My key takeaways as a remote intern


“The only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it.” - Steve Jobs

And I did find it eventually. Right from school I always knew I wanted to have a career related to technology. With Google Code-In, I first got a taste of what it meant to contribute to an open source project and was exposed to the huge community that was involved in the process. Many years later, when I came out of college, I was a starry eyed boy with big dreams. However, after getting into the industry and I ended up accepting a job in customer success and not engineering.

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Now, customer success has its own learning curve and you get to learn more about the business aspects and how tech products fit in the bigger picture of the global economy. You learn how to efficiently explain the use cases of a product to the end user and thus mutually benefiting them and your own company. However I was always driven to learn more about the technology and in summer 2018 I decided to take a leap of faith and leave that career behind and start learning to code.

I had learned to code in my school and then college, but doing it professionally was a different ball game altogether. I had interviewed with Xoxzo in February 2018 but failed miserably in it. I think a lot of people can relate to my experience of anxiety of suddenly leaving a career behind and being extremely scared in your first technical interview. I lost my nerve and thus failed in it, but as many a quote says, 'Failing is a crucial part of success' and it certainly is very true.

I took the self learning route and after a couple of months, I found myself stuck in Tutorial Purgatory or a state where I kept learning without a structure or a set goal. The funny thing about the human brain is that it sticks to one thing at a time and thus moving from one thing to another, I realized the previous knowledge wanes off without due practice and that is when I decided to send a mail to Kamal, our CTO and asked if I could join as an intern as I wanted some practical experience.

I knew Xoxzo was a remote company and the concept was intriguing to someone who for his short work life worked out of a cubicle in an office building with set time bound office hours. I always questioned the fact that an human might be productive at any hour of the day, 9-5 never really made much sense to me. That's why when Kamal was kind enough to offer me another shot at it, I grabbed it without a thought and after a brief interview process, I was taken in as an intern at Xoxzo.

I learned that I was the first intern in the company and to be honest I was really scared of being the least knowledgeable of the lot, but slowly the fear went away as I interacted more with everyone. I still have had limited interaction with everyone but when I boot up my Slack every morning as I wake up I know there are always people ready to help out there.

During my short stint, I have had a few lessons, none of which I have mastered yet but still working on them. I will share with the hope that it might help someone in their journey -

Communication is the key:

Working in an remote environment, it becomes a little difficult to understand what is expected out of you and what is being conveyed efficiently if you don’t ask questions. On my first assignment of deployment I being inexperienced did not understand what was being asked of me and I spent a day or two days being silent and spending the time on futile research till I was told by our CTO exactly what was expected from me. I still realize I might need to communicate more, and I should not be scared to ask questions no matter how basic they might be. A lesson to follow for me and anyone who might find it relevant in their journey.

Progress and not Perfection:

This is a beautiful motto that our CTO told me and I realized that it is a company motto. It can’t be more true. Banging your head over something you are not able to figure out for days is less productive than moving on to the part that you can and probably later come back to the initial problem and find that the solution is now something you can figure easily with the experience gained from those other things that you completed while you moved on. As the saying goes, slow and steady wins the race.

Even you have something to contribute:

While working on a deployment, I came across AWS lambda and subsequently used Zappa for deployment and to my surprise my CTO needed some help while he was checking out the Zappa project and I had an answer to his question! I realized asking questions when you are new to something isn't bad and I am trying to work on it every single day to come out of my shell and start asking for help after my own due research.

Update your team about your work:

This is important. In a remote work environment it is really difficult for people to know what you are upto so it’s crucial that you communicate every single day about your day's work rather that doing things silently. We have a practice of 'Daily Standup' where everyone lists down their tasks of the day. Often there are days when you are caught up in your own work, but do make a point to drop a message to your team about what you are doing.

Going remote needs strong self discipline:

When you first start working remotely, you feel the joy of freedom from the regular 9-5 working hours and the flexibility of being able to work at your own set time. But after the initial phase, you start to understand the importance of setting up right short term, long term and daily goals for yourself without which you might end up missing deadlines and getting behind in your work. Thus planning is an essential part of any remote job role.

Remote work tends to get lonely when moving from a regular office job:

In a regular job, you are used to commuting to office, having a vibrant social life with your colleagues and the occasional after office parties. Unfortunately, in remote work the tradeoff between such a social life with flexibility might end up in creating a void during the initial phases. As an intern, that might be little more intimidating as you might not get the kind of hand holding in person as in a office based role. However if you follow the first principle 'Communication is the key’ and start asking for help after doing your own bit of research, things would slowly start falling into the right place and you get to learn a lot more in the time you save by avoiding the daily telecommute.

Working in a diverse and multicultural team is amazing:

I have largely stayed in my home country India and the experience of working with a team that is so diverse and multicultural was a new one. Since it hasn't been long I have started working for Xoxzo, I am still learning more about the rest of my teammates and this is something I am really excited about and look forward to!

Hope anybody going through the same phase of their journey might relate to my experience and it comes handy to them. I will end it with a motivating quote by the American actress Helen Hayes: “The expert at anything was once a beginner!”

Surya Banerjee

Joined October 2018. Engineering newbie. Perpetual learner with interests ranging from technology to food. Loves to meet new people and understand cultures.

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