An internship off the beaten track
Remember ‘The Intern’ with Anne Hathaway and Robert De Niro? The hit movie paints an enticing picture of what it’s like to intern - modern workplaces buzzing with activity, exciting challenges, the opportunity to meet new people and make a meaningful difference to the company you work for. But internships aren’t really like that - or are they?
Photo by Guy Degen.
For UTS Business Management student, Alex Dell, a traditional internship wasn’t going to provide the kind of freedom and flexibility he needed to embrace his creativity and develop his skillset. To set himself apart from his peers, Alex chose to apply to intern with a startup through UTS’s Startup Internships program where he was then matched with one of Australia’s leading communities for tech startups – Fishburners.
“I wanted something that would challenge me and give me more opportunity to express myself creatively, which I found working in the Fishburners community at StartupAUS.”
Creative freedom and independence
Having never worked in a startup before, Alex didn’t know quite what to expect.
“What really surprised me is how fast-paced the startup environment is and how, even after the first day, we were given the responsibility of all these tasks we’d never have the chance to do otherwise,” he said. “What I’ve really enjoyed about the internship is mostly the freedom that we get to really make our own decisions.”
Inspiration Manager at UTS Startups, David Lillo-Trynes, says this is one of the factors that distinguishes startup internships from a more traditional internship experience.
“The great thing about startup internships is that interns are actually playing a crucial role in helping startups grow and succeed.”
“Instead of just being on the sidelines, interns have the opportunity to make a real impact on the startups they work with and they’re given a level of independence and freedom that you wouldn’t normally receive in a traditional internship.”
A holistic approach
Working alongside a diverse community of startups at Fishburners gave Alex front-row-seats to the inner-workings of small businesses and apply skills directly from his business management degree.
However, unlike a more traditional internship, Alex was also able to gain exposure to new roles and opportunities.
“Because it’s a smaller organisation, there’s much more versatility in the roles I get to do,” he said. “Every day is different, sometimes I work on events and network with industry professionals of major tech companies, other days I assist the CEO.”
David Lillo-Trynes says the process of working alongside entire communities of startups, as opposed to just one business, is important in maximising the skills and benefits of the internship experience.
“We work with so many startup communities that are home to a diverse range of startups which means interns are able to get exposure to many different industries, professions, skill-sets, and networks,” he said.
Make an impact
From the word ‘go’, Alex has been given the responsibility to take on substantial tasks that have boosted his confidence and encouraged him to explore skills beyond his comfort zone.
Being exposed to the startup ecosystem has opened Alex’s mind to the many possibilities outside of a traditional career in business.
“Interning at StartupAUS has definitely made me realise what kind of businesses I want to work with,” he said.
In the two months that Alex has been working with StartupAUS, he has seen first-hand the result of his work within weeks.
“You feel like you’re actually working on a project which will remain there for years to come and be referenced by them in the future. So, it’s actually really cool to have an impact on the company right from week one.”