Finding confidence in inexperience: Z shares his Engineering Intern Experience
I thought I had a firm "why." I've worked hard my whole life and have made sacrifices to achieve academic and career success. Having an opportunity to work at Qualtrics seemed like a major milestone and evidence to me that my "why" was working and serving me well in life. My personal "why" at the time was personal growth and learning and sacrifice. Today, those are still core parts of my life philosophy, but my “why” changed dramatically during my time at Qualtrics. Today, I believe that I'm meant to have a lot of fun throughout my life along the way.
What attracted you to an internship at Qualtrics in the first place?
When the fall semester rolled around I had one goal—to fail as many interviews as possible and be better prepared for the next year. This was admittedly a pretty pessimistic attitude, but as someone who only had limited work experience and never coded before uni, I felt intensely underqualified for an internship at a large company. Armed with a healthy dose of imposter syndrome, I entered the fall recruitment cycle fully convinced that my junior year would be a lesson in dealing with rejection.
Countless rejections did come indeed, but I also found myself advancing through the interview process with a few places. Qualtrics wasn't a company that I expected to interview with. I'd heard of the company before but didn't know anything about it beyond surveys.
From the first interview, I could immediately tell that the company was different from the others. I felt sincerity from the interviewer and that he was a real human behind the phone. Despite performing pretty poorly on the technical challenge, my interviewer was patient and equally enthusiastic about hearing my experience and story. I walked away from that interview feeling uniquely understood.
It was a few days after that an email from Qualtrics had me choking on my morning yogurt. I was through to the next round.
The rest of the interviews were equally great experiences. Thoughtful, understanding people spoke with me through the phone as I continued to stumble through questions and technical problems. Fortunately for me, I'd already exceeded my wildest expectations—even if I didn't make it through, I'd already won. When I realized that I'd actually gotten an offer, choosing Qualtrics was a no-brainer.
What surprised you most about working at Qualtrics?
Qualtrics is a place where people are in control of their own trajectory. From day one, it was clear to me that no one was going to automatically hold my hand through anything. But, if I wanted to find help there were countless resources and people who were willing to help. The sheer accessibility within the organization was incredible.
Personally, a surprising part of this responsibility included knowing when to abandon the very plan that was given to me for my intern project. Initially, my project revolved around a solution that involved an AWS-oriented approach. Not knowing much about AWS, I happily moved on with the plan, assuming that it had been well thought and had been carefully selected for me.
Within a few days of research, however, I felt increasingly uneasy because it seemed like the proposed plan was an over-engineered solution for the problem that we were trying to solve.
Was I missing something? Surely the Senior Engineers™ already considered this—I thought.
In my next meeting with my manager and mentor, I brought up my concern and suggested an alternative course of action. I braced for pushback but was shocked when all I got was:
“Sounds good. Let's go with that.”
I can't describe what it feels to work in an environment where your competency is assumed. My team trusted my intern-level judgment enough to completely replot our strategy. I learned an important lesson early on in my internship that I am in complete charge of my own destiny.
What is your top #LifeHack?
Asking questions is my biggest lifehack. As a university student, I know that I'll never be in a better position to ask lots of people for advice. Leverage your "inexperience!!”
I fought the fear of reaching out and bothering** people early on in my internship. I shamelessly requested meetings with my mentor and team members when I needed help. Surprisingly, they went above and beyond every single time to coach me through problems. I never felt like a burden to my team, even though I sprayed them with questions daily—and sometimes hourly.
I soon started signing up for slots for conversations with some of Qualtrics' highest-level executives. They treated me with incredible kindness and respect. Some even referred me to other employees in the company for more specific advice. These conversations were some of the highlights of my time at Qualtrics.
|Z is a future alumnus of BYU and started his career at Qualtrics. Z recently dyed his hair for the first time and is obsessed with the color.|
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