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Diary of a Startup Intern


August 22, 2012

6 minute read

san franciso cityscape

Stephanie Chan is a rising Junior at Emory University from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. This summer she worked as a Marketing Intern at BetterCloud focusing on general marketing tasks and working independently to create a reporting system for our Google Apps management tool, FlashPanel. This system tracked install statistics, usage, demographic information and more.

Over the course of her 10 week internship, we asked Stephanie to keep a diary of her experience. The following is Stephanie’s summary of this diary.

Welcome to the Cloud
Stephanie Chan
Everyone knows that summer internships aren’t the most glamorous, but if you find the right one, you walk away with a lot more knowledge and experience than you had when you started. So as I prepare to leave BetterCloud and New York City behind and enter my junior year at Emory University, I’d like to reflect back on what I learned throughout my summer as an NYC startup intern.

The First Week

I honestly had no idea what to expect on my first day. The night before, I received a frantic email from one of my supervisors with the company dress code, it read: “fyi dress code is casual. Jeans/shorts/sandals/  tank tops are all fine.”

This email saved me the awkwardness many of our interview candidates don’t have the fortune of escaping when they show up in full suit, tie and briefcase. So no, I didn’t have to follow New York Magazine’s stringent dressing guide for Wall Street interns, but I did play it safe the first few days. However, my black capri pants, button downs and flats devolved into shorts, t-shirts and flip flops faster than I’d like to admit.

I walked into BetterCloud’s 300 square foot office in TriBeCa not sure what I’d find, but pretty sure it wouldn’t be wearing a suit. Though I’d read the company blog, countless news articles highlighting BetterCloud and cloud computing, the detailed objectives and company culture were still a mystery.

With 8 other employees crammed into the tiny office, I was still shown an open seat right between the CEO and CTO. It wasn’t hard to feel at home in our close quarters, and the lack of a strict hierarchy immediately struck me as innovative and welcoming.

After only four days at BetterCloud, I was immersed in the cloud – a number of third-party applications from the Google Apps Marketplace were enabled on my account, and every tab, extension and bookmark in my Chrome browser screamed that I’d truly ‘Gone Google.’

My first week flew by. It was easy to forget to take a break every few hours and look outside the window, at real clouds. In one week alone, my opinion of working at an office had changed entirely. While my friends were toiling away at investment banks and huge marketing agencies, I was actually learning directly from our CEO – and all in a pair of flip flops.

Part of the Team

The following weeks were a bit more structured. After getting up to speed and subsequently trying to keep up, I’d been handed my summer-long projects mainly revolving around reporting, analytics and writing. I quickly realized that working for a small company means everyone’s input matters, even the intern’s and more importantly, you have to be willing and able to wear many different hats. Even BetterCloud’s CEO was more than happy to meet with the company’s interns. Through weekly “lunch and learns,” we were taught the ins and outs of a running a startup and much more. These weekly meetings were a unique opportunity that exposed me to much more than my daily assignments.

Of course there were the occasional typical intern tasks. In the middle of the summer, we began sending custom t-shirts to our FlashPanel beta testers and this of course involved more than one trip to the post office. But after packaging and successfully mailing dozens of shirts, myself and my fellow intern felt a great sense of accomplishment. And seeing tweets from our customers and pictures in response to the shirts made it even more worthwhile.

Beta tester shirts

Striking Gold

Ask the GooruThe feeling that working for a startup is like being part of tight-knit team was particularly evident during my fourth week at BetterCloud when the entire company partook in the last round of functional testing for our new Google Apps management tool, FlashPanel, before its release in the Google Apps Marketplace.

At first, testing seemed a bit mundane and my tests easily passed the requirements. But when I came to a test that I could just not pass, I truly realized the importance of this task. As an end-user of a product or website, it is easy to overlook the miniscule details that make a website function. As a user, it is also relatively easy to give-up on a site or product if a page or feature is not loading correctly – a complete nightmare for any company. Everyone in the office – regardless of their role – spent quality time working on this assignment, something I’d yet to experience at other internships.

Two weeks later when we launched in the Marketplace, the entire team was confident we had put out a truly quality product that our customers would love. This was proven true when FlashPanel became the number one admin tool in the Marketplace, we crossed the 1 million users milestone and the product reached the top of the installs list over the course of just one month. For me, this was particularly exciting as reporting became more important than ever.

BetterCloud had tasted its first sip of victory and the mood in the office was pretty euphoric. The cheers and smiles reflected the immense effort and long hours that the entire company had put in. Our CEO told us at the start of the internship that the next few months would be eventful, busy and full of momentum and he couldn’t have been more right.

Moving on Up

In the midst of our launch and the abundance of excitement, we also managed to squeeze in an office move.

Working in a 300 square foot room with 8 others made our new 1400 square foot space seem palatial. Only two blocks away from our old office, the new office was equipped with enough space for at least twice as many employees. Somehow though, many of us ended up working in the office’s 200 square foot conference room side by side. I guess old habits die hard.

First Office

BetterCloud’s First Office

During the week of our move, much of the time was spent working at home, which in reality was far less appealing than it seemed – sitting alone in my living room with immediate access to my kitchen was not the most productive of work environments. However, being that we’re an all Google company, working from home did give everyone the opportunity to take advantage of the full range of the Google Apps suite including document sharing in Google+ Hangouts, group chats in Google Talk and much more. (After all, the power of some of Google’s collaboration tools are not fully appreciated when you’re sitting elbow to elbow).

The Final Countdown

As my time at BetterCloud was winding down, I worked to finalize my main project, which focused on reporting for FlashPanel. At the end of the week I had created a visual dashboard in Google Sites complete with auto-updating graphs, tables, maps and pie charts, and turned in a 30 page reporting manual manifesto – you’re welcome future interns.  I presented this information to the entire company on my last day.

Over the course of ten weeks, I learned an incredible amount of information, not only as it related to my specific role, but information that will help me succeed during and beyond my time at Emory.

Welcome to BetterCloud

Thanks Stephanie!