeev Agraval (In his book What I did not learn at IIT)

Another important root in company cultures is the integrity of personnel. You should take responsibility for your own work, and accept its mistakes. Do not blame on other people for your mistakes. Do not blame the existing system for your mistakes. If the current system of the organization has a flaw, it is your job to heighten it to your supervisors — which eventually make your image better as well.

“ The only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about “ — Oscar Wilde

People will talk to and about you when you’re an intern. People can either utter good of you or the bad of you — it’s up to them. You should respect those opinions in return. If those opinions are untrue, treat them with a pinch of salt, and calmly and humbly talk with the person to check what’s wrong. He/She might have had the wrong impression and it is your responsibility to correct them.

“I think any actor worth their salts wants to show as much versatility as they possibly can” — Daniel Radcliffe

Lesson #3 — Be a Polymath

The time period of internship is a period void of lectures, exams, and other university-related activities. Therefore, you get additional time and space to investigate yourself. Heed this additional time and space to figure out your true passion — it may be academic research, developing services, becoming an entrepreneur, becoming a lecturer, etc.

“Whatever I know how to do, I’ve already done. Therefore, I must always do what I do not know how to do” — Eduardo Chillida, a Spanish Sculptor

Most of us enter the university with one vague goal. From the childhood onwards, we had a goal. Mine was to become an Engineer. But now I know that goal was too abstract. Engineering is one of the oldest academic disciplines on the planet, and it is streamlined into different fields. At first, I wanted to become a Civil Engineer but interacting with computers (And of course, having attained good marks) made me choose Computer Science & Engineering (CSE). In my first year in university, I had chosen CSE as my specialty, and my goal had narrowed down to becoming a Software Engineer. But in the midst of my internship, I could further narrow down CSE into different fields including research. Therefore, as you progress along, you gain maturity in your field. Internship period is, therefore, a good time period to determine your future.

“ The theory of relativity occurred to me by intuition, and music is the driving force behind this intuition. My parents had me study the violin from the time I was six. My new discovery is the result of musical perception” — Albert Einstein

Having multiple interests cause a direct positive impact on your image as well. You can contribute to the organization in various ways, which makes you an essential factor for the organization. This can certify you an opportunity for permanent employment then and there.

Lesson #4— Research and Learn

Let’s dive into the worst case scenario, that you are not likely to gain what you expect from an organization. This can easily happen if you start your internship in midst of a tight sprint inside the organization. What can you do?

Lesson #5 — Help and work with your peers

If you’re not the only intern in the company, you have a great advantage in building your image plus helping a person in need. Do not forget the fact that you’re there because of the tremendous assistance you gained along the way. Noone achieves something by himself; they always have assistance.

“The Computer and the internet are among the most important inventions of our era, but few people know who created them. They were not conjured up in a garret or garage by solo inventors suitable to be singled out to a magazine covers or put into a pantheon with Edison, Bell, and Morse. Instead, most of the innovations of the digital age were done collaboratively. There were a lot of fascinating people involved, some indigenous and a few even geniuses” — Walter Isaacson (In his book The Innovators)

In my case, I had plenty of people helping me in my endeavors. I can’t help them because they have already surpassed me but I can help my peers and juniors by assisting them in their work, which I take a little pride in doing. Being a helpful person is a direct display of a positive attitude towards collaboration. This is one crucial fact that industry people look for. This means that you get along well with others and respect others opinions. Donne once said,

“No man is an iland, intire of it selfe” — John Donne

which heightens the importance of collaboration and fellowships.

Final Lesson— Gratitude is above all

Make sure you pay proper gratitude for the people and the entities which helped you in your endeavors. Say Thank You often when you’re being offered help by any of the employees. And above all, make sure you thank the organization who nurtured you in your journey as an intern. It might not have done much, but at least it provided you a surrounding to be in.

Software Engineer @ CodeGen International, CSE Graduate @ University of Moratuwa

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