Observations From My Internship At A Highly Effective Startup
This past Fall 2021 I was fortunate to land an internship with Pronti AI as a Front End iOS Engineer. Pronti AI is developing an iOS and Android app which uses artificial intelligence to provide users with outfit and shopping recommendations based on their digital closet and preferences. This 4-month role gave me the opportunity to advance my knowledge of UIKit, SwiftUI, and many other useful technologies. While these technical skills are certainly going to be of value to me in the future the biggest takeaways from these past four months had very little to do with programming. Here are seven lessons I learned about building a successful startup:
Bring the Energy
One of the most fascinating things about the founders of Pronti AI… they always had really high energy. Like I am talking 9 year old me at a waterpark type of energy. This was the case every day of the week no matter what. It only struck me about mid way through my internship why this positive energy was so fundamental to our continued success. At a startup there is a seemingly endless amount of work to do; and for some it might be easy to get overwhelmed or demotivated if you're not getting the downloads or revenue you initially expected. In order to get the most out of your employees as a leader of a startup you must always radiate positive energy and never bat an eye in the face of adversity. A team will most likely not be any more motivated or positive then their leader.
User data/feedback is paramount
How can you build for your users if you have no idea what they like/dislike about your applications and where they struggle with it? Your operating completely blind if you don’t collect data during user sessions or solicit feedback. Some of the most valuable insights for UX improvements or new feature ideas came from looking at aggregated user data, reading complaints, and feature requests. The bottom line: the more data you have the closer you can get to building the product that users really want.
Put your head down and stay the course
It’s not complicated. If you believe strongly enough in an idea sometimes you just gotta close your eyes and get to work. Their will be hard times and uncertainty but with enough sustained perseverance you can start too see the light at the end of the tunnel. Trusting and sticking to the process no matter what is the only way to succeed.
Don’t Compromise Culture For Talent
Successful engineering teams are constantly communicating with eachother: asking questions, brainstorming, and troubleshooting. A toxic culture can get in the way of open and constructive communication. Hence, when hiring it seems to be true that you should not evaluate job candidates on talent alone. Thinking about cultural fit is of equal importance.
Show You Care
Employees are more than just a means to an end. This sounds like a no brainer but from personal experience some employers simply do not care about you, rather, they care solely about output. Ironically, these employers end up getting the least ROI from their employees. When a leader in the workplace shows they care about your well-being by checking in on you or encouraging you to take a much needed break our loyalty towards them grows immensely. Startups that possess thoughtful leaders end up cultivating an army of employees who willingly work the overtime hours required to get the company off the ground.
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