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— 6 minute read

6 Unexpected Things I Learned from Working as a Remote Intern

“See you guys on Monday!” I said as I waved goodbye to my coworkers.

The twist? While I was in New Jersey, they were working from Austin, Seattle, Newfoundland, and Madrid. My farewell was quite literally a sign-off- I waved by inserting a :wave: emoji, logged out of Slack, then walked ten feet to my kitchen to start cooking dinner.

This summer, I worked at InVisionApp as a software engineering intern. The cool thing about InVision is that it’s a 100% globally distributed company, meaning everyone can work from wherever they’d like, every day. There’s no central office or city where you need to relocate.

Even though I thought it was a pretty cool setup, I had a lot of questions about what this internship would look like. I knew I was in for a unique experience, one quite different from those that my friends were having, working 9 to 5 in an office with an army of interns by their side. At home in New Jersey and as their first (and at the time, only) engineering intern, I was scared that it would be hard to engage, not only with my work but with my coworkers.

In the end, my time at InVision totally blew me away, and I learned so much along the way…

1. Daily communication is important

I started my days by logging in for our daily stand-ups, a 30-minute video conference call with our team. We function via Slack and at any point during the workday, I was able to confidently ping someone for help and they usually responded within minutes. To me, this was the equivalent of walking over to someone’s desk and asking for help. Everything here is super fast-paced and project and team based, so the structure and frequency of communication played a big role in how attached I felt in the process.

2. You’re not just an intern, but 100% a part of the team

I felt welcomed here starting from day one. Fellow engineers, upper-level management, and coworkers outside of my team personally reached out to welcome me. From daily stand-ups to company-wide meetings, I was able to witness and be part of their day-to-day operations. As a member of their infrastructure team, I also had the chance to work on a challenging new project, write code, and work on my web development skills. It was cool making real contributions to the company and being able to see what working here full-time would actually be like.

One of the highlights was being invited to a company offsite trip in Lisbon, Portugal, alongside twenty of InVision’s engineers, designers, and managers. I loved how I was treated just like everybody else, and for four days we worked, hacked, and discussed all as one team.

3. Everyone is super smart and willing to share their wisdom

While a lot of my learning was done through screenshare tutorials and stack overflowing on my own time, it was reassuring to know that if I was stuck on something, help was just a ping away. I was working on a project in React and web dev was still a new concept to me. On a day to day basis, my teammates would partner up with me to accomplish different tasks. There was one point when I reached out to someone on a totally different team and they worked through a problem with me for over an hour. While this taught me a ton of new technical skills, I also learned that people here are very receptive to questions, and will always be quick and patient to answer them.

4. There are a lot of resources geared towards company culture. Take advantage of them!

InVision does a lot to keep everyone engaged. Everything from a thoughtful welcome package to regular meetings with the Director of Employee Happiness works to keep people feeling like they are a part of a bigger community. There is an integrated Slack feature called Donut that pairs you up with a buddy from the company. It allowed me to connect with some awesome people in other departments and to learn so much about entirely different parts of the company. InVision also partners with WeWork for people who work best in coworking spaces, with offices in Boston, NYC, Austin, among others. I really enjoyed going to the one in New York to experience a vibe similar to a real office space and to spend time with InVisioners in person.

5. There are a million and one things you could do when you don’t have a traditional 9 to 5 job

InVisioners are some of the most interesting people I’ve met. Jack lives in New York City and works from a newly discovered coffee shop every Friday, with an open invitation. Chesley is the father of a (super adorable) one-year-old and can be with him during the day. Tomas lives in Prague but has been traveling across Europe and Asia throughout the past year.

People here are, among so many other things, self-starters, entrepreneurs, and Moms and Dads. Some are all of the above. Working remotely allows you to navigate your time so you can pursue other projects that help you feel most fulfilled and productive. It’s a total game changer.

6. Collaboration is key

People here like to err on the side of overcommunication. Working remotely, each ping and video call has a purpose and it’s important not to take an interaction for granted. One of my greatest takeaways from the company offsite in Portugal was when someone proclaimed, “I do care about what people think, that’s why I always say what’s on my mind!” Being unafraid to clearly communicate your ideas is so important to making thoughtful progress.

Teams here function in an impressive, high-performance way. I learned a ton just from joining in on their meetings and seeing how they speak their minds, express disagreements, and compromise. They successfully work through problems and it’s all fueled by their common goal of building incredibly impactful products.

Conclusion

Every time I logged onto Slack, we were six people spanning three countries and five time zones. And somehow, we’re all able to join in on this exciting and fast-paced startup world, and push products that people don’t just love using, but love building.

By the end of my internship, I realized how insanely smart, creative, and driven InVisioners are. I realized the secret to this company’s success is that their products truly mirror their people. And above all, I realized how remote life is one of InVision’s many strengths, and allows them to tap into talent from all around the world. It took time to get used to all virtual interactions, but I learned that remote internships are honestly a pretty sweet and innovative way for teams to engineer. It’s a unique experience and done right, it pushes people to work their hardest.

While both remote and in-person work have their pros and cons, InVision is a benchmark for the remote lifestyle as it becomes more and more popular. Ultimately, it’s bigger than ourselves and this company, as we pave the way for future remote interns, remote workers, and a more flexible lifestyle.

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