10 Things I’ve Learned From Interning At A Startup
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10 Things I’ve Learned From Interning At A Startup

Regardless if entrepreneurship is “your thing,” here are a few lessons that can be applied to bigger things than just startups.

10 Things I’ve Learned From Interning At A Startup
Rezli Co

I’ve always wanted to work closely with a startup, and this summer I finally got my chance. For three months, I have been interning at a disruptive startup: Rezli. As a professional networking platform, Rezli aims to connect people to their passions. As my summer internship at Rezli comes to a close, I’d like to reflect on and share ten lessons I’ve learned from interning at a startup.

  1. Make it Pretty

In today’s world, we are constantly inundated with media. Facebook. Instagram. Snapchat. Flipboard. Twitter. Social media overwhelms us with content that is presented in a very aesthetically pleasing manner. Rezli, thank goodness, has honestly slayed the game in that case. The website is beautiful, with a pleasing color scheme and an easy to follow layout. This was not always the case, but Rezli has been constantly updating the website to make it more appealing to users. Additionally, more and more websites have been catering to their new influx of mobile users and adjusting their website accordingly. Let’s be real: if I visit a site and the words are staggered, the font is not uniform, or the layout is confusing, I will probably leave and never return. In the startup world, a beautifully designed product is sometimes just as important as a pragmatically designed product.

2. Specialization is Temporary

Like at most companies, employees at Rezli have certain titles that decorate our LinkedIn or Rezli profiles and resumes. In reality, however, anyone who works with a startup has a multitude of jobs, regardless if that’s what they originally signed up for. For example, one developer took a stab at writing a blurb describing Rezli’s mission and purpose in the gaming world. Although writing and marketing wasn’t necessarily his assigned “job,” he took on the task because he felt so strongly connected to the mission of the company. Overall, he did an exceptional job of articulating what Rezli stands for, but more importantly he was open to editing and improving the blurb. Likewise, as an intern, I was given the summer to develop a type of matchmaking service that automatically connects individuals with jobs and internships, mentees with mentors, and students with scholarships. Once I started my internship, however, I was also asked to help represent the company at conferences and assist with marketing. Although I had no experience in the latter two fields, Rezli gave me the opportunity to expand my own skills through experiential learning, and I went for it. In the end, having a wide array of tasks helped me to better understand the company at different levels, rather than having tunnel vision and focusing only on one part of Rezli.

3. Time is of the Essence

No matter how much we plan for a conference or a website update, unanticipated incidents happen or last minute improvements are instituted which calls all team members to pool their resources together and quickly address the problem at hand. Sometimes, it can be something as simple as perfecting swag to give out at a conference. The week before Terminus, a huge event in Atlanta where Rezli was planning to have a booth, I worked closely with the Founder and UI developer to design and print new business cards and flyers to hand out at the booth. We messaged back and forth on Slack and emailed each other a handful of different versions, in the span of 48 hours. Then I requested a quote and ordered the newly designed swag to hand out. In the end, the short time span to complete our task actually catalyzed us into action and helped our colleagues to better represent us at the conference. Sometimes a pressing deadline galvanizes us into working, and in a startup, time is always of the essence.

4. Don't Burn Cash

Although this may sound obvious, startups simply cannot afford to burn cash. For example, when I travelled to Atlanta to help represent the company at Momocon, we stayed at the founder’s in-law’s house rather than wasting money on hotel rooms. Since her in-law’s lived nearby and were out of town for the weekend, staying at their house made perfect sense. Plus, the house was incredibly homey and well-kept, and my inner history nerd fangirled over looking at the Civil-War era photos of the family’s Alabama ancestor. Now, this doesn’t mean that startups can be stingy for everything, but rather, startups must be uber careful about where they are allocating certain funds. As much as I’d love to stay in the Ritz-Carlton, it’s much more pragmatic to spend money on advertising rather than on a luxury apartment suite.

5. Discuss Eyes Over Invested Users

What is more important — having invested users or generating more visits, or “eyes?” Obviously, every startup has different goals, but regardless, it is important to have this conversation. Sometimes, we can have dissenting views on this issue, but it brings up important follow-up questions like “How do we plan to show growth?” or “How to we plan to raise money?”

6. Working Moms are Superwomen in Disguise

To work, they wear business casual or a nice top and jeans, but underneath their normal, everyday clothing, I am sure one can find a Superwoman suit. Rezli is headed by two dynamic women, who both have children. These women are role models to me and their children, because they are able to adeptly achieve a balance between their work and personal lives. They play two roles they absolutely love: an entrepreneur and mother. In fact, one of them gave birth to her first daughter and continued working from home while on maternity leave. I don’t know what could possibly show more commitment to their company than always being “on call” (as my parents say it in the medical field) from the office, home, and every spot in between.

7. Keep Track of All Your Projects, No Matter How Small

Rezli employs the use of Slack and JIRA, two apps that productivity buffs geek over. Slack is a tool that is great for individual and group messaging as well as messaging a large channel. However, being savvy with this technology is imperative. Slack is great for communicating with other team members while JIRA is great for creating, assigning, and completing tasks. As you can imagine, this means that accountability is key.

8. Physical Location Doesn’t Matter

As long as you get the work done, your physical location doesn’t really matter to a startup. Rezli is a distributed company, meaning that they have employees spread all over. Although this means that virtual communication is key, it also allows Rezli complete freedom, because it doesn’t limit Rezli to only hiring local employees. Rather, team members can truly be the best in the world, since they can literally live wherever they want (as long as they have connection to WiFi). Technology has enabled us to find and connect with people who are miles away. In fact, many of Rezli’s meetings happen virtually — over Zoom or Google Hangouts. Although working in pajamas may sound appealing, I find that setting myself a schedule or coming into the office makes me more productive. In the end, having access to a physical office is up to you, but having the option to choose is incredibly helpful.

9. Keepin’ It Real

Compared to my parents, two physicians working in government subsidized clinics, I feel much more open to talk about my personal life with my colleagues at Rezli. I know all about the CEO’s children, the Director of Operation’s new baby, the social media guru’s sheep (pictured below) and farm that’s located off the grid, and the other intern’s plans for studying abroad in London next year. I love working in a culture where we are so candid and close with each other. We keep it real by opening up about our personal lives, which in turn helps us to relate to each other and makes for a better workplace overall.

10. We Learn... All the Time

The Slack “Developers” channel is a springboard for everything from brainstorming new ideas, to sharing pictures of people’s kids, to debugging code. As a budding computer science major, this channel occasionally astonishes me and often confuses me. It’s not just the developer jargon that I have slowly picked up, but rather it’s the process of thinking that I slowly have begun to better understand and channel into my own work. No matter what skills you bring the the table, there is always room for growth when working with a startup.

In the end, startups have a lot to teach us, including many lessons we may not foresee. I’ve honestly loved every second working with Rezli and encourage you to get involved with a startup — whether it be starting your own or working at another’s.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.

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