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Personal growth hacking: Inside a Cloudability internship

By Colby Aley on August 8, 2014

When I started as an intern at Cloudability, I had no clue what it meant to be an engineering intern at a startup. Sure, I had nervously read through dozens of blog posts like this one, searching for tips, stories, advice— anything I could find in an attempt to prepare myself for the months ahead. But aside from a few helpful hints, I arrived for my first day with little idea of what I would be doing— I just crossed my fingers and hoped for more than coffee delivery.

As it turned out, I wasn’t the only one new to the concept of technical intern. Not only was it my first time being one, it was Cloudability’s first time having one. I learned what it meant to be an intern at Cloudability just as the team learned how to best make use of my time here, and this shared learning experience formed the foundation of my relationship with my coworkers.

With no fellow interns nor any junior engineers to work with, I was thrust directly into a team of senior engineers. My role was shaped by naievity and intuition, void of existing connotations, processes, and expectations— concepts which probably would have saved me from some chaos, but would have certainly slowed me down. Within a week, I was project managing the development and implementation of a Statistics Dashboard to measure and report on system health.

Watching my new coworkers use and enjoy something I had built felt great. My mentors, enthusiastic about letting me shape my own role and choose my own projects, encouraged me to continue working on internal tools— tools that serve to solve problems and help people do their work more efficiently— and I’ve been doing so ever since, managing and driving a variety of internal development projects. In addition to allowing me an incredible amount of responsibility for an intern, this has given me a unique perspective on how the members of our team work. What makes them productive? What problems do they have? How can we make them better at their job? When building one of my more recent projects—an internal reporting service— I had to learn who in the company would benefit from different reports. What data they need to get their job done? How often they should receive it? How should information be delivered? It’s an opportunity not only for experience in building tools, but in understanding the workings of a business that’s growing explosively.

The Cloudability team has more than doubled in size since my internship started. We’ve brought on more interns, grown our Customer Success team, introduced an HR department, and even acquired a new floor in our building. The opportunity to witness and make meaningful contributions to such an exciting time in Cloudability’s maturation is the reason I’m still here after over a year. As long as the company continues to grow (and we’re not stopping any time soon), I’m growing too: becoming a better engineer, a better teammate, a better learner.

Being in the know feels great