This summer our office was abuzz with 21 summer interns hailing from 13 universities across the globe. Each intern was paired with a mentor and worked on full-time projects during their twelve weeks here. When they weren’t working, they enjoyed team dinners, go-karting, hiking, watching the Giants play at home, and other intern outings. As they return to school, we’re already missing them and the energy they brought to the office this summer.
I sat down with a few of our interns—Meg, Tony, Nickie, Brandon, Frank, Paul, and Jake—to get to know them a bit better and hear first hand how their summer internships went.
First of all, meet our intern class of 2016:
Why did you choose to come to Asana for the summer?
Meg: Well, I’m a long-time Asana user—I used it to plan my wedding in 2013!—and have enjoyed seeing it go through a redesign and so many product improvements. My background has been in much smaller companies and I was looking to work with a more diverse product team. I was really excited about the resources that would be available at Asana, like data science, user research, design, and so forth—things I didn’t have at past companies.
Tony: Throughout the interview process, I was struck by how nice people were. I felt like the team really cared about me. For example, after accepting the offer, I was given a lot of choice in which team I joined.
Brandon: I was really impressed by how much Asana values mentorship. I think it’s really important to be at a place that cares about building a great environment for employees and helping them grow as people, not just professionals.
I think it’s really important to be at a place that cares about building a great environment for employees and helping them grow as people, not just professionals. Brandon, Product Intern
How has Asana been different to your previous internships?
Nickie: I learned that culture is a large result of size. This summer, I’ve enjoyed being able to sit down next to anyone at lunch without hesitating.
Brandon: This summer, I joined the team as just another engineer, instead of working on a side intern project. I learned a lot more about the product and entire engineering organization here; working closely with other teams provided me insight into areas where I otherwise wouldn’t have had insight, like product and design.
Paul: It’s been a much [pause] cozier experience. Getting to make friends and work with the same people all summer was nice, and something I specifically chose for this internship.
What did you look forward to in your day-to-day life at Asana?
Tony: The foccacia: we don’t always have it, but when we do, it’s amazing. [laughs]
Nickie: Either the coding or the food. I have to say though: whenever there’s guac, it makes my day.
Jake: I loved two things, our bi-weekly checkins with the entire team and how quick we ship code—without compromising on quality.
Meg: People are genuinely happy to be here and they believe in what they’re doing. The company believes in the adage that your most valuable resources walk out the door everyday and you need to have them come back tomorrow, so they’re building a company where people want to come back. Seeing that each day was pretty neat.
What were you most surprised by this summer?
Meg: I was surprised by how willing everyone was to let me do things. Even though I have work experience, I was sensitive—coming in as an intern—that I might be treated differently. But people trusted me and everyone was willing to take me at my word when I asked for help. I couldn’t have accomplished anything this summer without that trust.
I was surprised by how willing everyone was to let me do things. Meg, PM Intern
Tony: I was surprised that most of my work was not very mathematically technical. A lot of the challenges were open-ended or involved design. I got accustomed to asking “how can we make this better?” and coming up with concrete solutions to very vague problems, which I didn’t expect.
Nickie: I was surprised at how easy it was to talk to the non-engineering teams that I wasn’t working with.
Brandon: I was surprised by the amount I learned outside of my actual work. My mentor scheduled coffee chats with people I was interested in talking to, so I was able to learn from people across the company.
Jake: I was surprised at how flat and how little politics there are at Asana, as well as how approachable everyone is—even the CEO.
What’s your favorite summer memory?
Meg: It was Theo’s (a teammate’s) birthday a couple of weeks ago. The day of, we planned (on Slack) a gathering with cupcakes and party hats. We sat around and talked about what our secret talents would be if we were to have a talent show. It was nice that at that moment the most important thing we could do was celebrate his birthday and hang out.
Nickie: The summer barbecue. I had so much fun. I went into it thinking that I’d stay for a couple of hours and leave, but I stayed until the bitter end—the beach bonfire at sundown!
Brandon: One thing I really liked were my one-on-ones with my mentor and manager. We would usually go for a coffee walk, explore the neighborhood, and talk about what I wanted to get out of the summer and how to grow. It felt a lot less like management and more like friendship. It was also always nice to get some sunlight.
Jake: The Bernal Heights hike with the silent disco at the top was my absolute favorite part of the summer. Second to that, I really enjoyed working with Scala—it’s a joy to code in.
Tell me about your experience with mentorship at Asana.
Nickie: I got along really well with my mentor from the beginning. We were able to talk about work things and non-work things. I also really appreciated the feedback I got at the midpoint of my internship; it really helped me improve.
Brandon: In the beginning, we did a lot of pair programming, and took a lot of time for onboarding. Now that I’ve learned a lot and am off the ground, my mentor is a lot more hands off and trusts me with really big tasks. Having that kind of responsibility encourages me to work hard, and it feels good. Finally, mentorship is seen as part of his job, not just something he does in his free time, which made me feel valued.
Jake: I enjoyed working with my mentor. At the beginning he was really helpful with my questions, and later he challenged me to find answers on my own, which made me more independent.
What was your experience using Asana?
Jake: I’d tried using Asana for personal things, but the true power can only be felt when you’re working on a team. I’m still blown away by the fact that I didn’t write a single email over the course of my internship! It’s been very convenient to do everything in one place: schedule meetings, collaborate, and track my work.
Paul: The first few weeks I was like, “Why can’t I use email and a notepad?” Then I realized Asana is much better—everything’s in one place. I also love the integrations with Github.
The first few weeks I was like, “Why can’t I use email and a notepad?” Then I realized Asana is much better—everything’s in one place. Paul, Internal Intern
What did you work on this summer?
Meg: I worked on 3 main projects: setting up a premium trigger in sign up flow, billing support for international users, and investigating permissions in Asana
Tony: I was on the LunaDb team, working on infrastructure. Most of my time was spent on incremental fixes, bits and bytes that needed to be taken care of.
Nickie: Before joining, I was told that I wouldn’t work on a fake intern project. So I’ve been working smaller things, like bugs that come in, features that we’re missing, and a couple of bigger projects, like building a tool to measure performance in our code.
Brandon: I’ve been working on Custom Fields, on one big performance-related change that I’m really proud of because it involves a lot of design work and has allowed me to touch the data model, API, and frontend.
Jake: I was on the API team, working on a platform for integrations with other services. I worked on the new API to make it faster and less buggy.
Any advice for interns starting their search for summer 2017?
Nickie: I really liked what Ruchi Sanghvi said at the Intern Q&A: focus on People, Product, and Process. Go somewhere you’re excited about the product, where you’ll learn about process, and, if you get the chance, get to know the people. Finally, big names aren’t everything. Think about your own growth and where you can maximize it.
Jake: Don’t be afraid to try something completely new! when I came to Asana I had never worked on developing an API or with Scala but I was able to pick up the things I needed really quickly. Your choice should be based not on what you can do, but what you feel really excited about doing.