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How to thrive as an intern while working remotely

Asana Engineering TeamEngineering Team
May 27th, 2020
5 min read
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How to thrive as an intern while working remotely

At Asana, our internship program is built to provide support, mentorship, and challenging opportunities for aspiring software engineers. Given our recent shift to working 100% remotely due to COVID-19, we faced a unique challenge we hadn’t yet experienced: How do we turn our internship program — with our biggest class of interns to date — into a remote experience that is just as fulfilling as our traditional program?

Our winter intern class began in the office, but only for a few weeks before we transitioned to being fully remote. We restructured the program with the goal of ensuring that every intern felt welcomed, included, supported, and challenged. The changes we made included increased 1:1 pairing sessions, virtual social events, virtual training, and internal guides for how to be successful when working remotely. 

Now that our first-ever remote internship program has concluded, we wanted to get insight into this intern class’s experiences. We sat down with a few of our interns from this past winter season to chat about what it was like to work remotely as an intern, what they learned, and their advice for other interns about to embark on a similar experience. Get to know Veeral, Andrew, Cindy, and Silas in their responses below! 

What kind of support did you receive from Asana that led to a successful remote internship?

Veeral Bhagat, Product Engineering, Monetization: The way Asana uses Asana is very effective in fully remote environments. Using Asana provided so much clarity into what work should be done by when, and where to find more information. I started using Asana even more intensely ever since I started working from home; it’s nice to dogfood the product you’re building!

Andrew Nguyen, Infrastructure Engineering: There has always been a lot of transparency at Asana when discussing what was going on across the company and what next steps were with our plans. I received frequent communications from my mentor and manager, and from the leadership team on what the short- and long-term visions were for the company. 

Cindy Ding, Product Engineering, Automation: Using Asana made it easy to communicate with my team, maintain transparency on the progress of my tasks, and manage my work according to my team’s priorities. The inherent culture of open and transparent communication made it easy to ask for help from my teammates and others across the company.  I also appreciated the stipend the company provided, which allowed me to create a work from home setup that was functional and ergonomic; this allowed me to easily transition to working from home.

How did your manager and mentor support you while working from home?

Veeral: My mentor checked in almost every day outside of our weekly one-on-one meetings to see how I was doing. My manager set up a “water cooler” video call a few times a week for members of our team to just drop in and chat, which made me feel more connected with my team.

Silas Tsui, Infrastructure Engineering: When the Canadian government announced that Canadians abroad should return home, my team was very understanding and supportive. My manager gave me space to focus on moving from San Francisco back to Vancouver, and once I returned home, my mentor and manager checked in with me frequently about how things were going. I’m especially appreciative of the candid conversations during our one-on-ones when we talked about the challenges of remote work. I initially felt pressure to be just as productive as I was in the office, but was reassured by my mentor that it’s okay if it takes some time to adapt.

How have you maintained connection with your team, both in and outside of work?

Andrew: My team played board games every Friday afternoon. There are lots of games that are still fun while remote! We also had a weekly picture topic, where someone would post a random topic in our team channel for everyone to respond to, which got pretty funny! 

Cindy: Our team scheduled two async updates each day on Slack to stay connected on what everyone was working on. We also had daily stand-ups to just talk and hangout. 

How were you able to make an impact on your team’s goals without meeting in person? 

Silas: I was still able to drive a major project to create a shard migration validation system to completion. I iterated on many different strategies for remote work over the past two months and was able to find a system that worked for me.

Veeral: What helped me adjust was communicating early on with my mentor and project lead about how I felt about my assignments and any concerns I had about them. They were very supportive in giving me time to get acclimated, since it was new to us all. 

Andrew: It took me time to adjust, but I realized I could still make a huge impact from home. I read a ton of resources on how to effectively work remotely and I found what worked best for me. For example, I had a lot of success still “commuting” to work – I’d wake up, get ready, then take a walk. At the end of the day, I’d take a walk again to shut off my work mindset.

What tips would you share with other interns to maintain a successful remote internship? 

Veeral: Don’t be afraid to ask for help! It can seem more formal to ask for help when working remotely, but you shouldn’t let that discourage you. Everyone at Asana was so willing to help and curiosity was always encouraged! 

Andrew: Take time to get settled into your WFH routine. It may take time, but it’ll be worth it once you find something that clicks and you get that sense of normalcy and routine. One of the most fun parts of my internship was getting to know the rest of the interns. It’s more of a challenge to build these relationships remotely, but having the Asana intern community was such an invaluable part of my experience and I’m so glad I took that extra time to get to know them! 

Cindy: Communicating with your team and manager is super helpful, so do it frequently. When you keep your team updated on what you’re working on, this helps avoid duplicate work and helps your team understand your workload. Also, remember to take breaks to go on walks, and eat healthy. A short break can help you feel refreshed and be more productive once you get back to work.

How to thrive as an intern while working remotely

What advice would you give to the upcoming Asana summer intern class?

Andrew: There are a lot of changes with a remote internship, but one of the things that remains is Asana’s commitment to making sure the internship is as much of a learning experience for you as possible. Take advantage of this! Don’t be scared to ask for help, and don’t feel like you have to stay in your comfort zone and only do the things that you’re best at. 

Cindy: Work together with your team as much as you can, there is so much you can learn from them. Take advantage of the time you have to pair with your mentor and others on your team. Take the time to learn about the people you work with and get to know the other interns! They are sharing this experience with you, and hanging out together after (or during) a long day’s work will make your time at Asana that much better.

Silas: Asana really invests in your growth as a software engineer. You’re given the time and space to focus on learning during your first few months and the engineering culture is open and collaborative, so don’t hesitate to ask someone to explain something to you. Also, if you have preferences about what you want to work on, let your recruiter and manager know. Asana was very accommodating and I got placed on an infrastructure team where I got to work on a project that was both high impact and aligned with my interests. 

We are so proud of what our interns accomplished this season! We’re excited to look for more interns for 2021, starting this September. Check back then, and in the meantime, explore all of our open roles.

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