Datavant’s internship program is an excellent way for you to find out what it’s like to work here as a full-time software engineer. Here are four tips to enrich your internship experience, and in turn maximize your chances for a return offer!
1. Be invested in your project
At Datavant, we believe in more responsibility and fewer rules. This means that you’ll be working on a meaningful project from day 1. In other words, your work will live on in our codebase beyond your internship, and could even be used by customers the same day that you ship it.
Throughout the summer, you should spend time communicating with stakeholders to fully understand the context and purpose of your project. This can be done by scheduling 1:1s with members of the team both inside and outside engineering. Additionally, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to showcase your work and get feedback in our biweekly engineering demos. Don’t be afraid to sign up!
2. Make a timeline
It’s important to keep in mind that your summer internship is limited to 11 weeks. Factoring in onboarding, onsites, and time off, you have 8 weeks at best to implement your project from start to finish. So, it’s crucial that you allocate your time well.
First, I would recommend that you break your project down into small subtasks. This can be done through Jira (the project management software our team uses), a Google Doc, or whatever works best for you. Your subtasks will track what you’ve completed on a more granular level, which can in turn inform your manager about how they can best assist you. As a plus, checking off subtickets will give you a sense of accomplishment, which can help reduce the stress of managing a large project.
Second, I strongly recommend that you split your code up into small PRs. PR (pull request) reviews are an opportunity to receive technical feedback from your team and iterate on your code. (For those of you who aren’t familiar, read more about Github PRs here!) Small PRs not only make the review cycle easier for your team, but also make sure you don’t get overwhelmed with testing too many changes at once and fixing compounding bugs. Smaller PRs also lead to faster feedback, which can speed up your learning process.
3. Learn how to get unstuck
In order to stay on track to finish your project, you must learn how to ask and find answers to your questions. The high degree of autonomy we get as Datavant engineers requires us to be extra intentional about this.
When setting up your dev environment, you can find numerous troubleshooting tips on our Github Wiki page. Here, you’ll also find useful information such as best practices for API testing and how to run our command-line interface and desktop apps. If you find that something’s missing from our Wiki, we encourage you to update it! (Those of you who attend in-person onboarding sessions will have the chance to work through the dev set up process with the rest of your intern cohort.)
Slack also acts as an extensive log of all questions that have been asked already. Make sure to utilize the Slack search function, which allows you to search for keywords and filter by specific channels and people. E.g. if you’re running into a problem with your dev environment, chances are another Datavanter ran into that same exact issue before you and posted about it in Slack. (For general, non-Datavant specific questions, you can also look to external resources like Google and Stack Overflow.)
Lastly, you should get comfortable communicating with your mentor! For some intern-mentor pairings it makes sense to have daily check-ins and ask questions then, while for others it makes sense to lean on asynchronous communication. Figure out what works best for you. At the end of the day, it’s your mentor’s job to put you in a position to succeed. Even if your mentor isn’t the best person to answer your question, they’ll usually be able to point you to the right people and places. Autonomy is one of Datavant’s core principles, but that doesn’t mean you can’t ask for support. In fact, the ability to ask questions is a key characteristic of an autonomous engineer.
4. Ask for feedback
One of the most important aspects of communication with your mentor is the practice of giving and receiving actionable feedback. It’s essential to communicate with your mentor about things that aren’t going well early on so that you have a chance to digest feedback and improve on those things by the end of the summer. You will receive structured written feedback from your mentor at the midpoint of your internship. However, it’s totally fair game for you to ask for feedback outside of the scheduled feedback sessions.
You also shouldn’t hesitate to give your mentor feedback since they’re learning too! Due to the autonomy that we give to engineers, it’s largely up to you to find the learning and working environment that suits you — doing so is highly dependent on clear communication between you, your mentor, and your team.
Hopefully, this post gives you a framework that will help you have a successful summer internship. Good luck, and welcome to Datavant!
Interested in learning more about Datavant? Check more of our blog posts. Considering joining the team? Check out our careers page and see us listed on the 2022 Forbes top startup employers in America. We’re currently hiring remotely across teams and would love to speak with any new potential Datvanters who are nice, smart, and get things done.
Special thanks to Anjali Suresh, Walter Paiva, Alex Coda, and Matt Owen for significant input shaping this article.