Dear Future Interns

Monday, June 19, 2017

Who would have thought that my first encounter with the working world would be 3,000 miles away from home?

With only 17 years of experience growing up in suburban New Jersey and one year of growing physically, mentally, spiritually, and socially at Duke University, I somehow managed to end up at a desk on the 6th floor of an office building working for a start-up in the heart of Silicon Valley, technology hub of the world. Glistening buildings plastered with ubiquitous household names scatter the land: Intel, Google, Facebook, Adobe, Apple, HP—the list goes on.

Thanks to the Duke Technology Scholars Program, I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to have an internship in Silicon Valley and live in a house with other Duke women this summer. In my opinion, it’s programs and incredible opportunities like DTech that objectively make Duke the best college ever.

Once I received word that I was accepted into the internship program at my company, Aeris Communications, my head was whirring with questions: Have my college-level computer science courses really prepared me for my internship?  Will my office be a safe and supportive environment for women? Are there tech companies that actually focus on propelling social change for those in need versus making life easier for those who are more fortunate? Will my longboard fit in my suitcase?

I’ve only been working for 4 weeks, but it certainly appears that the answer to all of these questions is YES – except, sadly, for the longboard.  I’ve also been thinking about what I’ve learned so far, and here’s some advice I’d give to future interns like me…

  1. Do not feel intimidated by the different projects and work that other interns do! The intense engineering work that one intern does might have a different impact on the company than the sales or HR work that another intern contributes to. At the end of the day, interns are here to gain knowledge and information about their respective positions, and might experience varying levels of workload.
  2. Don’t be afraid to walk around to other departments and inquire about helping with a project in a field that you are not an expert in! In smaller start-up companies, there are an abundance of ways to contribute.  Whether it’s putting up posters on the walls or creating a mobile application for a new initiative, there are so many opportunities to learn and grow!
  3. Maintain good relationships with your work colleagues. I'm not saying you have to schedule lunch plans with every person in the office, but being friendly and striking conversation with fellow workers can go a long way.
  4. Make use of the gym! At first, I did not even consider going to the gym after work. However, since ride-sharing apps such as Uber, Lyft, and Scoop are popular in Silicon Valley, transportation home does not have to be an excuse for not exercising at the end of the day.
  5. Make friends with the other interns! You are ALL going through the anxiety, confusion, excitement, and other emotions that come with gaining this incredible new chance to have real-world experience at a great company. Why not make cool, new friends along the way? 
  6. Ask questions! It shows that you’re engaged in the assignment and that you’re a very detail-oriented person. If there’s a concept you don’t understand, a task you’re not quite sure how to go about doing, or you just want to know more about the company, simply ask.


Elise Brown
Class of 2020
Major: Computer Science
Minor: Finance
Internship: Aeris Communications