5 tips to get the most out of your product design internship.

Based on my internship experience at Uber.

Photo Credit : Tony Jing

After finishing my internship at Uber this past summer, I spent some time reflecting on my internship experience, end to end. Initially, I did this for self growth. I wanted to be honest with myself and find opportunities to grow not only as a designer, but as a person as well. During this time, however, I continuously discovered truths that weren’t specifically just for me. I decided to create this article and share these truths to offer guidance and advice to any fellow young designers who may need it.

1. Embrace the uncomfortable

The only time you are actually growing is when you are uncomfortable.

Photo Credit : Tony Jing

This is the most difficult yet most important tip of all. Being uncomfortable simply means that you are close to a breakthrough. Embrace that feeling knowing that you will overcome whatever is at hand and no longer allow it to hinder you.

What I loved most about my time at Uber was the amount of freedom I was given as an intern. I was treated as if I were a full time product designer. This came with a lot of responsibilities and moments where I struggled. However, by acknowledging my shortcomings and embracing them with the members on my team, I was able to grow tremendously.

One way that I embraced the uncomfortable was by rotating desks as often as possible. I knew that I wanted my internship experience, before anything else, to be a learning opportunity. An opportunity that I could only fully benefit from, by interacting with others constantly. So I turned into a bit of a nomad and sat at as many desks as possible to initiate that interaction. I went out of my way to ask as many relevant questions as possible and garner as much feedback and critique for my work as well.

2. Genuinely connect with others

Strive for meaningful interactions.

Photo Credit : Tony Jing

As an intern, humbly embrace your role. We are new to the design and technology industries, and have a lot to learn. It’s okay to not know something. Seek advice from others and continuously strive to learn.

These moments of connecting with others need to be genuine however. I’ve met many young designer’s who only want a LinkedIn request out of a conversation, or a chance to compare each other’s portfolios in an attempt to one-up the other. Strive to have more meaningful conversations that could potentially reveal truths for both sides.

An example from my experience was through the 1:1’s I had with fellow product designers, design interns and ux researchers. I scheduled some time to take a walk or to have lunch with these individuals, and I can’t express enough how valuable these conversations turned out to be. I not only learned so much about these people’s backgrounds, design philosophy’s and common interest, but each conversation was filled with a unique set of insights. I find myself to this day, referencing the career advice, inspiration and knowledge gained during these conversations.

3. Humbly challenge yourself

Set the bar high.

Photo Credit : Jeremy Xia

Take on as many challenges as you can and offer to do as much work as you can. Not only will your design manager appreciate this but it’s simply the strongest method to getting the most out of your internship. You will be surprised at how quickly and significantly you can grow by doing this.

You have to be honest with yourself however, that’s where humility plays a huge role. You need to be aware of your skillset and honestly know, what it is that you do well and what it is that you can improve on. I would suggest taking on an even amount of projects in areas of strength and weakness. There is a balance that you have to find between doing good work and showing the willingness to learn and challenge yourself during you internship.

By humbly challenging myself, I was able to join a project that I eventually led the design for, and collaboratively took the product from 0:1 during my internship. I don’t think I would have had that opportunity if I didn’t mention to my mentor and manager that I was up for the challenge.

4. Know when to say no

Work in areas that you are most passionate about.

Photo Credit : Tony Jing

It’s okay to say no. It’s okay to say no to something that may be outside of your skill set. It’s also ok to say no to something that just doesn’t interest you.

Be honest with yourself and your design manager so that you can find work in areas that interest you the most. I really value how much say I had in the types of projects that I got to work on. This was only possible because of the relationship that I had with my design managers. While I wanted to constantly be available to take on new projects, there were moments where I had to be honest with them and myself and say no.

An example of this occurred while I was single handily working on a vision deck. I knew how much time I needed to dedicate to the deck in order to finish it at a quality level, but I also knew how that would interfere with some of my upcoming projects. So before I dropped from the project, I gave a clear and understandable explanation to my manager. Not only did he understand where I was coming from, but my decision was not frowned upon.

5. Spend time out of the office

Play just as hard as you work.

Photo Credit : Cody Reppert

Your time outside of the office is just as important as your time in the office. It can be very easy to get caught up in your work and even allow it to carry into your weekend. You’ll be surprised at how helpful leisure activities can be and how refreshed and focused you can feel when you return to work.

For many interns, this is their first time in a new city. Exploring that city with fellow interns and coworkers is a great way to enjoy your time out of the office. Go to design conferences, art events, or even volunteer for non profits.

I didn’t spend as much time out of the office as I would have liked to, but one memorable experience that I did have was a trip myself and a few coworkers took to Muir woods.

Conclusion

While many of these tips may seem like common pieces of advice, I believe that by truly practicing these tips, you’ll have an amazing internship experience. Remember, you only get out of this experience what you put into it, so challenge yourself, learn from those around you and enjoy this new opportunity. Feel free to reach out to me via the comment section below if you have any questions or comments. Also if you would like to learn about my product design intern interview process with Uber in the form of another article, be sure to let me know below. Thank you for your time.


5 tips to get the most out of your product design internship. was originally published in UX Planet on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.